On the Culture Front: Bjork with Orchestra, Other Mouth Sounds and More

On the Culture Front: Bjork with Orchestra, Other Mouth Sounds and More

Since I last wrote this column, one of my favorite bars and dinning experiences in the east village, Jimmy’s No. 43, has had to temporarily close due to the massive fire on Second Avenue the other week that demolished three buildings and nearly missed what has become a central hub in New York’s craft beer movement. You can show your support by buying a gift card to be used when they inevitably return.

Ars Nova has become the uptown spirit animal of Soho Rep, producing immersive and challenging theater in a slightly more polished space. Perhaps best known for the runaway hit musical “Natasha and Pierre and the Comet of 1812,” which led theatergoers through a soviet-decorated basement before winding upstairs into a makeshift Russian supper club complete with full bottles of Tito’s Vodka on each table. The director, Rachel Chavkin, has returned to transform the theater into a remote retreat in Bess Wohl’s sharply observed yet minimalistly worded, “Small Mouth Sounds.” In 90 minutes, we spend a weekend with six disparate and lost souls who struggle with a vow of silence as they search for a transformation. The only guide is a voice offstage that is alternately ridiculous and wise. Wohl, who recently penned the book for the excellent Civilians musical “Pretty Filthy,” mines the depth of non-verbal expression, exploring who we are behind what we say.

The people who inhabit Melissa James Gibson’s erudite and eloquent new play “Placebo” are stuck in inertia hovering near the precipice of major life changes. Too often though the play itself feels like it’s idling in neutral with witty dialogue circling around itself without propelling story or character forward. There are bursts of insight and fleeting moments that are deeply engaging, but it isn’t until the final scene that the characters feel like they’re breaking towards something.

Pam MacKinnon’s tightly helmed revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles” charts the title character’s trajectory from adolescence to middle age. Video projections are used to ease the time jumps and capture the wider national pulse. There’s also a certain thrill of seeing a protagonist pass through many stages of life. Elisabeth Moss projects a self-assured vulnerability that’s not unlike her character, Peggy, on “Mad Men.” In Wasserstein’s best scenes, social and political arguments are the mechanisms that these highly educated people use to grapple with their identity and self worth. Too often though it feels like there’s a soapbox waiting in the wings.

While she didn’t dress as a swan for her eagerly anticipated shows at City Center, Bjork’s costume was nonetheless eye-catching and thought-provoking: radiant, tightly fitted, and obscuring her in ways both ominous and playful. Backed by the fifteen-piece modern classical orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, her voice resonated with chilling clarity. The first half of the show was devoted to her new album, “Vulnicura” a melancholic masterpiece that delves into the destruction of things that were once thought permanent, and more concretely her recent divorce from artist Mathew Barney. There’s an abstract beauty that courses through the album, brushing up against atonalities without submerging straight into them. Afterwards, I felt a cathartic emotional release and walked into the cool, not-yet-spring air with a clear head and a full heart.

On the food front, I found another way pork can be delicious at Atrio in the Conrad Hotel. Cinco Jotas, a three-year-aged Iberico ham from pasture-raised pigs fed an acorn-based diet, is as delicate as it is deeply flavorful with each bite capturing a series of tastes. Perfect pairing: Opus One. Aged in a French oak barrel, the five-Bordeaux varietal wine has a deeply complex nose that’s as satisfying to inhale as the vapors of a fine scotch.

On the sports front, a front rarely covered here, chef and restaurateur David Burke has opened up a couple stands in the Prudential Center. While the “angry” tacos go down quite nicely, the slabs of chocolate covered bacon are the stuff of dreams -aggressively savory and sweet, they’ll make you wonder why anyone ever bothered separating dinner and dessert into two separate meals.

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