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Hellzapoppin’

Rarely shown in the U.S. these days, this 1941 film of the wildly deconstructive stage farce with Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson is still regarded as a classic in Europe, and it lives up to its reputation. The credit sequence establishes the wartime mood with its vision of hell as a munitions factory (where demons […]

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Superstar in a Housedress

“Jackie is just speeding away / Thought she was James Dean for a day,” sang Lou Reed in “Walk on the Wild Side.” But writer-performer Jackie Curtis, who died of a drug overdose in 1985, was more than some androgynous speed freak; his satiric, sexually ambivalent take on popular culture influenced John Waters, David Bowie, […]

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The Importance of Being Earnest

Mayslake Hall provides an appropriately posh setting for Oscar Wilde’s comedy about the tribulations of 19th-century England’s upper crust. When two bachelors take the same alter ego named Ernest–one to avoid responsibility (“Ernest did it!”), the other to trick a young woman–the resulting misunderstandings make for amusing farce and for plenty of Wilde’s catty observations […]

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Thermals, Turing Machine

More Parts per Million (2003), the Thermals’ debut album, seemed to shout “no future” as definitively as any punk record this decade. It wasn’t that the hyper Portland crew posed like they were signaling the apocalypse–if anything their impatient yelps conveyed a puppyish hope. But because each song treated third chords as luxuries and were […]

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Waiting for Godot

The world of Samuel Beckett’s play is an existential void, inhumane and unreliable. Most directors and actors assume that its denizens know this already, which makes their actions insignificant even to them. But under Ronan Marra’s direction, the characters still seek order and continuity in the universe. Just as their frustration gives their struggle emotional […]

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Infinitesimals

Hooded figures in hats and oversize coats enact mysterious ceremonies in The Sublime Beauty of Hands, part of “Infinitesimals,” a monthlong series at Link’s Hall curated by Meghan Strell. Though Michael Montenegro is known for his mask making and puppetry, here his ingenuity is expressed mainly in whimsical handmade prosthetic devices and a carefully wrought […]

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Tin Hat Quartet

Last year on Book of Silk (Ropeadope) the chamber ensemble Tin Hat Trio became a quintet, adding harpist Zeena Parkins and tubaist Bryan Smith. But as ever, their elegant mix of musical flavors–French cafe, classical, bossa nova, jazz, blues, and Gypsy among others–sounds like the most natural thing in the world. On the cheekily titled […]

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Inventing Van Gogh

Steven Dietz’s 2001 play, directed with a heavy hand by James Pelton, substitutes aphorism for dialogue and archetypes for characters in a pointless exploration of the painter’s life and work. The action moves back and forth between the contemporary studio of Patrick, a Van Gogh-despising blocked painter whose art-school mentor devoted his life to finding […]

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Edvard Munch

Made for Norwegian TV in 1974, this long but fascinating biopic by Peter Watkins mixes dramatic and documentary techniques to profile the man who painted The Scream. A documentary voice-over in English examines Munch in a calm, academic tone, observing trends in the European art world and citing notable world events to give a sense […]

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George Klauba

About three years ago George Klauba arrived home from his afternoon walk to find two birds coupling missionary style on his doorstep. The bird on its back had its wings spread as wide as they could go, wide enough for Klauba to see what looked like an armpit. “It was all a pale white, and […]

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Vasti Jackson

The title of Vasti Jackson’s most recent album, the self-released No Borders to the Blues, serves as a sort of mission statement for the Mississippi guitarist. On the turbocharged “No Border to the Blues” he insists that the genre transcends race and class, and he calls on a variety of influences–R & B, soul, blues, […]