The Socratic Method
"Know thyself"?or at least get thy butt down to the Mid-Manhattan Library, where Dr. Win Wenger is hosting a free creativity workshop called "the Modern Socratic Method." Use your new dialectical skills to needle your dear friend Crito with questions about justice, or just be happy with an unreflective increase in your own problem-solving abilities. Modern dress required; BYOH (bring your own hemlock). 455 5th Ave. (40th St.), 212-289-8856, 7, free.
When Dave Matthews played Central Park this summer, we overheard the following bipolar monologue recited by an aging burnout: "Dave Matthews? Fuck Dave Matthews?he's a homo. Skynyrd's comin' man! Lynyrd Skynyrd's comin' to New York!" Unfortunately they're not. Emmylou Harris and Spyboy are, though, to open for the big poofter. Madison Square Garden, 2 Penn Plaza (32nd St.), 212-465-MSG1, 7:30, $52.50.
Alvin Ailey's 45th Season
In a story now burnished into myth, a young African-American dancer from Rogers, TX, and six of his friends gave their first performance in 1958 to a small crowd at the 92nd Street Y, showcasing some dances they'd been working on in their free time. Forty-five years later, the Alvin Ailey Company is a world-renowned dance group with a second company for smaller venues and a midtown school.
Revelations, the iconic dance performed at Alvin Ailey's memorial at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine?his 1989 death was one of the first highly publicized AIDS casualties?is still the company's signature piece. A brilliant, aching depiction of spiritual yearning set to gospel (occasionally performed by a live choir), Revelations is as good as modern dance gets. It never feels uninspired, and provides dancers with the latitude to put their own stamp on the choreography.
Ailey is all about individual expression. He encouraged his dancers to be well-rounded, imaginative, fully formed artists rather than robotic executioners of someone else's steps. Hymn, a tribute to Ailey created by Judith Jamison, his protege and beloved successor, stands as a kind of company manifesto. Danced to the spoken words of Ailey dancers and Ailey himself, the piece is a rough manual of what to expect from the company, how to watch them dance.
"I like people who have an imagination, who color movement, who express themselves through movement. I always tell my dancers that," says the voice of Ailey in the piece's final moments.
The other original Ailey choreography in this season's repertoire is Cry, a 15-minute solo dedicated to his mother and all black women. The piece is danced by three women in turn, most fiercely and exquisitely by Dwana Adiaha Smallwood. The company has laudably expanded its vision in recent years to include dancers of all races?although it's still primarily black?and supports the work of up-and-coming young choreographers as well, Jennifer Muller and Alonzo King among them. While the dancing is still wonderful, some of the newer, more abstract choreography stands in dull contrast to the luster of the classics, which are kinetic before cerebral and never without depth.
"I believe that dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people," Alvin Ailey once said. His company is still fulfilling that wish.
City Center, 131 W. 55th St. (betw. 6th & 7th Aves.), 212-581-1212, call for times, $25-$100.
I am my own wife
Judging from the school-boyish picture of Jefferson Mays that appears in the playbill for I Am My Own Wife, the play might have more to do with Bible Belt America than Germany during the Third Reich and the communist regime that followed. Nor does Mays' visage in any way send one's gaydar beeping. But as die transvestit Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, Mays plays a gay man who identifies as a lesbian. Dressed in a simple black dress, a string of pearls and heavy black shoes, he enters, reconsiders, then enters again.
Born Lothar Berfelde, Charlotte is named after the East German city in which she lived from the onset of Nazism to the advent of communism through the fall of the Berlin Wall. Perhaps, in the worst sense, Charlotte is a mirror of that city. "When the Jews were deported in the Second World War, I became it," she reflects, referring to the collection of antiques and curios that garner the back wall of her museum. These are the articles of faith she will describe throughout the evening. The most important of them, a gramophone, Thomas Edison's original talking machine. Talk is the operative word here in this docubiography about a heroine who survived very possibly by betraying her friends.
Through the interviewer, playwright Doug Wright, one of the many other characters Jefferson Mays creates through the course of this one-man show, we become Charlotte's friend. Motivated by a reporter friend who identified von Mahlsdorf as just the kind of subject Wright was looking for, the play is framed by his creative process?the taped interviews, public reports, even his letter of introduction in which he remarks to the ever so demure Charlotte "as for grant possibilities, forgive the expression, you're a slam dunk." Indeed, I Am My Own Wife has achieved some surprising notoriety for a one-actor play, twice extended at Playwrights Horizons last season and now at the Lyceum on Broadway. One can impart no small part of this success to Mays' transformative powers, his ability to create eccentric individuals.
More importantly, as a docudrama, Charlotte's story appeals to a cultural nerve, one that's quite removed from the celebratory nature of drag and more akin to the kind of survivor guilt that must prevail among the largely gay male audience that fills the theater. As Wright draws out the issue of von Mahlsdorf's complicity with the communists, and conceivably the Nazis, he strikes a chord of complicity with our own dissolution, namely the lives we've lost from AIDS.
Director Moises Kaufman, well-known for his docudramas of gay martyrs (Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and The Laramie Project) steers the story to the ambiguity of the central character, who for good or evil, invites our empathic involvement.
Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St. (betw. 6th & 7th Aves.), 212-239-6200, call for times,
Yigal Ozeri: The Watcher Paintings
Tall and crowned with a nest of dark curly hair, Yigal Ozeri cuts the charismatic figure one expects of a successful artist celebrating with throngs of well-wishers at the opening of his west Chelsea show on Nov. 22. All 22 paintings on display have been sold, but gallery owner Mike Weiss indicates that more are available.
Ozeri is only the second artist to be featured at the Mike Weiss Gallery, newly situated amidst a host of galleries that have replaced the warehouse and garage spaces that previously populated this area. So far, the one thing that Weiss' two exhibitors have in common is an intimate experience of a small corner of the Upper Galilee.
A 45-year-old native Israeli who retains a residence in Tel Aviv, Ozeri made Weiss aware of the artistic potential of the print workshop at Kibbutz Cabri near the northern coastal town of Nahariya, within easy rocket range of the Lebanese border. Weiss has since entered into a partnership with Cabri's Intaglio Press, the kibbutz enterprise that works with artists to produce their etchings.
Ozeri calls Cabri his "second home" in Israel and says that he visits two or three times a year. Gordon Terry, the artist who exhibited at the Mike Weiss Gallery prior to Ozeri, also enthuses about his time there, remembering fondly the 10 days he spent in the past summer, and praising the workshop's "hands-on approach with the artist." Terry especially applauds Ofra Raif, the manager (who flew in with her husband, the workshop's marketing director), for her dedication to the artist and her willingness to "push the boundaries of etching." Terry recalls working with Raif in the middle of the night, responding to her sudden inspiration on how to solve a particularly vexing technical problem regarding his work. He declares that, as a practical matter, an artist cannot do in the United States the kind of etchings he did there. To illustrate his point, he mentions working with seven plates and nine colors, a work of unusual complexity.
Terry is also struck by how the easy pace and informal atmosphere of the kibbutz does not impair, perhaps even augments, its productivity as an economic community. He marvels at how "the socialist sense of community is combined with entrepreneurship."
Ozeri's paintings that are currently on exhibit focus largely on views from his Long Island City studio window, and of this window, other windows, the alley below and the windows across. He has painted a series on pigeons perched in front of this window, mostly in somber blues; the style is so finely detailed and textured as to occasionally resemble photographs. Less photographic but no less real are the separate studies of his six-year-old son, Adam, and his teenage daughter, Shear, also at a studio window. They are sometimes dark, even demonic, such as Adam playing with a drumstick?the kind you beat, not eat?in an outstretched gesture reminiscent of a Nazi salute. But Adam and Shear are also depicted in sunny gold and orange. Adam is evident in the flesh during the evening: a little boy in pajamas, nestled near his mom.
While he paints objects close at hand, making much of the wonders of everyday life, Ozeri's print works run further afield for inspiration. By way of example, Ozeri mentions his fascination with the Countess Castiglione, a 19th-century Italian who spent most of her life in Paris and was a pioneering figure in the history of photography, known for dramatic self portraits in elaborate and elegant costumes of bygone eras.
The gallery has produced a vividly designed catalogue of his paintings. Although the show does not feature his Cabri prints, a handsome Israeli publication, Yigal Ozeri: 1993-2003, 100 Etchings, is also available. His etchings are divided thematically into architectural drawings, chairs, costumes (mostly of Renaissance vintage) and still lifes.
Mike Weiss Gallery, 520 W. 24th St. (11th Ave.), 212-691-6899.
Through the Looking Glass
What if Chekhov's three sisters had actually been aiming for L.A.? Should tragedy turn strangers into family? What really goes on in the back rooms of the post office? And is breaking on through to the other side all it's cracked up to be? The burning questions of our time tackled in the "Looking Glass Forum," a four-play festival of emerging female playwrights and directors. Looking Glass Theater, 422 W. 57th St. (betw. 9th & 10th Aves.), 212-352-3101, call for times, $12.50.
Bread and Puppet
A few summers ago, we made a pilgrimage to the home of the Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover, VT, where there's a massive barn filled with past puppets. We took in shows outdoors and in another barn, our belly full from the meal B&P had provided. Thankfully, you don't have to drive seven hours to see these world-famous puppets in action. How To Turn Distress Into Success: A Parable of War and Its Making and Standing-in-the-Way-Bystander Commemoration is at Theater for the New City, 155 1st Ave. (betw. 9th & 10th Sts.), 8, 212-254-1109, $10.
The Artrocker Holiday Bash
Artrocker New York is part social club (you can join for a small fee and get reduced list and drink specials at gigs) and part floating party, showcasing a range of heady, obscure rock bands from both sides of the pond. Instead of feeding the rock-revival industry bonanza, they provide fun and cheap events with a sense of "Community, Baby!" (They're British.) Tonight they're throwing the Artrocker Holiday Bash at Lit, and request formal attire. That is, "your interpretation of formal attire." Which might prove more fun than the bands. With Shesus, the Amber Smith, Oxford Collapse and DJs Greg Vegas, Amy Dietz and Johnny B. 93 2nd Ave. (betw. 5th & 6th Sts.), 212-777-7987, 9, $5.
Now that Panasonic has announced that Cyndi Lauper will be the featured performer in Times Square this New Year's Eve, we can all rest a little easier. Who needs thousands of cops in riot gear when we have Cyndi Lauper's caterwauling to send any would-be terrorists running for the hills? Tonight she'll make sure no terrorists will attack the Beacon Theater, either. It may well be the safest place in the city. 2124 B'way (74th St.), 212-496-7070, 8, $35-$65.
Something funny happens when you're seduced by Satan's daughter. You are entranced by her beauty, and terrified by her music. Love and fear intermingle, and you feel the force of both with a crippling intensity. The metal crunch guitars bring your blood to a boil. The double bass drum splits a fault line through your soul. And that voice singing of fire and a world without redemption? That's Sin. Her daddy's the devil, and her Momma's rock 'n' roll.
Hailing from Tampa, which she describes as "the metal capitol," Sin?Cynthia Galeana?knew that she was put on this earth to make metal, and wasn't going to let anything stop her. "Being a woman doing metal, I had to try 10 times harder than a guy would." She soaked up the juices of the local death metal scene, absorbing the music and vibes of acts varying from Venom to Marilyn Manson. Following her metal muse brought her through weird scenes in Mexico and a stint as a backup singer in Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Heeding the advice of metal luminary Alex Skolnick, whom she met touring with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Cynthia formed Sin Sin, a hard-metal quartet that combines the guitar sounds and big choruses of old-school metal with the crunch and brutality of death metal and grindcore. Her wild, writhing performances are creepy and compelling, the sort of spectacle sadly absent from most of today's wallflower metallers. She's just as willing to destroy you in Spanish?Sin Sin's music is both bone-crushing and bilingual. El Diablo es tu neuvo amigo? Say it in death-metal growl and you're almost halfway there.
Rare, 416 W. 14th St. (betw. 9th & 10th Aves.), 212-675-2220, 11:15, $5-$10.
It's Alvin Ailey's 45th Season. But only for a few more weeks.
Nazis, Communists and die transvestit Charlotte von Mahlsdorf?what more, we ask? What more!?!
Better Off Dead
Back in the 80s, while John Hughes was making all those bittersweet, emotionally packed suburban teen "comedies," John Cusack was starring in movies like this. After being dumped by his girlfriend, Cusack's Lane Myer tries to deal with a world populated with homicidal paperboys, dancing hamburgers, verbally abusive Asians and a father desperate to master youth lingo. Funny thing is, he can't deal with it! There's wacky hijinx, bumbling antics, a slammin' 1967 Camaro and a so-cute-it-hurts French chick in this zany teen comedy about suicide! Landmark Sunshine Cinema, 143 E. Houston St. (betw. 1st & 2nd Aves.), 212-330-8182, 12 a.m., $10.
Crash Test Dummies
Once, there was this band that was a one-hit wonder and then was soon forgotten. But apparently they never went away, even though they're just a punchline. Mm-mmm-mmmm? Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette St. (betw. 4th St. & Astor Pl.), 212-539-8778, 7, $23.
Blind Boys of Alabama
If you've stopped paying attention to the Grammies, then good for you. Only thing you're missing is the Blind Boys of Alabama and their strangle-hold on the Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album award with a 2003 nomination following their wins in 2001 and 2002. The incomparable Blind Boys are playing Beacon Theater in support of their first Christmas album since forming in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind. Chrissie Hynde, Aaron Neville, Michael Franti, Mavis Staples and others are scheduled for guest appearances. 2124 B'way (74th St.), 212-496-7070, 8, $39.50-$76.00.
Jam out with your clam out with the ladies of Skinny Blonde & Goodlooking, tonight, when they present NYCitySin at Knitting Factory. Two floors, eight bands, plenty of real rock 'n' roll and lots of tight leather pants. As of press time, confirmed to play with SBG are Alabama Black Snake, Fresh Kills, Napalm Stars, the Fakers, Mermaid Unicorn, Killer Mink, Ghosty, Sad Little Stars and Madame Butterfly. 74 Leonard St. (betw. B'way & Church St.), 212-219-3006, 8, $7, $5 adv.
Painting in Long Island City, printmaking within rocket range of the Lebanese border: Yigal Ozeri is no joke. More about his show at Mike Weiss Gallery
Seven in One Blow
Actors Abigail Savage and David Crabb star in Seven in One Blow, or The Brave Little Kid, a holiday musical filled with ogres and monsters who learn that fangs, claws and roaring make a fine spectacle, but can leave you without love and community. Yes, this is feel-good to the hilt, and we're going for the second year running, even though most of the audience comes up to our knees. The Kid's travels remind us of the days when our biggest worry was which C.S. Lewis or Edward Eager book to devour next. Axis Company, 1 Sheridan Sq. (betw. 7th Ave. & W. 4th St.), 212-807-9300, $10, $5 st./child./sc.
John Wayne's greatest role was in this, John Ford's greatest film, an epic, sprawling masterpiece of American cinema. The Duke stars as Ethan Edwards, just back from the Civil War, who becomes increasingly obsessive, unstable and cruel in his hunt for little Natalie Wood, who's been kidnapped by Injuns. In the end, all that matters is killin' them Injuns. With Vera Miles and Jeffrey Hunter. Preceded by the 1925 William S. Hart silent Western, Tumbleweeds at 7. Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 4th Ave. (betw. Union & President Sts.), Park Slope, 718-857-4816, 9, $8.
Perpetuating an unfortunate band-naming tradition popularized by Black Sabbath, tonight Northsix features six angry young and not-so-young hardcore bands with loaded imagery in their names. Watch the new school and the middle school collide, unite, divide and ultimately unite again to form new bands with each other. With Kill Your Idols, Paint It Black, Celebrity Murders, Deathcycle A.D. and Career Suicide. 66 N. 6th St. (betw. Wythe & Kent Aves.), Williamsburg, 718-599-5103, 9, $10.
No, sweet young thing ain't sweet no more. In fact, sweet young thing is a middle-aged man coughing and wheezing through a set at Warsaw. That's right, your older brother's favorite band from college, Mudhoney, is coming to town. Mudhoney, once godheads of Seattle, the kings without a crown?or, more accurately, kings whose crown was stolen by a little junkie named Kurt. Remember when "Touch Me I'm Sick" was the new "Anarchy in the U.K."? And now, no one bids on our Sub Pop singles on eBay. Sigh? 261 Driggs Ave. (betw. Eckford & Leonard Sts.), Greenpoint, 718-387-0505, 9, $20.
And speaking of old punks? To be honest, we thought the boys in Agnostic Front were pretty sad and old when we first saw them back around '84 or so. But we gotta give 'em credit for still knockin' around, still makin' a go of it, still avoiding the day-job trap and still playing CBGB?now that they're in their 60s. Then again, maybe that explains why they're playing a matinee, 'cause you know the CBGB matinee ain't what it used to be either. With Death Threat, Fit for Abuse, Urban Riot and Skizonation. 315 Bowery (Bleecker St.), 212-982-4052, 4, $10.
As a veteran producer of the ABC news show 20/20, Danny Schechter was the ultimate outsider on the inside. Then he walked away from major networks, started the alternative broadcast news provider Globalvision and wrote a great book called The More You Watch, the Less You Know. Now he's back with Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception: How the Media Failed to Cover the War in Iraq. In the crowded field of media critics, Schechter's insights are sharper and better informed than most, and tonight he shares them with the public during a reading and freewheeling discussion. Half King, 505 W. 23rd St. (10th Ave.), 212-462-4300, 7, free.
Christmas with the Lettermans
Admittedly, going to the Museum of Television and Radio to watch a 19-year-old tv special, Christmas with the Lettermans, is a bit weird, but this is a very special Christmas special. It even won an Emmy. Other Emmy winners in 1984? Outstanding Drama Series: Cagney and Lacey; Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Edward James Olmos, Miami Vice; Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Robert Guillaume, Benson; Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special: Richard Crenna, An ABC Theater Presentation: The Rape of Richard Beck. Just look at the company this Letterman thing kept. 25 W. 52nd St. (betw. 5th & 6th Aves.), 212-621-6600, 12:30 p.m., $10, $8 sc., children.
Contributors: Adam Bulger, Kate Crane, Berrian Eno-Van Fleet, James Griffith, Philip Henken, Jim Knipfel, Jeff Koyen, Ilya Malinsky, Will Sherlin and Alexander Zaitchik.