Tuesday, July 16, 2024

A Little Bit of Everything at Lincoln Center’s “Summer for the City”

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From the contrast between Nancy Pelosi’s bubble-gum-pink suit and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s black slacks to the slash in its title, “N/A” emphasizes the divide between the first female Speaker of the House (played by Holland Taylor) and the youngest U.S. congresswoman ever elected (a diamond-sharp Ana Villafañe). The playwright, Mario Correa, ably exploits their differences in age, background, and political tactics for zingers, but he confines the pair to repartee for almost the whole show, which spans the four years between A.O.C.’s 2018 Democratic-primary upset and Pelosi’s announcement, after the 2022 midterms, that she would not seek a leadership role in the next Congress. Despite excellent performances and a sleek production (directed by the Tony-winning Diane Paulus), viewers may wish for, as with Congress itself, less talk and more action.—Dan Stahl (Mitzi E. Newhouse; through Aug. 4.)


The Royal Ballet, from England, and Jacob’s Pillow, in the Berkshires, two august institutions with roots dating to the nineteen-thirties, have never fully intersected until now. To mark the occasion, the Royal is spreading its festival début across both of the Pillow’s stages, indoor and outdoor. The programming, alas, isn’t quite as exciting. The company brings Pam Tanowitz’s new “Secret Things,” not yet seen on these shores, and also a world première by Wayne McGregor, but otherwise it presents samplers heavy on staple solos and pas de deux, clipped from classics for galas and touring. Still, this is the Royal, and the dancers will shine.—Brian Seibert (Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, Mass.; July 3-7.)


Yellow figurines in a shadowy cityscape

“Tourism: Las Vegas/First View,” 1984.

Art work by Laurie Simmons / Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery

The beautiful, cool, intellectual, and visual atmosphere that fills the air at the outstanding show “Tabula Rasa” is due to the curator Steven Henry’s deep knowledge and understanding of conceptual art as it relates to photography, and to language. The exhibition takes its title from the late artist Sarah Charlesworth, and her early exploration of the historical value of fact-based images. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the work of some members of the Pictures Generation—artists who, in the nineteen-seventies, questioned not only art’s “expressiveness” but its very function—and those who came after. Of special note are Joseph Kosuth’s fascinating studies of how text itself is an image, James Welling’s masterly and lyrical dissection of the print, Mike Kelley’s concept of home, Glenn Ligon’s examination of photographic production, and Laurie Simmons’s model who lives in a “Taxi Driver”-inspired world.—Hilton Als (Paula Cooper; through July 26.)


With her new film, “Last Summer,” the French director Catherine Breillat—whose career, launched in 1976, has been centered on the dangers and pleasures of forbidden desire—displays the destructive furies at the heart of family life. Anne (Léa Drucker), a lawyer and a mother of two young girls who is married to a businessman, has an affair with her seventeen-year-old stepson, Théo (Samuel Kircher). It’s more than a transgression—it’s a crime, and the maneuvers by which Anne fights to save both her marriage and her reputation have a mortal ferocity that the callow yet intrepid Théo, with his own demands and schemes, matches step for step. The movie’s clashes of irresponsible, irreconcilable passions reach a fearsome pitch—yet the terrifying silences of ironclad secrets shriek loudest of all.—Richard Brody (In theatrical release.)

A Little Bit of Everything at Lincoln Centers “Summer for the City”

Pick Three

The critic Jennifer Wilson on vacation-gone-wrong novels.

Summer makes me sweat. There is too much pressure to enjoy it. But I realized that the season and all its expectations—softball games, pool parties, trips—grated on me only when I found myself recommending “beach reads” about vacations doomed to disappoint.

A woman in a bikini holding an ice cream cone and book. An UFO is lifting items off of her.

Illustration by Maisie Cowell

1. “The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty” (2015), by Vendela Vida, begins mid-flight. On a plane to Casablanca, an American is flooded with hot memories of summers past—kissing a boy who smelled of sunscreen on a hammock, an interlude in Dubrovnik. Once in Morocco, though, her wallet and passport are stolen. To anyone hoping that travel will turn them into a new person, this novel warns: Be careful what you wish for.

2. In Katie Kitamura’s “A Separation” (2017), a woman travels, off-season, to Greece to find her estranged husband, like the Odyssey in reverse. These days, men no longer had “a sea to roam,” she thinks. “It was only on the shores of infidelity that they achieved a little privacy, a little inner life”—assuming, that is, he’s still alive.

3. In Marie NDiaye’s “That Time of Year” (2020), a Parisian family lingers in a French resort town after summer is over. It’s just a couple extra days, they think. No harm done, until the morning when the husband finds that his wife and child are missing. All of us have overstayed our welcome at some point, in a place, in a relationship. This novel is at once a social critique about the leisure class and a devastating meditation on why it’s so hard to leave the places (and people) that help us forget who we were before we came to their shores.

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