1. Read We Need New Names
A Zimbabwean author’s vivid first novel.
Darling, Bastard, Chipo, Godknows: With a little imagination, that could almost be a grammatically correct sentence. In fact, those are the central characters of We Need New Names, a remarkable debut novel set partly in an unnamed African country and partly in America, by the Stegner Fellow NoViolet Bulawayo. —Kathryn Schulz
Reagan Arthur Books, May 21.
2.–3. Hear and See Audra McDonald
New album, new PBS special.
It’s entirely possible that Audra McDonald is the greatest singer alive. Her huge range (of ability and vocals) can turn even iffy revivals or operas into compelling events, which may be why she has five Tony awards already, with a lot of years still ahead of her. Her new album, Go Back Home, shows off her core strengths—it’s all American musical-theater standards by Sondheim, Guettel, Comden and Green, and more—and she’ll sing selections on the PBS telecast next week.
Nonesuch Records, May 21; Audra McDonald in Concert: Go Back Home, PBS, May 24, 9 p.m.
4. Read A Delicate Truth (or Anything) by John le Carré
Work your way back.
If you’ve already torn through A Delicate Truth, the new John le Carré novel (out earlier this month), go back and read his old stuff. To inspire you, here’s an irresistible sentence from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: “By the by, he is a virgin, about eight feet tall, and built by the same firm that did Stonehenge.” Start there, or with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. —K.S.
5. See The Jukebox
Funny storytelling, inspired by karaoke.
This evening, co-hosted by Vulture’s Margaret Lyons, looks to be a fun one: Guest performers (this time, they’ll include Janeane Garofalo, Peter Grosz, and Griffin Newman) each tell a story that’s inspired by or connected to a song, and then they karaoke-sing it. This month’s theme is “prom,” so expect a certain amount of Boyz II Men.
Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Park Slope; May 21.
6. See A Family for All Occasions
The Labyrinth Theater Company finds its way back.
We don’t seem to see as much from the Labyrinth as we did a few years ago—Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and their collaborators are very busy people these days. So we are eager to see what Hoffman does when he directs playwright Bob Glaudini’s classic setup: A newly retired dad and his exhausted wife and oblivious son are visited by his promiscuous daughter and her peculiarly influential new boyfriend.
Bank Street Theater, 155 Bank Street, through May 26.
7. Read Jon Mooallem’s Wild Ones
The subtitle tells it all: “A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America.”
It features a “copulation hat” for captive falcons on the third page. It turns Thomas Jefferson’s quest to find a woolly mammoth in America into intriguing political history. It includes a pseudo–chase sequence involving the author, a polar bear, and Martha Stewart. There is, in short, ridiculously lots to love about Jon Mooallem’s Wild Ones—starting with its thoughtful and troubling observation that our increasingly extravagant effort at species conservation is a corollary to, as much as a solution for, our habit of rendering wild animals extinct. —K.S.
Penguin Press, May 16.
8. See The Office
The final episode.
That’s what she said, and that’s all she wrote.
May 16, NBC, 9 p.m.
9. See Richard Serra: Early Work
Hollywood is all on about the latest Iron Man blockbuster: Enter the art world’s original man of steel (and lead) in a kick-ass show of very early artworks. Installed by the superhero himself, the show is dense with work, energy, and ideas. Huge slabs, interspaced with old metal doors, sliced pipes, hanging felt, lead coils. All create a solar system of some of the strongest, most original work of the late sixties. —Jerry Saltz
David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, through June 15.
10. See Inside Amy Schumer
Off to a great start.
This new series’ sketch comedy revolves around social awkwardness, a little like that of The Kids in the Hall, and is bracketed with stand-up sets from the likes of Tig Notaro (who is also a writer on the show). Schumer’s timing is great, and she knows how to work the small screen without mugging. It’s a rarity: a female-friendly, consciousness-raised comedy zone that is also funny. Extremely promising.
Comedy Central, Tuesdays, 10:30 p.m.
11.–13. See, Hear, and Consider Matthew Barney
Multimedia artist, in every medium.
The Morgan’s show of drawings by this nearly impenetrable artist opened last week with a flurry of affiliated events. At the museum itself, Barney will show the results of his latest “Drawing Restraint” performance, the twentieth in the series. At the Public Library, he’ll sit down with the curator and interviewer Paul Holdengräber and attempt to put some portion of what he does into words. And if you want to try to make sense of it at home, Rizzoli’s companion book contains two smart essays about his work—including one by psychotherapist Adam Phillips.
Morgan Library & Museum, though September 2; New York Public Library, May 21, 7 p.m; Rizzoli.
14. Attend Great GoogaMooga
Nowhere to go but up.
Consider us cautiously optimistic, because, yes, this fine-dining-and-music festival was kind of a mess last year: too many ticketed attendees, overstressed resources, and ridiculous wait times for tiny bites of food. But the idea has good bones, and if the organizers have learned from their mistakes, Great GoogaMooga (full disclosure: it’s co-sponsored by New York) has the potential to be a pretty awesome experience.
Prospect Park, May 17 through 19; schedule at brooklyn.googamooga.com
15. Hear Kurt Vile
And the Violators.
The indie rocker’s fifth album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, arrived last month to nearly perfect reviews, and he’ll be playing the Bowery for just one night. It’s sold out, so either hit up Stubhub or start planning for his return visit, on June 29 at South Street Seaport.
Bowery Ballroom, May 16.
16. See Design(in) The New Heart of New York
How to visualize a whole neighborhood, built from scratch.
It’s difficult to grasp the behemoth that is Hudson Yards, the shopping center, office district, and residential combo that will one day occupy the westernmost chunk of midtown Manhattan. To help visualize the details, the Center for Architecture has mounted an exhibit that will remain up until June 30, and a series of weekly panels explaining what it’s all about.
Center for Architecture, 536 La Guardia Place, through June 30.
17. See Scarecrow
Endorsed by a man who’d know.
No less an authority than Gene Hackman (now, alas, retired) considers his best performance to be in Jerry Schatzberg’s Scarecrow, a scruffy, intimate 1973 drama that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes but went almost unseen. Hackman and Al Pacino play Beckettian hobos traveling cross-country to open a car wash, and the tall man and the shrimp make beautiful music together. The role uses all Hackman’s gifts: his violence, his improvisation chops, his ability to match wits with a fellow Method titan. Pacino, meanwhile, is at his lightest, sweetest, and most playful. The undersung (except in France, where they love their Jerrys) Schatzberg will introduce the May 17 show. —David Edelstein
Film Forum, May 17 through 23.
18. Listen to James Levine’s Return
He steps back up.
James Levine has been injured and absent from public life for so long that the Metropolitan Opera seemed almost to have learned to function without its music director. But he’s been busy backstage. He finally makes his comeback on May 19, conducting the Met’s orchestra at Carnegie Hall in a preview of his return to the Met podium next season. —Justin Davidson
Carnegie Hall, May 19.
19. Hear Black Francis
A real live Pixie is in town for a special acoustic show. One night only.
Symphony Space, May 17, 8 p.m.
21. Read A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not!” Ripley
Here’s something you didn’t know.
He’s dead more than 60 years, yet Robert Ripley’s brand still marches along. Neal Thompson’s biography reveals a man who figured out the secrets of bitsy and irresistible content long before there was an Internet. Crown Archetype.
22. Watch Kingdom Come
Vampire turned documentary subject.
The surreal heartaches of indie filmmaking are laid bare in this doc about Daniel Gillies, a.k.a. Elijah Mikaelson on The Vampire Diaries. It chronicles Gillies’s attempts to finance his feature Broken Kingdom, starring himself; his wife, Rachael Leigh Cook; and the veteran character actor Seymour Cassel (Rushmore). Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Spurlock, and Kevin Smith chime in to explain the dreary ins and outs. —Matt Zoller Seitz
Showtime, May 15, 7 p.m.
23. Watch Scandal
The season-two finale.
When Scandal premiered last year, it seemed a promisingly soapy, if grim, prime-time drama about public relations and politics. Over the course of two seasons, it’s evolved into something much more impressive than that: a nightmare representation of love, sex, and power, with past agonies constantly intruding on the present and the characters’ neuroses pushing the U.S. government through one scandal after another, right up to the brink of war. Shonda Rhimes’s series is so trashily expressionist that complaints of implausibility ricochet off its slick surface. This is the second craziest show on television, after American Horror Story. —M.Z.S.
ABC, May 16, 10 p.m.
24. See Tom Jones
So unusual at Bowery Ballroom.
That’s Sir Tom Jones, age 72, these days (and please pause here to picture the Hairy-Chested Thrown-Panties-Receiving King of Tight Pants himself as he bowed down before Queen Elizabeth II). Expect a multigenerational crowd: It’s the rare Bowery Ballroom show that will be equally appealing to twentysomethings and their grandmothers. Probably in different ways.
May 18, 9 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.).
25. See the 1963 Jason and the Argonauts
And remember Ray Harryhausen.
Harryhausen, one of the last golden-age practitioners of stop-motion animation and arguably its greatest, died last week at 92. Although some would plump for Clash of the Titans, from 1981, Jason and the Argonauts is widely held to be his best film: the little posable character figures are surprisingly atmospheric, and unlike a lot of rubber-monster movies, this one has a decent script. The battling-skeletons sequence is forever a classic.
DVD, $9.37; Blu-ray, $14.99, both at Amazon.
*This article has been corrected to show the proper name and description of Terry Evans’s exhibition.