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To Do: February 25–March 11, 2015

Twenty-five things to see, hear, watch, and read.

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Bates Motel, Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat, and more New York events.   

Film
1. See Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
Fresh joint.
Spike Lee’s greatest talent might be salesmanship. Some of us think that those instincts have inhibited his artistic growth, which is why we’re grateful for Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, his passionate but soft-sell remake of the late Bill Gunn’s moody 1970s vampire art film Ganja and Hess. Amid the sex and blood (and bloody sex), you feel that Lee is mining the tension between his own inner and outer selves and finding something new: creative irresolution. —David Edelstein
In theaters.

TV
2. Watch The Last Man on Earth
Act civilized.
A killer virus wipes out most of mankind, except Will Forte and Kristen Schaal. They’ll presumably either repopulate the planet or kill each other—and which do you think will be more fun to watch?
Fox, March 1 at 9 p.m.

Art
3. See Philip Taaffe
A collagist’s comeback.
Like many art-worlders of a certain age, I was smitten in the mid-1980s by Philip Taaffe’s flickering bioluminescent patterns and remakes of famous modernist masterpieces. But after a decade or so at Gagosian, this amazing artist faded from people’s minds. This show finds Taaffe reasserting his powers of scale—complex Miró and Paleolithic pictographic structure meets Islamic design and alien worlds of floating shape. —Jerry Saltz
Luhring Augustine Bushwick, through April 26.

Pop
4. Listen to Fifth Harmony’s Reflection
Independent women.
These X Factor finalists may call to mind Making the Band train wreck Danity Kane, but their new album is far better, crammed full of fierce girl-power anthems like “BO$$,” which might as well be a Destiny’s Child B-side. Did we mention that these girls can all sing, too?
Epic/Syco.

Theater
5. See Rasheeda Speaking
The doctor will insult you now.
Two medical-office workers, one white and one black, fight for survival in a world that’s crazy, racist, or both. Tonya Pinkins and Dianne Wiest give titanic performances in this wallop of a comedy by Joel Drake Johnson, directed for the New Group by Cynthia Nixon. —Jesse Green
Pershing Square Signature Center, through March 22.

Opera
6. See Semele
East meets West.
The current convention in performing Baroque opera is to hitch authentic music to a wildly modern staging, the more outlandish the better. In that spirit, the painter and performance artist Zhang Huan lets loose on Handel’s mythological opera with an Eastern-flavored production involving a Chinese temple, dragon dance, and belly-bumping Sumo wrestlers. —Justin Davidson
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, March 4 through 10.

Dance
7. See New York City Ballet
Not just the same old steps.
The “New Combinations” program (up for the last time this season) offers three thrilling rebuttals to any worrywarts concerned for ballet’s future: Alexei Ratmansky’s animalistic, wonderfully weird Pictures at an Exhibition; Christopher Wheeldon’s crisp Mercurial Manoeuvres; and Justin Peck’s athletic, cheeky Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes, a tour de force for the company’s men. —Rebecca Milzoff
David H. Koch Theater, February 27.

TV
8. Watch Fresh Off the Boat
A polished, promising new comedy.
I’ll grant that this show isn’t a faithful adaptation of chef-author Eddie Huang’s book or experiences. But it’s perfectly cast, with kid characters who are funny without seeming phony, and there’s plenty of story to be had. —Margaret Lyons
ABC, Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

Books
9. Read The Country of Ice Cream Star
Elegant earthbound surrealism.
Slipping through the cracks between dystopia and YA melodrama, Sandra Newman emerges with something entirely original. In a post-­collapse America, people die of “posies” around age 20 and speak a childish pidgin of the author’s fearless invention. It’s tough going at first, but the language and the atmosphere are more than enough to compensate. —Boris Kachka
Ecco.

Film
10. Watch Grey Gardens
Mother would approve.
There are films—especially documentaries—that must be seen in the company of others, to share the incredulity, the horror, the woe. Exhibit A: the definitive invasion of privacy known as Grey Gardens, back in theaters in pristine form thanks to the Criterion Collection and “the Academy.” The filmmakers scrutinize but do not solve the mystery of high-society inbreeding exemplars Big and Little Edie Beale, Jackie Onassis’s simultaneously reclusive and exhibitionistic relatives. No set designer could improve on the crammed, filthy East Hampton mansion in which the memories bloom—and fester. —D.E.
Film Forum, March 6 through 12.

TV
11. Watch High Maintenance
The hits keep coming.
With three new episodes that are somehow even better than the previous brilliant 16, this web series’s universe continues to expand and deepen. Funny and subversive, but also a sly portrait of acute urban loneliness. —M.L.
Streaming on Vimeo.

Comedy/Theater
12. See Chiara Atik’s Five Times in One Night
Wink wink, nudge nudge.
A clever (and extremely funny) play about sex, told in five bite-size parts—each a self-contained story about the different kinds of damage and delight that couples inflict upon one another between the sheets.
Ensemble Studio Theatre, through March 14.

Art
13. See “Isamu Noguchi: Variations”
Seven decades in two gallery spaces.
“To order space is to give it meaning,” Isamu Noguchi once said. The astounding variety of ways in which the artist interpreted that is on display in this show, including gouaches from his time working in Brancusi’s studio and set pieces from his collaborations with Martha Graham.
Pace Gallery, through March 21.

TV
14. Watch Bates Motel
Season three, a little more psycho.
Now that Norman’s had his first kill (or two, but who’s counting?), he can’t hide his tendencies much longer. Not when his mother—Vera Farmiga, who continues to fascinate—encourages him to sleep in her bed, and certainly not when women who check into the motel aren’t checking out.
A&E, March 9 at 9 p.m.

Theater
15.-17. See Disgraced, Constellations, and If/Then
Closing time.
Three thoughtful Broadway productions are shuttering soon. Disgraced, Ayad Akhtar’s play about Islamophiles and -phobes, closes March 1. Constellations, in which Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson enact multiple quantum realities, closes March 15. And the musical If/Then—which not only enacts quantum realities but sings them—closes March 22. —J.G.
Lyceum, Samuel J. Friedman, and Richard Rodgers Theatres.

Books
18. Read Richard Price’s The Whites
Mining the us-versus-them mind.
Seven years after Lush Life, Price comes out with the first in a planned series of thrillers under the transparent pen name Harry Brandt. It was meant to be quickie entertainment, but Price enriches this story of a half-feral band of cops bonded by vengeance with depth, melancholy, and those famously keen eyes and ears. —B.K.
Holt.

Pop
19. See Screaming Females
Jersey guitar goddess in the house.
The New Brunswick trio’s latest album, Rose Mountain, is every bit as raucous and riff-heavy as the five that came before it, but this is still a band best experienced live. Front woman Marissa Paternoster moves around the stage (and the fretboard) like a human tornado; these two record-release performances are opportunities to see a modern-day guitar deity in the flesh. —Lindsay Zoladz
Knitting Factory, February 28 at 6:45 and 10:45.

Classical Music
20. See Contact!
Northern exposure.
By the time Alan Gilbert leaves the New York Philharmonic in 2017, he will have steeped the orchestra in two of his major interests: new music and Scandinavia. The two come together in an off-campus program of recent works by Nordic composers, including Per Nørgard and Kaija Saariaho. —J.D.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, March 7.

TV
21. Watch Dig
Da Vinci Code, meet your match.
An archaeologist in Jerusalem excavates a mysterious religious artifact, and her discovery leads to murder, fanatic doomsday cults, terrorist threats, and Jason Isaacs and Anne Heche getting very bloody (and sexy!). Could it mean the end of the world? With Homeland’s Gideon Raff co-exec-producing, probably not.
USA, premieres March 5 at 10 p.m.

Pop
22. Listen to Father John Misty
Ornate, gorgeous folk-pop.
“Save me, President Jesus!” Josh Tillman cries on “Bored in the USA,” a hilarious yet stirring ode to modern American malaise. On I Love You, Honeybear, his fantastic second album as Father John Misty, Tillman uses bleak humor to interrogate uncomfortable truths, whether he’s singing about prescription pills, subprime loans, or one-night stands. —L.Z.
Bella Union/Sub Pop.

Books
23. Read Roger White’s The Contemporaries
Your art-world tour guide.
In six approachable essays on places that foster the creation of art (e.g., RISD’s M.F.A. painting program) and the people who make it (Dana Schutz, Mary Walling Blackburn), painter and critic White eschews artspeak for enlightened straight talk; what comes across is a qualified love of the current art landscape.
Bloomsbury, March 3.

Theater
24. See The End and the Beginning
From here to eternity.
The Civilians are everywhere lately; now, as part of the Met’s first theater residency, the company is investigating life and afterlife at the Temple of Dendur. Watch what happens when their ­interview-based dramaturgy meets site-specific ­grandeur.j.g.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, March 6.

Classical Music
25. See Sins and Songs
With the American Composers Orchestra.
Nobody distilled disillusionment, moral fury, wit, and mordant melody into such a sexy concoction as Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Their “sung ballet” The Seven Deadly Sins is paired here with orchestral songs by several of Weill’s aesthetic heirs, including Sarah Kirkland Snider and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden.j.d.
Carnegie Hall, February 27.


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