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To Do: May 20–June 3, 2015

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

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Black-ish, Chaka Khan in concert, and more New York events.  

TV
1. Watch Black-ish
The ambitous season finale.
It’s a special thrill to watch an already-good new series grow confident over time, more and more, until its creators swing for the fences and do something like this first-season finale, which flashes back to the Harlem Renaissance to tell the story of the main character’s great-great-­grandfather, with all the main actors in new roles, plus musical numbers. Sean “Diddy” Combs and Mary J. Blige guest star. —Matt Zoller Seitz
ABC, May 20, 9:30 p.m.

Music
2. Hear Chaka Khan
Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan.
Ahhh: It’s outdoor-concert season again. And Chaka Khan is a particularly inspired choice to kick off the Celebrate Brooklyn! festival. Even if nobody else can quite hit those high notes like the Queen of Funk, you know that classics like “I Feel For You” and “I’m Every Woman” will inspire many to try. (Unfortunately.) —Lindsay Zoladz
Prospect Park Bandshell, June 3, 8 p.m. Free.

Books
3., 4. & 5. Read Man in Profile and Saint Mazie and Up in the Old Hotel
Immerse yourself in the former city.
First, the facts: Thomas Kunkel’s Man in Profile is the first biography of Joseph Mitchell, the master mid-century New Yorker reporter whose eye for waterfront city characters and culture was unequaled (helped, Kunkel reveals, by a loose attitude toward composite characters and what constitutes a quote). Then, the more straightforwardly fictional: The hugely talented Jami Attenberg, most recently author of The Middlesteins, has built a novel based on an imagined diary of Mazie Phillips, a Bowery movie-theater proprietress whom Mitchell himself once profiled. And, finally, the Ur-text itself: Mitchell’s 1992 anthology of the peerless magazine work he did between 1940 and 1964.
Random House; Grand Central Publishing (June 2); Vintage.

Theater
6. Attend the Lower East Side Festival
Anything goes.
For 20 years, Theater for the New City has been throwing a free party in and around its First Avenue home. This year, F. Murray Abraham channels Sacco and Vanzetti, Tammy Grimes sings “The Rose,” the Negro Ensemble Company tries out passages from a new work in progress, and Penny Arcade performs a selection from her 1990 classic Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! —Jesse Green
Theater for the New City, May 22 through 24.

Art
7. See ‘David Salle: New Paintings’
Pop and Op.
David Salle’s eye-deceiving, magnificent meetings on canvas of hands, vans, spilling milk, ice-cream bars, cigarettes, chef hats, and a whole Coney Island of the mind of mash-ups of everyday items, all defying narrative, assert themselves as intelligent presences. One of the optically strongest painters working today, Salle still vexes minds wanting easy reads and stories that mean things. In their place he paints frozen poetry: jangly, glamorous, unstable, elemental. —Jerry Saltz
Skarstedt, through June 27.

Movies
8. See The Connection
Not the French one.
As a nonnative who first saw NYC through the mean, piggy eyes of Popeye Doyle in The French Connection, I found the alternate view of the infamous ’60s and ’70s heroin trade—looked at from the other side of the pond in the new film The Connection—disappointingly chase-scene-free but evocative and illuminating. Jean Dujardin is the Marseille magistrate who puts the screws to the magnetic crime boss (Gilles Lellouche) who’s busy turning Harlem into a shooting gallery (in both senses). Nowadays, this tragic story still plays out—but closer to home, in Mexico. —David Edelstein
In theaters now.

Classical Music
9. Hear The New York Philharmonic
Take us to your (new) leader?
Now that Alan Gilbert has announced he’s moving on in 2017, every guest conductor’s visit begins to look like an audition. Among the more tantalizing possibilities is the Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki, who makes her debut leading the pianist Kirill Gerstein in Brahms’s First Piano Concerto and Jonathan Harvey’s 1998 work Tranquil ­Abiding. —Justin Davidson
Avery Fisher Hall, May 21 through 23.

Pop Music
10. Hear Torres
Intense onstage.
Sprinter, Brooklynite Mackenzie Scott’s second release as Torres, is an exercise in sustained ferocity, as gnarled and feral-sounding as early PJ Harvey. But it’s hard to fully appreciate Scott’s voice until you see her onstage; her emotionally intense live shows have the eerie, bewitching vibe of a séance. —L.Z.
Baby’s All Right, May 27, 8 p.m.

Books
11. Read Intimacy Idiot
How … awkward.
The vengeful playwright and theater-box-office attendant Isaac Oliver splits the difference between David Rakoff and Larry David in a hilarious, unsparing essay collection that assesses other peoples’ social infractions and his own casual encounters with furries.
Scribner.

Movies
12. See Black & White ’Scope
Opening wide.
“Silvery, shimmering beauties that demand to be seen on the big screen” reads the press release for BAMcinématek’s 28-film “Black & White ’Scope: International Cinema.” I’d add “strikingly stark” and also “sadly scarce.” If you haven’t seen the final shot of Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) or experienced the highs and lows of Kurosawa’s High and Low on the wide screen, you haven’t been inside those worlds. —D.E.
BAMcinématek, May 29–June 16. Lineup at bam.org.

Pop Music
13. Hear the Who
Same as the old band?
The Who are 50! And they like to kick! And stretch! And … play a bunch of anniversary shows. —L.Z.
Forest Hills Stadium, May 30, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6:30).

Theater/Music
14. Listen to Something Rotten!
It’s eggs!
The absurd story of the invention of the musical by Shakespeare’s desperate competitors, Something Rotten! is that rare musical comedy that fulfills both halves of the description. From the diabolical earworm opener (“Welcome to the Renaissance”) to the “Springtime for Hitler”–ish climax (“Make an Omelette”), the cast album is hilarious not only in word but in tune. —J.G.
Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight, June 2.

TV
15. Watch Outlander
Sweet surrender.
Fans of this time-traveling female-gaze bodice-ripper have clamored for more male nudity—and boy, do they get it in the finale. But under what terms? After being saved from the noose, our hero is trapped in a prison cell with his nemesis, the sexual sadist Black Jack Randall. Just give Sam Heughan the Emmy now.
Starz, May 30, 9 p.m.

Art
16. See Tabor Robak’s ‘Fake Shrimp’
Pixelangelo?
Born in 1986, Robak makes computer renderings of objects and technological interfaces that look like they came from video games—but he models them by hand, one pixel at a time, exploring CGI the way Michelangelo did marble.
Team Gallery, through June 7.

TV/Music
17. Watch the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction
It’s not just boomers anymore.
A three-hour special drawn from the April 18 ceremony. New inductees: Bill Withers (welcomed by Stevie Wonder), Ringo Starr (by Paul McCartney), the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Peter Wolf), Green Day (Fall Out Boy), the “5” Royales (Steve Cropper), Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Miley Cyrus), and, posthumously, Stevie Ray Vaughan (by John Mayer, of all people). —M.Z.S.
HBO, May 30, 8 p.m.

Books
18. Read The Green Road
By Ireland’s first fiction laureate.
Anne Enright’s looping story of four siblings coping with their smothering, amusingly melodramatic mother—mostly by fleeing County Clare, only to return once she’s widowed—may be even better than its close cousin, The Gathering, which won the 2007 Booker prize. As locales shift from a stubby Irish village to AIDS-era gay Manhattan and famine-torn Mali, so do the perfectly controlled tone and point of view. —Boris Kachka
W.W. Norton.

TV
19. Watch The Whispers
Child’s play.
What happens when an imaginary friend turns out to be … not so? In the premiere of Steven Spielberg’s latest series (based on a Ray Bradbury story), a whole bunch of kids start talking to an invisible force who has them committing murder and other crimes. Lily Rabe is the FBI child expert who tries to talk some sense to these tots.
ABC, June 1, 10 p.m.

Art
20. See Richard Serra: ‘Equal’
Heavy-metal thunder.
Giant prisms, cousins to Serra’s more familiar cold-rolled sheets, of charcoal-gray forged steel. Spend time; let them loom.
David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street; through July 24.

Theater/Music
21. Listen to Judy Kuhn: Rodgers, Rodgers & Guettel
Dynasty.
As composers, Richard Rodgers, his daughter Mary, and her son Adam Guettel are instantly differentiable. Yet they share a tone of romantic longing held firmly within the bounds of taste and craft. On her stellar album of songs by all three, Judy Kuhn ups that natural tension with her own combination of rapture and restraint. —J.G.
PS Classics, June 2.

Movies
22. Rewatch 12 Angry Men
And then re-rewatch Amy Schumer’s version.
Inside Amy Schumer’s uncanny, superb spoof put us in mind of Sidney Lumet’s movie itself: Henry Fonda’s gritted teeth, Lee J. Cobb’s angry-dad vibe, and gorgeous around-and-around-the-room camerawork by cinematographer Boris Kaufman.
On DVD and Amazon Prime.

Pop Music
23. Hear Hudson Mohawke
Crescendoes around the drum machines.
There isn’t a DJ alive who drops the beat as viciously as this Glaswegian producer and Kanye West favorite, who created beats for Mercy and Blood on the Leaves. He’ll likely perform those cuts here on the eve of releasing Lantern, his own second album.
Irving Plaza, May 28, 8 p.m.

Books
24. Read The Book of Aron
No mawkishness, and thus many tears.
Jim Shepard deserves attention far beyond the cozy circle of writers who worship him. In short stories, he’s brought to throbbing life everyone from a Hindenburg engineer to a lonely creature in the Black Lagoon; here he gives us a Warsaw Ghetto orphanage through the eyes of a very young, very flawed would-be survivor. —B.K.
Knopf.

Pop Music
25. Listen to Snoop Dogg’s Bush
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Though Snoop Dogg has been a walking cartoon for years, only one producer has been able to make him sound animated lately: Pharrell, who produces all ten tracks of his latest album, which is garnished with drop-ins from Stevie Wonder and Kendrick Lamar.
Columbia Records.


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