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To Do: May 3–May 17, 2017

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


1. Watch The Handmaid’s Tale
Blessed be this show’s fruits.
If you’ve already seen the first three episodes of this striking adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, now’s the time for another weekly deep dive into this intense vision of a totalitarian, misogynistic America. Yes, it’s fiction. Why do you ask?

2. See Bernard Buffet: Paintings From 1956 to 1999
An art-world pariah returns.
The French painter Bernard Buffet (1928–1999) was seen as the epitome of bad taste since his 1950s heyday of still lifes, nudes, and animals. This wild show lets you decide if history was right or if Buffet’s reputation can be resurrected. —Jerry Saltz
Venus Over Manhattan, 980 Madison Ave., through May 27.

3. See Last Men in Aleppo
Essential viewing. 
The story of the “White Helmet” brigade that has stayed in their Assad-ravaged hometown to save civilian lives — or remove bodies — from the rubble, this movie is a series of nightmarish sights broken by scenes of men staring into space and wondering aloud at the savagery and the world’s neglect. It’s the bodies of babies and children carefully removed that make you gasp, as well as the sight of other, impossibly innocent children clutching their parents. —David Edelstein
Metrograph, May 3.

4. See Arlington
Love among the ruins. 
Playwright Enda Walsh is most acclaimed here for his work on the musical Once, but back home in Ireland he’s known as an avant-gardist. See him working that vein in a new multimedia theater piece that is part art installation, part dance, part echo of Orwell’s 1984. —Jesse Green
St. Ann’s Warehouse, through May 28.

5. Watch Chuck
Liev Schreiber is the “Bayonne Bleeder” Chuck Wepner, whose 15-round title bout with the heavily favored Muhammad Ali inspired Rocky — which is Wepner’s chief claim to fame when everything in his life goes way south. The movie (directed by Philippe Falardeau) bobs and weaves around all the standard biopic clichés but remains unbloodied — it is creepy, heart-tugging, and very entertaining. —D.E.
In theaters May 5.

6. See Gucci Mane and Zaytoven
A visit from down South. 
Red Bull Music Academy’s annual spring festival brings more than a dozen special events to the city this month. One particularly visionary offering: Atlanta trap luminary Gucci Mane in a performance with his go-to producer Zaytoven backing him on grand piano. Alas, it’s sold out, but check secondary ticketing outlets. —Craig Jenkins
Plaza Hotel, May 16.

7. Go to Bang on a Can 30th Anniversary Marathon
Performance as endurance.  
You never quite know what this annual event will yield, but this year’s eight-hour concert will surely color its usual unpredictability with a justifiable tinge of nostalgia. —Justin Davidson
Brooklyn Museum, May 6.

8. See Samara
Avant-garde from another galaxy.  
Downtown theater royalty Richard Maxwell’s galactic Western boasts original music and live narration by Steve Earle, whose voice is as gravelly as the road traveled by the show’s main character: a messenger in a cruel, wonderful world, in which audiences become vagabonds.
A.R.T./New York Theatres, through May 7.

9. See Perfume Genius
Smart, glamorous pop. 
Mike Hadreas became an indie household name with 2014’s intimate yet explosive Too Bright. The Brooklyn Steel gig comes hot on the heels of the release of his follow-up LP, No Shape.
Brooklyn Steel, May 16.

10. Watch I Love Dick
Hahn, and hot, sexist Bacon. 
The pilot of this Jill Soloway–helmed series, about a fledgling filmmaker (Kathryn Hahn) challenged by an arrogant artist (Kevin Bacon) in Marfa, Texas, had such a strong sense of place and character it already felt like part of a fully complete whole. Now we get to see the rest of it.
Amazon Prime, May 12.

11. Listen to Pageant
Memorable hooks, beefed-up sound.
Hudson Valley’s PWR BTTM made beautifully stripped-down guitar anthems look easy on its debut, Ugly Cherries, but this month’s Pageant soars to a new level with singers Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins belting out powerful, much-needed messages of queer and trans self-acceptance. —C.J.
Polyvinyl Record Co., May 12.

12. See Louise Lawler: Why Pictures Now
A sweeping survey of piercing skepticism. 
Since Lawler’s emergence in the late ’70s, the artist has cast a gimlet eye on art-world systems, critiquing collectors, museums, and other art. Don’t miss an early sound-piece of her chirping the names of famous male artists, birdlike. —J.S.
MoMA, through July 30.

13. Read How to Be Married
What to do after “I do.”
In this deeply reported memoir, Jo Piazza traveled the world crowdsourcing advice on how to have a good marriage (often with her brand-new husband in tow). Some tips hew to the expected (the French like their lingerie) while others surprise (among Kenya’s Maasai, older women in polygamous marriages act as mentors to the younger ones). A sensitive, global perspective on an age-old institution.
Harmony Books.

14. Go to Obscura Day
Sixth annual search for wonder.
Atlas Obscura’s “global celebration of exploration” will host more than 170 talks, tours, and events the world over. Area happenings include behind-the-scenes looks at the United Palace Theatre and the Brooklyn Public Library’s special collections.
Various locations, May 6.

15. See The Golden Apple
The face that launched a thousand songs.
The final installment of the 2017 Encores! series is this cult treasure from 1954 that transplants elements of the Iliad and the Odyssey to Washington State circa 1900 (Paris is a traveling salesman) and sets it to a gorgeous score. —J.G.
City Center, May 10 through 14.

16. Hear Los Elementos
Uncovering new classics.
In its heyday, New York City Opera excavated gems from nether corners of the repertoire; now its heir is making the case for the profoundly unknown operas of the Spanish Baroque. The company takes the early-18th-century composer Antonio de Literes’s allegory of the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) uptown. —J.D.
Harlem Stage, May 4–7.

17. Hear Emerson String Quartet
Finely tuned. 
The Emerson String Quartet, which has endured long past a string quartet’s average life span, celebrates its 40 years of existence, stability, and sustained excellence with a new release of music by Britten and Purcell and a Carnegie Hall concert with the pianist Yefim Bronfman. —J.D.
Carnegie Hall, May 7.

18. Listen to From a Room: Volume 1
Honey-voiced melodies, with a hit of Willie.
Country singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton was one of the breakout stars of 2015 thanks to his moody solo debut, Traveller. His follow-up features eight soulful, earnest new cuts and a cover of “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning,” made famous by Willie Nelson. —C.J.
Mercury Nashville, May 5.

19. Hear Ten Thousand Birds
Nature calls.
Composer John Luther Adams has spent a lifetime forging a conduit between nature and the concert hall. Now Symphony Space presents the New York premiere of his 2014 work based on birdcalls, performed by the ensemble Alarm Will Sound in the urban wilds of a public park. —J.D.
Morningside Park, May 14.

20. Read Enter Helen
Having it all, in a miniskirt. 
Just out in paperback is Brooke Hauser’s exhaustively researched biography of publishing legend Helen Gurley Brown, author of the groundbreaking Sex and the Single Girl and longtime editor of Cosmopolitan. She was a feminist heroine who wasn’t without her contradictions — she famously believed a “tiny touch of anorexia” could be a bonus in helping a woman stay trim — and her life and trailblazing career arc still feel highly relevant. An engaging, juicy, and edifying read.

21. See Ty Segall
21st-century boy.
A whirlwind of dirty-blond hair and evolving styles, 29-year-old Ty Segall is an internet child of rock and roll, ripping through the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s at breakneck speed; since 2008, he’s released nine fuzzy full-lengths.
Warsaw, May 17–19.

22. See Jeffrey Tambor
Talking shop.
The actor, now 72, looks back on his childhood in his new memoir, Are You Anybody?, to determine how a “fat Hungarian-Jewish kid with a lisp” informed his three pivotal roles — Hank Kingsley, George Bluth Sr., and Maura Pfefferman. In discussion with Transparent co-star and Tony winner Judith Light.
92nd St. Y, May 16.

23. Listen to Powerplant
Sandbox indie rock.
The childlike wonder and quaintness of Girlpool’s 2015 debut, Before the World Was Big, gets edgier with this new album, thanks to the addition of a drum kit — but they still sound, charmingly, like they could be singing from behind a neighborhood lemonade stand.
ANTI-, May 12.

24. See Venus
Baby’s got back.
Suzan-Lori Parks’s astonishing and controversial 1996 play is about Saartjie Baartman, a South African woman who was put on display in early-19th-century Europe as the “Hottentot Venus” for her callipygian figure. This does not end well. —J.G.
Signature Theatre, through June 4.

25. Read The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories
A fun smorgasbord of styles and tones.
Celebrated British novelist Penelope Lively’s past life as a historian animates many of these 15 stories, most literally in the title piece, narrated by the lonely exotic pet in a cold Pompeii household just before the eruption of Vesuvius. Others feature historians and biographers never quite getting the past right, or couples working out the discrepancies in their more personal histories. —Boris Kachka
Viking, May 9.


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