1. Visit The Power of Poison
Look before you lick.
Your adult self will appreciate this show about the history and science of poison: the snakebite that (maybe) killed Cleopatra, the tribal concoctions that continue to be made to this day. And your inner 12-year-old will get to see the toxic frogs.
American Museum of Natural History, opens November 16.
2. See The Wind Rises
Miyazaki builds his final castle.
The animation god Hayao Miyazaki’s alleged last feature is a romantic, tragic, exquisitely beautiful portrait of a Japanese boy who imagines and creates perfectly wondrous flying machines—which are then used to rain death and destruction. Wonder and horror in perfect balance. —David Edelstein
Landmark Sunshine Cinema, through November 14.
3. Watch Parks and Recreation’s “Recall Vote”
For years, the acclaimed but underperforming Parks and Recreation was borne along by the buzz of its Thursday-night mates The Office and 30 Rock. Now the little sitcom that could suddenly finds itself positioned as the veteran. This Halloween episode—set on the eve of the recall election—is one of the last before Parks moves to its new time slot, leading into Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show. Like Leslie Knope herself, Parks is a goofy force for good. —Matt Zoller Seitz
NBC, November 14, 8:30 p.m.
4. Hear ZZ Top
Give ’em all your lovin’.
There’s a bit more gray in the beards—which are longer than ever, boggling the imagination. But ZZ Top, now in their fifth decade, can still out-boogie any blues-rock band on the planet, and they’re still excellent at writing songs. (The 2012 album La Futura was unjustly ignored.) Bring dancing shoes. —Jody Rosen
The Paramount, Huntington, Long Island, November 16 and 17.
5. See Sam Anderson’s Flowers and Money
Her first show in a tiny new gallery.
All signs point to the vigorously bubbling Lower East Side gallery scene. Witness this new space, barely bigger than a shoe box, where Sam Anderson debuts with a trippy cluster of dowels standing waist-high, many with wee things situated about—bird bones, little tiny barrels, teensy newspapers, mini-horseshoes—in an arrangement straight from her burgeoning imagination. —Jerry Saltz
Chapter NY, 127 Henry Street, through December 22.
6. Hear Zadie Smith
I didn’t adore Zadie Smith’s latest novel, NW, but it is a measure of her gift that this assessment affected my overall feeling about her work zero percent. Smith remains one of our most interesting and ambitious novelists and one of my favorite literary and cultural critics; you can hear her in both capacities—“Artist and Citizen,” as the event title has it—at Barnard College, where she’ll read and discuss the relationship between those two identities. —Kathryn Schulz
Event Oval at the Diana Center, November 14, 6 p.m.
7. See Uptown Showdown
The Upper West Side’s argument clinic.
Past installments of this witty debate series have included “cats vs. dogs” and “comfortable vs. fashionable”; this one, hosted by Kevin Townley and featuring a lineup of very funny people, is “single vs. relationship.” Uh, do you bring a date?
Symphony Space; November 13, 8 p.m.
8. Watch Almost Human
Not just a copycat.
The nerd put-down of this show is shaping up to be “I liked it better when it was called Alien Nation.” But Almost Human has impressive production values and two strong lead performances, by Karl Urban as the cop-on-the-edge John Kennex and Michael Ealy as his partner, Dorian, an android officer with emotions. There are early hints that J. J. Abrams (Lost) and J. H. Wyman (Fringe) are interested in doing something subtler than a high-tech shoot-’em-up, though the show satisfies on that front as well. —M.Z.S.
Fox; premieres November 17, 8 p.m.
9. See Sun
You might find yourself headbanging.
The British-Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter intended for this piece to be “quite light, quite bright, quite easy,” then quickly found the idea of “a danger bubbling” beneath. The result, like much of his work, has a portentous, primitively tribal feel, amplified here by fourteen dancers and his throbbing rock score. —Rebecca Milzoff
Brooklyn Academy of Music, November 14 through 16.
10. Hear Big K.R.I.T.
At this MSG Theater show, the chart-topping mensches Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are the headliners. Talib Kweli is here, too. But K.R.I.T. is the reason to show up. He’s a rare double threat, a rapper-producer, and he’s awfully good at both: He drawls vivid, deglamorized tales of street life over beats that mix the blare of southern hip-hop with samples from vintage soul and blues. —J.R.
The Theater at Madison Square Garden, November 13 through 15.
11. Hear Cat Power
A good woman in a good room.
Perfect acoustics for this richly emotional singer-songwriter.
Brooklyn Masonic Temple, November 14.
12. See A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Affair
Wynton and Steve, side by side.
Another Sondheim tribute never hurts, and this one—directed by frequent Sondheim collaborator John Doyle, and staged by the Encores! series—stars the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, playing Wynton Marsalis’s scorings of Sondheim tunes, sung by the likes of Jeremy Jordan, Norm Lewis, and (why not) Bernadette Peters.
City Center, November 13 through 17.
13. Read The Good Lord Bird
And meet the author.
I’m late to James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, but it’s making me very happy right now—and making me laugh surprisingly often for a novel about slavery. The story of a black boy mistaken for a girl and roped into John Brown’s ragtag militia, it’s both breezy and sharp, a rare combination outside of Twain. You should absolutely read it. But you can also go hear McBride read on Sunday. —K.S.
Riverhead; reading at Bookcourt, November 17, 7 p.m.
14. See A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Returning director, new room.
Projections, shadows, mime, tribal makeup, terrific music, and even flying: Julie Taymor uses every trick she wasted on Spider-Man to turn Theatre for a New Audience’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream into a fitting benediction for a marvelous new theater. —J.G.
Polonsky Shakespeare Center, through January 12.
15. Read Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal
Notes on faith, from the author at 22.
“What I am asking for is really very ridiculous. Oh Lord, I am saying, at present I am a cheese, make me a mystic, immediately.” Thus wrote 22-year-old Flannery O’Connor in a notebook dating from her time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which she filled with letters to God. The letters reflect a religious struggle that is sincere—but also funny, wry, and wide-ranging, encompassing everything from her desire to be famous to her erotic thoughts and her appetite for cookies. —K.S.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, November 12.
16. Consider Ender’s Game
Despite the author.
Orson Scott Card’s loony homophobia distracted us from the fact that his 1985 novel Ender’s Game is an anti–Star Wars, demonstrating how fear and jingoism lead to tragedy. The movie, directed by Gavin Hood, is unimaginative (Harrison Ford and Viola Davis mostly stand around like Ed Wood’s aliens), but the end delivers a kick. The mournful spirit is most eloquent. —D.E.
In theaters now.
17. See Domesticated
Jeff Goldblum and Laurie Metcalf as scandalized politician and vengeful wife.
The latest hilarious and awful provocation from Bruce Norris (author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Clybourne Park) is more than a gloss on Eliot and Silda Spitzer: It’s a field report on the extinction of the human male. —J.G.
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, through January 5.
18. Read Melissa Explains It All
For those in the demo, this is big.
If you are indifferent to the onetime Nickelodeon star’s charm, this won’t persuade you. But if you’re the right age and mind-set, you will enjoy nothing more this week than Melissa Joan Hart’s sweet, sane, mildly tell-all-ish memoir, complete with James Van Der Beek and Adrian Grenier makeout stories. (No way. Way!)
St. Martin’s Press.
19. Attend Hot Dern!
BAM celebrates those dead cold eyes.
While working on Family Plot, Alfred Hitchcock is said to have remarked that he’d make Bruce Dern a star at last. It didn’t happen, but with Alexander Payne’s excellent Nebraska set to open, BAM’s “Hot Dern!” gives you a chance to see this intensely odd actor in his counterculture context. Especially recommended: Roger Corman’s motorcycle melodrama The Wild Angels, Richard Rush’s dark-side-of-flower-power Psych-Out (with Jack Nicholson), and the eco-sci-fi Silent Running, with some robots in a space bubble preserving the last of Nature. (Great closing song by Joan Baez!) —D.E.
Brooklyn Academy of Music, November 16 through 27.
20. See Shinichi Maruyama: Nudes
Still photographs of a nude dancer in motion that are almost completely abstract—they look like a precisely twirled smear. Yet they’re not a single long exposure but thousands of images precisely layered in a digital-age echo of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. A whole movie in one gulp.
Bruce Silverstein, through December 21.
21. Attend Exploring the Rise and Fall of Paramount Records
And then take it home for a spin.
Discussions about the history of this extraordinary record label, opening the NYPL’s exhibition; Jack White will be speaking, as will Greil Marcus, Scott Blackwood, and more. And the souvenir for all ticket holders is incredibly appropriate: a 78-rpm record of the event itself.
New York Public Library, November 19, 7 p.m.
22. Hear David Sedaris
At Carnegie Hall.
A master reader of his own very funny stuff, in a big room that somehow becomes quite cozy during his readings. Wear your Stadium Pal!
Stern Auditorium, November 20.
23. Sample DOC NYC
Real life, made realer.
Too many highlights to name, but check out Michel Gondry’s animated (literally, like cartoons) conversations with Noam Chomsky in Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? and Sini Anderson’s inspiring portrait of the riot-grrrl heroine Kathleen Hanna in The Punk Singer. Errol Morris takes on Donald Rumsfeld in the gala opening, The Unknown Known—and Morris takes on me November 15, in conversation at the IFC Center. —D.E.
November 14 through 21, details at docnyc.net.
24. See Chris Cornell
Solo acoustic show by the grunge god.
You don’t have to be a lady who grew up in the nineties to appreciate this. But if you are, you are very likely to.
Beacon Theatre, November 16, 8 p.m.
25. See Kanye West
Yeezus in Brooklyn.
An up-and-comer about whom we know very little. Curious to see whether he can raise his public profile a little with this tour.
Barclays Center, November 19 and 20, 7:30 p.m.