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To Do: March 23–April 6, 2016

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

1. Listen to untitled unmastered.
A surprise from Kendrick Lamar. 
Don’t be fooled by its shrugged-off title and out-of-nowhere release: Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered. is as substantial as anything he’s released before. Think of this eight-song collection as the portable To Pimp a Butterfly — a shorter and slightly more accessible entry point into the psyche of the most gifted lyricist in the rap game right now. —Lindsay Zoladz
Top Dawg Entertainment.

2. & 3. See Midnight Special, Then Watch Shotgun Stories
Deep dive into the mind of a director. 
We can debate the merits of Jeff Nichols’s new, quasi-religious sci-fi thriller, in which a father (Michael Shannon) goes on the lam with his son — who apparently has unique powers — after kidnapping the boy from a religious cult. But there’s no doubting that Nichols (who also made Take Shelter and Mud) is a brilliant story­teller, even when the stories go a little crazy at the end. Hot tip: Try his assured first feature, Shotgun Stories, a mournful, quasi-biblical drama in which two sets of brothers — they share a father — engage in a tragic feud. Nichols makes you empathize with the rage that drives young men to violence but also turns them into archetypal meatheads. —David Edelstein
In theaters; streaming free on Hulu.

4. See Eclipsed
Shining a light.
Danai Gurira’s play about the “wives” (i.e., sex slaves) of rebel leaders during the last year of Liberia’s second civil war would never have transferred to Broadway after its fall run at the Public Theater were it not for Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, who stars as Wife No. 4. Luckily for us, it did, because the play is even tighter now, and Nyong’o has burrowed further into the trauma of a woman (and a world) faced with impossible choices. —Jesse Green
Golden Theatre, through June 19.

5. Watch The Catch
A show in the Soderberghian vein.
A sunny, glitzy, fast-paced caper show, The Catch stars Mireille Enos as Alice Vaughan, the head of a prominent L.A. detective agency who suddenly finds herself participating in a manhunt for her con-artist fiancé (Peter Krause), who takes her for millions and then vanishes. Krause has always had a flair for playing arrogant but irresistible fast talkers, and it’s a treat to see Enos do sexy banter after all those seasons slogging through gloomy rain on The Killing —Matt Zoller Seitz
ABC, March 24 at 10 p.m.

6. See Lost for Words
A collaborative chorus. 
Matthew Higgs, best known as the visionary director of White Columns, is also an admired artist who uses words, books, and other eccentric detritus in his work. Here, he invites 12 artists to make a circular painting. He then attaches a book of his own choosing to the canvas as a sort of wall-mounted reading station: a Luddite podcast. The team-worked exercise makes us enter into our own inner scriptorium. —Jerry Saltz
Murray Guy, through April 2.

7. & 8. Hear and Read James McBride
A tough subject in good hands. 
The author of the best-selling memoir The Color of Water and the National Book Award–winning novel The Good Lord Bird turns out to also be the biographer of James Brown we’ve all been waiting for. There’s plenty of new dirt on Brown’s early life in Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul, and even more about Brown’s decade-long afterlife, a pileup of lawsuits over a reputed $100 million estate that should have gone to poor southern schoolkids years ago. But McBride’s true subject is race and poverty in a country that doesn’t want to hear about it, unless compelled by a voice that demands to be heard. Hear it for yourself, as McBride reads from and discusses his work. —Boris Kachka
92nd St. Y, April 4; Spiegel & Grau, April 5.

9. Hear Frankie Cosmos
Cardigan optional. 
Frankie Cosmos’s sophomore album, Next Thing, is just as sweet, sad, and tunefully poetic as her wonderful debut, Zentropy — when I listen to it, the image that comes to mind is a female Eeyore singing girl-group songs. It’s worth scouring StubHub to squeeze into one of the two record-release shows she’ll play at this East Williamsburg venue, and get there early for the opener, lo-fi balladeer Eskimeaux, the prolific project of Frankie’s kindred spirit Gabrielle Smith. —L.Z.
Shea Stadium, April 1 and 2.

10. See Roberto Devereux
Her majesty.
Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky’s intoxicating Maria Stuarda left audiences feeling that she could reel off a bel canto version of Burke’s Peerage and wow the house. Now Radvanovsky’s bid to become the Met’s diva of divas by singing Donizetti’s three queens in one season culminates with this tale of Tudor woe, which the company has never staged. —Justin Davidson
Metropolitan Opera, opening March 24.

11. Go to Bring Me the Head of Sam Peckinpah
Cinematic cowboy. 
Hail “Bloody Sam” Peckinpah, the drunken, coke-addled, bridge-burning wild man who crafted elegies for a certain brand of nihilistic machismo with more cinematic poetry than anyone before or since. See his work as it’s meant to be seen: on celluloid, on a wide screen, in the first complete U.S. retrospective of the director’s films in 20 years. Only a fool would pass up the chance to watch his most sustained Western masterpiece, The Wild Bunch; his classical (pre-slo-mo splatter) Western Ride the High Country; or that notorious WTF existential bloodbath Bring Me the Head of Alfredo ­Garcia. Bonus: Peckinpah’s little-screened 1961 feature debut, The Deadly Companions. —D.E.
Film Society of Lincoln Center, March 31 through April 7.

12. Listen to Emily’s D+ Evolution
Esperanza Spalding makes her case (again). 
The woman no one thought deserved the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011 (her win was a huge upset over Justin Bieber) is back with an outstanding fifth album. Spalding assumes the identity of a fiery character named Emily, who has a more pointed message delivered with a more rock-tilted edge. This is protest music of the highest order, but it’s not obviously political; every song is a freedom fight, an exclamation of restlessness that starts from within and spreads like wildfire.

13. Watch The Story of God
Let there be light. 
If you need somebody to tell the story of God, it’s best to hire the Voice of God, Morgan Freeman. He’ll narrate this series exploring how the concept of God differs from one society to the next and how it has shaped civilizations for better or worse since the dawn of human consciousness. —M.Z.S.
National Geographic Channel, April 3 at 9 p.m.

14–17. See King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings
This blessed plot.
Separately, the four plays of Shakespeare’s so-called Henriad (Richard II; Henry IV, Parts I and II; Henry V) are among the most popular in the canon; together, they make a multi­generational feast not unlike Downton Abbey, but with sword fights. Spoiler alert: Henry Bolingbroke takes the throne as Henry IV upon the deposition of Richard II; his wastrel son, Prince Hal, carouses with Falstaff and the Eastcheap rowdies; Hal finds his moral compass, renounces his old pals, and becomes Henry V upon his father’s death; he fights and wins the battle of Agincourt, with many good speeches. The Royal Shakespeare Company, in the 400th anniversary year of its namesake’s death, brings the tetralogy to BAM in five-week repertory, with the great David Tennant as Richard II and Antony Sher as Falstaff. —J.G.
BAM Harvey Theater, March 24 through May 1.

18. Hear the Music of David Bowie
Stars singing for the Starman.
City Winery’s Michael Dorf had long been planning this star-studded tribute to David Bowie, and in the wake of the artist’s passing, it’s sure to be the most powerful show so far in the 12-year series. It’s also the best lineup Dorf has ever put together: Michael Stipe, Bette Midler, Laurie Anderson, Deborah Harry, Ann and Nancy Wilson, the Mountain Goats, and more, all performing Bowie songs. —L.Z.
Carnegie Hall, March 31.

Classical Music
19. Hear the Kronos Quartet
The foursome of the future.
If you still associate the string quartet with marbled halls in Vienna, you’ve missed a global golden era in the genre’s history. With its network of composers stretching from Iceland to Mali and collaborators on instruments both ancient and high-tech, the Kronos has been steadily fattening the repertoire for more than 40 years. —J.D.
Zankel Hall, April 2.

20. See Expulsion From Paradise Freeze
Choice never seemed so canny.
Eberhard Havekost, one of the most talented painters of the last 15 years, shows us what freedom looks like in 25 paintings, none reeking of a line of look-alike product, filled with visual and intellectual integrity. Paintings of posters, body parts, houses, and everyday subjects give us an artist exploring tones, chroma, composition, and conceptual approaches every time he begins a new picture. —J.S.
Anton Kern Gallery, through April 2.

21. Read The Year of the Runaways
One from the Booker short list.
Intertwining the life stories of Indian migrants living in a Sheffield house, Sunjeev Sahota’s second novel is grimmer than the usual immigrant fare, trained as it is on illegal laborers. But it’s no worthy slog; Sahota earns the reader’s empathy with detail and hard truth rather than purple prose. It cries out for an American equivalent that might reckon with our own ­demonized visitors. —B.K.

22. See 1776
Cool, cool, considerate men.
Possibly inspired by that little show about the “bastard, orphan, son of a whore, and a Scotsman” playing nearby, Encores! presents a semi-colorblind version of that other Founding Father musical. Santino Fontana stars as John Adams, with John Larroquette as Benjamin Franklin, André De Shields as Stephen Hopkins, and John Behlmann and Nikki Renée Daniels as the Jeffersons. —J.G.
New York City Center, March 30 through April 3.

23. See Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
A revelatory rarity.
The new Metrograph may look like New York’s cinephilic cynosure for the immediate future, but as if on cue, Film Forum has raised its game with a weeklong screening of Chantal Akerman’s masterpiece of both feminist cinema and cinema tout court. Her suicide last fall gives this elliptically narrated story of three days in the domestic life of a Belgian prostitute an added excruciating edge.            
Film Forum, April 1 through 7.

24. See Red Speedo
Smell the chlorine.
A dim-witted Olympic swimmer facing a doping scandal provides the context for Lucas Hnath’s piercing look at the high cost of morality in a winner-take-all economy. Alex Breaux gives a beautifully stripped-down performance, entirely in the title garment, as the swimmer; Lileana Blain-Cruz’s breakneck staging (complete with pool) is sensational. —J.G.
New York Theatre Workshop, through April 3.

25. See Pennsylvania Ballet
Virtuosic visitors. 
Though lesser known to city balletgoers, Pennsylvania Ballet is a formidable troupe with some of the country’s best dancers, especially worthy of attention now that former ABT star Ángel Corella has taken the reins. This intimate Joyce season, featuring works all choreographed on the company, is the perfect introduction to its noteworthy talents. —Rebecca Milzoff
Joyce Theater, March 29 through April 3.