Macon Reed’s Eulogy for the Dyke Bar at PULSE (March 3-6)
Amid the art-world noise and commercialism of Armory Week, Chicago artist Macon Reed created a space to celebrate and interrogate queer, female identity as it exists in 2016. Her installation Eulogy for the Dyke Bar — a life-size, operational, and surreally candy-colored ideal lesbian watering hole — greeted visitors at the entrance to this year’s PULSE Contemporary Art Fair. Although the cheerfully hued bottles, pool table, jukebox, and popcorn machine made the space fun and interactive, Reed’s Eulogy carries an important message: vibrant, welcoming “dyke bars” like this one are becoming increasingly rare, even in cities with sizable LGBT communities.
There are plenty of reasons for this disappearance, as the academics, artists, bar owners, and nightlife visionaries who participated in Sunday’s panel “A Critical Eulogy: The Loss and Legacy of Dyke Bars” discussed. (The conversation was just one of the weekend’s many events related to Eulogy, with some of the more celebratory happenings including drag performances and trivia.) Panelists considered everything from long-standing issues such as women’s economic disempowerment and cisgender men’s overrepresentation in LGBT nightlife, to more contemporary dilemmas like the much-exaggerated “death of the lesbian” amid the rise of fluidly defined gender identities and sexual orientations.
Particularly in light of the latter point, it was encouraging to witness a discussion of lesbian culture so focused on inclusion, with the panel both incorporating non-white and trans voices and underlining the centrality of those often-marginalized experiences. I came away from “A Critical Eulogy” mourning the dyke bars that have already been lost, but also hopeful about the radical potential of new and existing spaces. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief
I’ll Never Love Again at Bushwick Starr
Claire Barron’s I’ll Never Love Again — at Bushwick Starr through March 19 — is the perfect example of the potential power of found text. Here, the playwright morphs her actual teenage diary into something of a narrative, its words spoken by a group of actors who run the gamut of age, race and gender as a means of highlighting the singularity of a moment in a young girl’s, and the simultaneous scope of other similar experiences, life through the dissonant — and always stunning — interpretations each actor brings to her words. (Full disclosure: I realized, when the play started, that one such actor was a college acquaintance).
Director Michael Leibenluft evokes a symphonic excitement and fury from the text even as it’s spoken — not to mention when it’s sung by the actors via Stephanie Johnston’s jarring bursts of song: this series of observations and anecdotes the playwright once committed to a diary as private make for a dynamic and powerfully uncomfortable spectacle.
There’s a point during which the phenomenal Nana Mensah (who later takes on the role of Claire as an adult in the play’s surprising shift to relative naturalism) begins ecstatically screaming a the text as the rest of the actors sing swelling chorus. It was one of those rare moments where performers’ energy becomes palpable in a way you can only sense in a small theater. As teenagers, many are often caught between feeling excited and ashamed by our sexualities: we seek intimate moments of self-exploration in the likes of journals and in the darks of our rooms. (Though we may brag and perform sexuality in more compensatory ways among peers.) This play takes a relic of these private moments of that age, lights them up with fire and screams them in the way its protagonist may have done only inside her head. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor
Desperately Seeking Susan at Metrograph
New York is hardly starved for places to see great movies, particularly compared with basically anywhere else in the country. But it’s always good news when a new and independent home for film lovers opens up, particularly when the trend for small businesses in this city tends toward endings, not beginnings. Enter Metrograph, a Lower East Side cinema in its first week of operation that’s clearly angling to make an impression. Last night, I went to a screening of Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan, complete with a Q&A featuring Seidelman herself and DP Edward Lachman, lately of Carol. There’s something both beautiful and tragic about watching such an iconic snapshot of mid-’80s downtown in the same, drastically altered neighborhood, but Madonna’s just-barely-pre-mega-fame charisma is an unalloyed good. — Alison Herman, TV Editor
Hoops are from Indiana, and were originally the solo project of Drew Auscherman, who back in those days made music in a lower key than even Ducktails or Alex G, stuff so dreamy that it’d put you to sleep. Since recruiting a full band, Auscherman’s music retains those same AM radio vibes, but cleans them up just a little bit to bring them to a realm sounding something like “pop,” if we’re calling Captured Tracks “pop” these days. The tape linked above, released March 6, is the band’s third, and is also the perfect way to usher in this unseasonably warm East Coast weather. It’s also endlessly repeatable, which is great, considering its four tracks run for only a brief 12 minutes. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor
Rise of The Tomb Raider (Xbox One, Windows)
Have you ever wondered what would if George Lucas just kept making new versions of Raiders of the Lost Ark over and over again? Rise of The Tomb Raider, the follow-up the series 2013 reboot, follows Lara Croft on an expedition to find a fabled source of eternal life, follows a long tradition of games about adventurers competing with shady organizations to snag legendary treasures. Yet, despite its rote narrative, the momentary pleasures of Rise — climbing cliff-faces, piecing together stories based on ancient artifacts, hunting deer (or illuminati-esque para-military soldiers) with a bow and arrow —evokes the distinct feeling that you’re exploring. Rise of the Tomb Raider is what I’d describe as a “gamey” experience — Like Pitfall, not venison. Having a story as predictable as the sunrise almost works in its favor; not having to parse its narrative subtitles gives you room to slow down and enjoy parts of “adventuring” most films skip over. — Michael Epstein, Editorial Apprentice
Bogie and Bacall on Blu
Few celebrity couples generated as much electricity and interest – on- and off-screen – as Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, so the recent Warner Archive release of two of their most iconic titles on Blu-ray is cause for celebration. The pair were first teamed for Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not, and the same director cast them again in 1946’s The Big Sleep – in fact, the lengthy delay between its completion and release allowed Hawks to reshoot several of their scenes to ratchet up their on-screen heat, which wasn’t quite present in the original version, previewed the year before. Both versions are thankfully available on the disc (along with a helpful compare-and-contrast featurette), though if you’re wondering whether the previous cut clarifies the famously muddy mystery, good luck. Their final big-screen collaboration, 1948’s Key Largo, is also new on Blu, and it remains a pip – a heady brew of swampy Florida corruption and tight-quarters tension, given a boost by not only the still-potent Bogie/Bacall chemistry, but the atmospheric direction by John Huston and a killer villainous turn by Edward G. Robinson, doing his trademark growling gangster business like no one else could. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor
A lot of Broadway shows these days sort of wink at the audience. Something Rotten! includes a song called “A Musical” with around 20 references to other shows. Monty Python’s Spamalot featured a song about producing a show on Broadway (the secret ingredient: Jews). I recently saw Broadway’s newest arrival, Disaster!, which has taken this concept to the next level by being basically one continuous wink. The show is set on a floating casino in the 1970s that suffers numerous accidents, with songs from that decade. From the opening number (Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”), the cast seems to be saying “Look, we know the 70s are ridiculous; disaster movies are ridiculous; a lot of these songs are ridiculous.” That doesn’t mean everyone onstage isn’t having a great time. The preview audience I saw it with was having fun, too, groaning at some jokes and howling at others. In a way, it’s perfect for the sarcastic, ironic, snarky attitude of 2016. If you’ve been avoiding big Broadway shows because of over-serious fare like Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera, you’ll find Disaster! a welcome change; a show that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. — Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor