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A small island becomes a big | The New Yorker

Brian Seibert
Seibert has covered dance for Goings On since 2002.

When Little Island, extravagantly decorated the public park, which floats above the Hudson River on tulip-shaped columns, opened for the first time in summer 2021, its outdoor performance spaces have been particularly welcome. At that stage of the pandemic, outdoor shows were almost the only kind. And here was an Instagram destination with an amphitheater right on the water with nearly seven hundred seats, along with a smaller performance space at the base of the sloping lawn. It shimmered with potential.

The initial programming, organized in part by artists-in-residence, had a populist stance. Some of the more than a hundred events in Little Island’s first few years featured big names, often from Broadway, but everything had a pop-up, neighborhood feel. The name of one program could serve them all: «The Big Mix».

Illustration by Mandy Wyckens

Too much mix and not enough big is what Barry Diller, the tycoon who paid for the park and funded its program, may have thought. This summer, he put his money into less ambitious projects with nine major premieres.

The season opens on June 1 with a new work by Twyla Tharp. This production runs for nearly a month, as does a condensed version of «The Marriage of Figaro» (opening Aug. 30), in which the countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo plays every leading role. All summer long, in weekly sessions, a star bass-baritone Davon Tines takes on the repertoire and problematic story of Paul Robeson; Chris Thile, America’s favorite mandolinist takes the story of a cocktail bar in troubadour style; and choreographer Pam Tanowitz he applies his brilliant spatial sense to an unusual place. Other performances on the lawn also boast plenty of bold writing with lots of music, lectures and cabarets curated by Suzan-Lori Parks, Justin Vivian Bond, and Cecile McLorin Salvant.

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But first comes Tharp. Her How Long Blues premiere features live music by roots music experts T Bone Burnett and David Mansfield and a cast that mixes Tharp regulars with the likes of Broadway mainstay Michael Cerveris. Other than that, Tharp will only share about the work that it is an epic story about resilience and is inspired by Camus. If the project turns out to be Sisyphean, Tharp has at least set her sights high.


About the city

podcasts

«The White Devil,» a provocative new series from Campside Media, hosted by Josh Dean, explores the aftermath of a murder in Belize in 2021 that made international headlines: the shooting of senior police officer Henry Jemmott by Jasmine Hartin, a Canadian developer linked to one of the country’s most powerful families. The series is not true crime; if anything, the shooting itself, apparently an accident, has a short time. Where «The White Devil» excels is in using Hartin’s nocturnal twist of fate to explore power and corruption in post-colonial Belize, whose status as an escape and tax haven for wealthy foreigners threatens the lives of everyone else. The show follows Hartin’s former de facto father-in-law, British Belizean business magnate Lord Michael Ashcroft, a Tory-supporting, medal-winning billionaire whose local nickname gives the series its title.Sarah Larson


Off Broadway

Dave Malloy’s sad cabaret from the era of pandemic and isolation «Three Houses» it takes the form of three monodramas, sung by participants in a kind of supernatural open-mic night, songs performed in a quasi-operatic oom-pah-pah recitative. Each section begins the same way: a breakup, then a lock-up and retreat to an otherwise empty retreat where mental cohesion is shaken. The small ensemble expands the imaginations of the soloists and brings to life the ghost of a dead grandmother (Ching Valdes-Aran), a spider (Margo Seibert) who harasses an increasingly paranoid man (JD Mollison), or a metaphorical wolf (Scott Stangland) who tries to blow up all the little houses. Director Annie Tippe emphasizes these moody elements to warm the evening, but Malloy’s existential dread—and drumbeat of self-recrimination—chills every second of the show’s hundred difficult minutes.Helen Shaw (Pershing Square Signature Theatre; through June 9.)


India Pop

Kevin Barnes of Montreal.

Photo by Shervin Lainez

The Athens, Georgia group from Montreal has seen many iterations, all revolving around singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Barnes. Nineteen albums since the mid-1990s, the band’s mercurial indie-pop sound has shifted from the brisk psychedelia of such LPs as «The Gay Parade» and «Satanic Panic in the Attic» to electronic synth pop. recent trips, especially «UR FUN” (2020). His latest album, «Lady on the Cusp,» marks the end of an era: it’s the last record Barnes made while living in Georgia. Fittingly, the record’s wheezing tunes are a disorienting mash-up of many previous modes. The band plays shows from its entire catalog, but Barnes said he prefers to create new songs – only then is the audience’s reaction truly a surprise.Sheldon Pearce (Elsewhere; June 4.)


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