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This Week in Arts: Ionesco Gets a Mash-Up, ‘High Maintenance’ Returns

This Week in Arts: Ionesco Gets a Mash-Up, ‘High Maintenance’ Returns


Jan. 23-26, bam.org.

Eugene Ionesco didn’t love being called an absurdist playwright, but he and his fellow Parisians Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet all found themselves lumped under that banner. While Europe strained to rebuild after World War II, they looked around at the rubble and constructed a strange new form of theater. Out went conventions of language, plot and character; in came works meant to embody the stark illogic and dark comedy of the human condition.

Perhaps by now Ionesco’s own writings could benefit from a bit of dismantling? The Paris-based company Théâtre de la Ville and the director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota have reassembled some of them into “Ionesco Suite.” Starting performances on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, it’s a mash-up of five texts from plays including “The Bald Soprano” and “The Lesson.”

A heads-up to spectators who require a firm fourth wall: When the show ran in Chicago, The Tribune critic Chris Jones warned that it contained “some of the creepiest audience interaction” he had seen in a long while. LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES

Jan. 20; hbo.com.

When last we saw the Guy (Ben Sinclair), he had signed divorce papers, witnessed an eclipse and hit the road in “Steve RV” — only to find his break for freedom thwarted when his home-with-wheels stalls on the next Brooklyn block.

Season 3, starting Sunday, Jan. 20, finds our favorite marijuana dealer rolling again, this time in upstate New York, where a visit to a friend is pre-empted by a funeral. And where he glimpses what might, just a guess here, become love.

The thought of getting to know more of the Guy, one of the most intriguing players in a cast of intoxicating characters, is intensely appealing. Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld, the ex-husband-and-wife team who created this web series-turn-HBO standout, have woven in glimmers from their real lives throughout, making one of television’s best shows just that much more poignantly affecting. KATHRYN SHATTUCK

Through May 12; themorgan.org

The word “drawing,” in contemporary art, is applied to nearly any kind of mark-making that isn’t painting. Jack Whitten’s “Dispersal ‘A’ #2” (1971) is a great example. By using museum-grade adhesive to affix dry black pigment directly to paper, he preserved not only the final artwork but also the granular evidence of his process: The color lies exactly where he put it, nothing hidden or disguised.

The piece is one of 24 unusual and innovative drawings, by artists including John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Betye Saar, in “By Any Means: Contemporary Drawings from the Morgan” at the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan. It is also a fascinating prefiguration of the large, mosaic-like paintings Whitten is famous for. WILL HEINRICH

Jan. 22-Feb. 2; nycballet.com.

As New York City Ballet enters its winter season, a big question continues to loom: Who will be the company’s next leader?

More than a year has passed since Peter Martins, who held that position for three decades, retired amid allegations of sexual harassment and verbal and physical abuse. In that time, an interim leadership team has been hard at work, supporting new artistic voices while upholding traditions and — no small task — managing the repercussions of a lawsuit that led to the departures of three male principal dancers.

As if to refocus on its foundations, the company kicks off the year with a week of works by George Balanchine, its most exalted founder. Beginning Jan. 22, alternating programs highlight his partnerships with Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, two of the composers who most inspired him. With the right dancers, ballets like “Serenade,” “Mozartiana” and “Agon” display what the company does so well, no matter the turmoil behind the scenes: breathing life into music. SIOBHAN BURKE

Jan. 25; carnegiehall.org.

The American Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor and scholar Leon Botstein, stakes its claim on re-examining neglected historical moments and repertoires, from the unknown symphonies of Bohuslav Martinu to the overlooked oratorios of Edward Elgar.

It takes seriously the “American” component of its name, as shown by its program at Carnegie Hall on Friday, Jan. 25, which centers on rarely heard works from the midcentury, when the country’s composers embraced orchestral writing.

Alongside a work by the composer Robert Mann, the orchestra will perform Jacob Druckman’s “Prism,” which swirls together quotations from musical treatments of the story of Medea, making for a phantasmagoric exercise in orchestration. The program’s main focus will be on two 1940s neo-Classical classics: William Schuman’s Symphony No. 3, and the much belated New York premiere of Vivian Fine’s Concertante for Piano and Orchestra, with soloist Charlie Albright. WILLIAM ROBIN

Jan. 23; ticketmaster.com.

Aligning oneself with the legendary poet and artist Gil-Scott Heron, widely considered one of hip-hop’s forebears, is bold for any young M.C. But that didn’t keep the Chicago-based rapper Mick Jenkins from naming his 2018 album “Pieces of a Man,” after Heron’s 1971 debut. It’s a decision that makes sense in the context of Jenkins’s oeuvre, a collection of jazz-inflected, contemplative songs on hip-hop’s experimental side, though more approachable than most of Heron’s work.

“He spoke to a lot of people at the same time,” said Jenkins of Heron in a recent interview with Qwest TV. “To me, that’s the art of M.C.-ing.”

In keeping with his affinity for the jazz poet, Jenkins’s best known song is actually called “Jazz,” which appeared on his celebrated 2014 mixtape “The Waters.” Five years and five remarkably consistent releases later, he’s performing at Manhattan’s Irving Plaza as part of his three-month world tour, where he’ll be joined by the Arkansan rapper Kari Faux. NATALIE WEINER

Jan. 18.

As the 13th and first female Doctor to helm the BBC’s “Doctor Who,” Jodie Whittaker has the universe at her fingertips. But in “Adult Life Skills,” a zany wisp of a British indie making its U.S. debut on Friday, Jan. 18, in theaters and video-on-demand, she’s the picture of earthbound inertia.

As Anna — on the cusp of 30 and grieving the twin brother who died 18 months earlier — she’s secluded herself in her mother’s garden shed, where she makes whimsical videos starring her thumbs, and shows up for her parks job dressed like a homeless teenager. But the week before her milestone birthday, her mother (Lorraine Ashbourne) gives her an ultimatum: Get a life and get out. Then she puts Anna in charge of Clint (Ozzy Myers), an 8-year-old living out a Western fantasy to detract from his own misery.

Rachel Tunnard adapted this dark comedy from her own BAFTA-nominated short, winning the Nora Ephron Prize for the best female director at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. KATHRYN SHATTUCK



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