The craze of Halloween has passed; if you’re still feeling sick from all that candy, there’s luckily a bundle of good, recently-released books with which you can happily stay at home and recover. If you’re not quite ready to hibernate there’s still plenty to do out and about, including more celebrations of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial, theater new and old, and talks by everyone from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist to a number of prominent Jewish authors.
Nonfiction takes over bookshelves this week, with Simon Schama’s “The Story of the Jews, Volume Two: Belonging, 1492-1900,” Noah Feldman’s “The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President,” Jeremy Dauber’s “Jewish Comedy: A Serious History,” and Walter Isaacson’s “Leonardo da Vinci” all newly available. Isaacson spoke to the Forward about the challenges of writing a biography of da Vinci; read that interview here.
Jews have a long history in the world of comic books — here’s looking at you, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee — but have played a slightly less prominent role in crafting the blockbuster movies those books have inspired. Enter Taika Waititi, the director of “Thor: Ragnarok,” which has won generally warm reviews. If you prefer not to brave the opening-weekend crowds, the third season of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” continues to be great; curl up at home on Friday night, and watch.
3) New York City
The hundredth anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth isn’t until next August, but celebrations of the great composer and conductor have gotten off to an exuberant start. This weekend, the New York Philharmonic showcases Bernstein’s work alongside that of George Gershwin. (Before you go, read the Forward’s report on the Philharmonic’s first celebratory Bernstein programs, here). Steve Martin’s new play “Meteor Shower” is in previews on Broadway, starring Amy Schumer in her Broadway debut; Julie Taymor’s revival of David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly” is also worth a trip, as will be a Friday night conversation between Taymor and Hwang at New York’s Asia Society. Also on Friday, Rai Weiss — this year’s Nobel Laureate in Physics, and a newly-announced member of the Forward 50 — will speak at Pioneer Works.
4) Washington D.C.
It’s a literary weekend in D.C., as Jennifer Weiner, Nathan Englander, Sana Krasikov and Abigail Pogrebin will all be speaking at the Edlavitch DCJCC. Weiner appears Thursday night, Englander on Friday night, Krasikov on Sunday afternoon and Pogrebin on Sunday evening. Leonard Bernstein is also making an appearance in the capital, sharing a billing with Igor Stravinsky at the Kennedy Center. And Gustave Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” will be performed alongside Mozart’s “Prague Symphony” by the Apollo Orchestra on Friday night.
A man on the subway recently told me he thinks Wallace Shawn is one of our Great Contemporary Literary Geniuses; go see Shawn’s new play “Evening At the Talkhouse”, currently playing at A Red Orchid Theatre, and see if you agree. Sarah Ruhl’s much-acclaimed “In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play” is running at the TimeLine Theatre Company, and Chicago Opera Theater’s production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Consul” promises to raise important questions about human rights in the modern bureaucratic world.
6) Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Philharmonic turns a spotlight on Felix Mendelssohn this weekend with a series of performances of the composer’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” interspersed with readings from Shakespeare’s play of the same name. On Saturday, the artist Alex Israel opens a new gallery show at Mixografia. And Long Beach Playhouse is producing the much-loved “Cabaret.”