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    Critics’ picks: Arts

    “Cheung Sha Wan,” (2011)
    Greer Muldowney
    “Cheung Sha Wan,” (2011)


    OTHER DESERT CITIES Over the holidays with her parents, a writer announcesthat her new memoir revisits a very grim chapter in their family history. Blood relations, indeed. Jon Robin Baitz’s play is directed by Scott Edmiston with his usual fluid assurance, and it features superb performances by Anne Gottlieb as the anxious but determined author and Karen MacDonald as her formidable mother. An engrossing display of familial fireworks.

    Through Feb. 9. SpeakEasy Stage Company. At Wimberly Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts. 617-933-8600,

    INVISIBLE MAN The nameless protagonist confronts racial injustice, power politics, and betrayal in a stage adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s classic novel that’s every bit as unsettling as Ellison would have wanted it to be. Adapted by Oren Jacoby, directed by Christopher McElroen, and starring Teagle F. Bougere as the title character, in a performance that steadily grows in force over the play’s nearly three hours.

    Through Feb. 3. Huntington Theatre Company. At Boston University Theatre. 617-266-0800,

    MARRY ME A LITTLE Director IIyse Robbins broadens the Stephen Sondheim musical revue to include gay relationships, and it works beautifully in this appealingly understated gem of a production.

    Through Jan. 27. New Repertory Theatre, Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown. 617-923-8487,

    Don Aucoin


    VINEGAR TOM Caryl Churchill’s 1976 witch-hunt play is a dark look at misogyny and hypocrisy in the 17th century — and the 20th. Directed by Mac Young, this powerful realization is almost too dark, with villains and victims clearly delineated and a graphic hanging scene. It’s not for the fainthearted, but Churchill’s chilling message does get delivered.

    Through Feb. 2. Whistler in the Dark Theatre. At Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts. 617-933-8600,

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    PIPPIN Diane Paulus turns the 1972 Broadway musical from Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson into a circus spectacular, with spectacular success. The acrobatics themselves are extraordinary, but what grounds this production is “ordinary” stuff like accomplished acting, singing, and dancing. Plus it has a warm heart.

    Through Jan. 20. American Repertory Theater. At Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge. 617-547-8300,

    OUR TOWN “When the theatre pretends to give the real thing in canvas and wood and metal,” playwright Thornton Wilder wrote, “it loses something of the realer thing which is its true business.” Director David Cromer’s stark production aspires to Wilder’s “realer thing” and achieves it.

    Through Jan. 27. Huntington Theatre Company. At Roberts Studio Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts. 617-266-0800,

    Jeffrey Gantz


    TRAJAL HARRELL “(M)imosa,” the choreographer’s third installment of “Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church,” conflates downtown postmodernism and the voguing scene via the fictional Mimosa Ferrera. Created in collaboration with performers Cecilia Bengolea, Francois Chaignaud, and Marlene Monteiro Freitas, it reflects Harrell’s fluid take on gender and personality. Ages 18 and up.

    Jan. 17-18. $20, $10 seniors and students. Institute of Contemporary Art. 617-478-3103,

    FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE Dust off your dancing shoes and warm up your pipes: This weekly interactive mash-up of improvised dance, song, and comedy may pull you into the action with veteran and up-and-coming performers. Watch for the “on-the-spot musical,” featuring live music by composer-guitarist Bertrand Laurence. All ages.

    Jan. 18, 7 p.m. $5. Everett Stage, 9 Duncan Ave., Providence. 401-831-9479,

    Karen Campbell



    UPSODOWN  Carnival, that period before Lent when folks put their masks on and let their hair down, is a time of reversal and transformation. This group show, with artists such as Nick Cave, Robert Colescott, and Summer Wheat, celebrates the festival.

    Through Feb. 22. New Art Center, 61 Washington Park, Newtonville. 617-964-3424,

    ILLUMINATED GEOGRAPHIES: PAKISTANI MINIATURIST PRACTICE IN THE WAKE OF THE GLOBAL TURN  Four Pakistani artists, trained in Mughal miniature painting, use the technique to explore contemporary themes such as capitalism, the media, and globalization.

    Through March 31. Tufts University Art Gallery, Aidekman Arts Center, 40 Talbot Ave., Medford. 617-627-3094,

    BOSTON DOES BOSTON SIX  Every year, Proof Gallery asks a handful of artists to each invite another artist to exhibit — this year, it’s a total of six, including photographer and filmmaker Jeannie Simms and painter Susan Metrican.

    Through Feb. 23. Proof Gallery, 516 East 2nd St., South Boston. 864-674-7237,

    Cate McQuaid


    BOSTONIANS IN MINIATURE: PORTRAITS AND LIVES: 1810-1835  A jewel box of a show, featuring 11 tiny portraits in a closet-size gallery. Through the lives of the paintings’ subjects, the exhibition explores the social history of American miniature painting.

    Through June 30. Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., Worcester. 508-799-4406,

    THE FESTIVE CITY In early modern Europe, governmental, religious, and aristocratic powers staged magnificent festivals, publicized in illustrated prints and books. About 60 of these elaborately detailed documents seek to capture the grandeur.

    Through July 14. Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 224 Benefit St., Providence. 401-454-6500,


    RICHARD YARDE: SELECTED WORK  Yarde, who died in 2011 at 72, was a master watercolorist. Inspired by his mother’s quilt patterns, he built vibrant, unusually large-scale watercolors over grids, in work that often chronicled African-American life.

    Through March 24. Danforth Museum of Art, 123 Union Ave., Framingham. 508-620-0050,

    Cate McQuaid

    GRAPHIC ADVOCACY: INTERNATIONAL POSTERS FOR THE DIGITAL AGE 2001-2012 This sprawling exhibition, which includes 122 works by graphic artists from 32 countries, is replete with the excitement of passionate commitment.

    Through March 2. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Paine Gallery. 617-879-7333,

    Mark Feeney

    Bright lights, big city

    GREER MULDOWNEY: 6,426 PER KM(2)  Muldowney’s large-format photographs of Hong Kong’s architecture explore the city’s population density. Some buildings look bright and inviting, and raise questions about sustainability. Others are juxtaposed with older buildings and detritus, asking “at what price progress?”

    Through Feb. 16. Gallery Kayafas, 450 Harrison Ave. 617-482-0411,

    Cate McQuaid