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Critics’ picks: Theater, arts

“Nave” by Shane Neufield
“Nave” by Shane Neufield

Theater

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE

While it’s too diffuse and thinly plotted to qualify as a comedy of the first rank, Christopher Durang’s Chekhov-inspired comedy has a giddy energy that generates gusts of laughter in Jessica Stone’s production, based on the Broadway direction of the late Nicholas Martin. Through Feb. 1. Huntington Theatre Company, at BU Theatre, Boston. 617-266-0800, www.huntingtontheatre.org

RED HOT PATRIOT: THE KICK-ASS WIT OF MOLLY IVINS

A larger-than-life character like Molly Ivins is a pitch in Karen MacDonald’s wheelhouse, and the actress hits it pretty far in her winningly assured portrayal of the rambunctious Texas columnist who sought to afflict the comfortable within an inch of their lives. Margaret and Allison Engel’s play is directed by Courtney O’Connor, with illuminating projection design by the talented Johnathan Carr. Through Jan. 31. Lyric Stage Company of Boston. 617-585-5678, www.lyricstage.com

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DON AUCOIN

MEASURE FOR MEASURE
With eight actors portraying nearly two dozen characters, director Megan Sandberg-Zakian focuses intently on the dangerous impact of absolutes in a world of rich and varied human emotions. The result is a production full of clarity, comedy, and complexity, avoiding the “problem play” label this Shakespearean morality play has often been saddled with. Sandberg-Zakian’s terrific ensemble, led by Maurice Emmanuel Parent and Michael Forden Walker, along with an evocative sound design by David Reiffel, provide an illuminating look at this dark comedy. Through Feb. 1. Actors’ Shakespeare Project, at the Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge. 866-811-4111, www.actorsshakespeareproject.org

MIDSUMMERThe magic of the summer solstice turns a chance encounter into a weekend to remember in this mischievously funny romantic comedy. Playwright David Greig takes the familiar trope of the strangers who “meet cute” and tweaks it by having his unlikely couple Helena (Courtland Jones) and Bob (Brooks Reeves) not only serve as lovers but also narrators who occasionally deliver their internal monologues out loud, with hilarious results. Although Greig’s energetic plot twists occasionally create too much of a tangle, this production’s charm emerges from the considerable talents of Jones and Reeves, and the guidance of Danielle Fauteux Jacques’s firm and fast-paced direction. Through Jan. 18. Apollinaire Theatre Company, at Chelsea Theatre Works, Chelsea. 617-887-2336, www.apollinairetheatre.com

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MORALITY PLAY
Actor, artistic director, and adapter Tony Estrella teams up with director Tyler Dobrowsky for a fast-paced and suspenseful murder mystery set in medieval England. Dobrowsky keeps this multi-layered story moving swiftly and believably around the Gamm Theatre’s immersive, in-the-round staging. Urgent, surprising, and ultimately a very satisfying evening in the theater. Through Feb. 1. Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, Pawtucket, R.I. 401-723-4266, www.gammtheatre.org

TERRY BYRNE

Dance

MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUPThe inimitable Morris and his talented troupe make a welcome Boston return, this time to the intimacy of the Institute of Contemporary Art. Performing to live music, the company brings four works: Morris’s new “Words,” set to Mendelssohn’s lush and lyrical “Songs Without Words,” the rousing “Italian Concerto,” “Jenn and Spencer,” and the charming “A Wooden Tree.” Jan. 21-25, $40-$75. Institute of Contemporary Art. 617-478-3103, www.icaboston.org

GLOBAL RHYTHMS

Guinean-born dancer-choreographer Ismael “Bonfils” Kouyate, a principal performer and part of the choreographic team for the Broadway show “Fela!,” is the featured performer in what promises to be a colorful, rousing evening of Guinean dance and drumming. Jan. 17, 7 p.m., $12-$15. The Dance Hall, Kittery, Maine. 207-703-2083,
www.thedancehallkittery.org

DANCING WITH THE STARS: LIVE!

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The wildly popular television show has hit the road with a tour featuring some of the most popular competitors, including Mark Ballas and Witney Carson. The cast performs new routines and re-creates some familiar pivotal moments from the television broadcasts. Jan. 16, 5 and 8 p.m., $67-$87. Wilbur Theatre. 617-248-9700, www.thewilbur.com

FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE

Don’t expect to sit meekly in your seat for Everett’s popular interactive event. This family-friendly show asks the audience to get in on the action during all manner of improvised dances, skits, and on-the-spot musicals led by a diverse cast of veteran Everett artists, emerging performers, and guitarist-composer Bertrand Laurence. Jan. 16,
7 p.m., $5. Everett Stage, Providence. 401-831-9479, www.everettri.org

KAREN CAMPBELL

Galleries

BRIAN ZINK: FIGURE/GROUND

Zink’s interleafing diagonals of colored Plexiglas recall hard-edged abstraction, but his use of color — blue against blue, red against red — inevitably evokes light and shadow, form and space. Indelibly flat, they still suggest paintings unfolding in 3-D. Through Feb. 10. Miller Yezerski Gallery, 460 Harrison Ave. 617-262-0550, www.milleryezerskigallery.com

SELF PORTRAITS NOT #SELFIES

These 11 photographers are not snapping selfies with their phones — at least not to exhibit here. Artists such as Laura Knapp and Stephen Sheffield introduce themselves into images that tell large stories and weigh the perplexities of life. Through March 16. Panopticon Gallery, 502c Commonwealth Ave. 781-718-5777, www.panopticongallery.com

THE POWER OF NEGATIVE THINKING

Artists in this show examine the underbelly of our society’s dedication to the pursuit of happiness. They comically deploy pessimism to skewer bromides and niceties that may mask pain, confusion, and moral complexity. Jan. 16-Feb. 21. New Art Center, 61 Washington Park, Newtonville. 617-964-3424, www.newartcenter.org

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CATE McQUAID

Museums

MONET | KELLY

A small but intriguing show, with great loans, examining the surprising influence of Claude Monet on Ellsworth Kelly, and their shared love of Belle-Ile, an island off the coast of Brittany. Through Feb. 15. Clark Art Institute, Williamstown. 413-458-2303. www.clarkart.edu

GOYA: ORDER AND DISORDER

Organized by theme, this exhibition explores the full range of the great Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s prodigious output in paintings, prints, and drawings. Centered on the MFA’s deep collection of Goya works, the exhibition also includes major loans from the Prado, the Uffizi, the Louvre, and the Metropolitan Museum. Through Jan. 19. Museum of Fine Arts. 617-267-9300, www.mfa.org

FROM THE NILE TO THE EUPHRATES: CREATING THE HARVARD SEMITIC MUSEUM

A look back at the origins of the Harvard museum’s unique collection, with an emphasis on the key figure of David Gordon Lyon, its founder. Semitic Museum, Harvard University. 617-495-4631, semiticmuseum.fas.harvard.edu

ODD VOLUMES: BOOK ART FROM THE ALLAN CHASANOFF COLLECTION

Unusual and often cunning works of art made from, or in, books, by a range of postwar artists, including Dieter Roth, Yoko Ono, and Olafur Eliasson. Through Feb. 1. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven. 203-432-0600, artgallery.yale.edu

SEBASTIAN SMEE

SHANE NEUFELD: SIGHTLINES

A practicing architect, Neufeld applies the logic of designing buildings to his landscape paintings, working systemically with structure. That may sound finicky, but the paintings are steamy and lush, complicating surface and depth with nimble brushwork. (Pictured: “Nave.”) Through Feb. 4. Alpha Gallery, 37 Newbury St. 617-536-4465, www.alphagallery.com CATE McQUAID

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Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com.