The Weekender: McConaughey, monster trucks, and the art of wonder
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Welcome to your first (official) weekend of the summer! With the weather looking glorious, there are fun options wherever you look — and however you get there. A stroll in Gloucester on Saturday offers a “Hopper’s Houses Walking Tour” with the Cape Ann Museum, spotlighting local houses that the great painter Edward Hopper captured in his canvases. Or you can whip and nae nae down to Cambridge City Hall, where thousands of people will bring their best moves to the outdoor Cambridge City Dance Party on Friday night. Partial to pedals? Try a free spin on Friday with the Copenhagen Wheel — the high-tech future of bicycling, according to its creators at the Cambridge startup Superpedestrian. Or take the ferry to George’s Island, where you can sample family-friendly activities all weekend, from City Stage’s comedy “The History and the Adventures of Tom Thumb” on Friday to a Civil War-era “base ball” game on Sunday, complete with vintage uniforms and rules (and, clearly, spelling). Finally, if monster trucks are the only form of transportation you crave, nothing beats the mayhem of the Monster Jam. Carolina Crusher, El Toro Loco, Grave Digger, and more are revving their engines at Gillette Stadium Saturday afternoon, and it’s going to get loud.
LAUGHING MATTER: If the current presidential race no longer seems funny to you, here’s something that will be: Standout comedians are doing stand-up all over town. Louie Anderson, who delivers what TV critic Matthew Gilbert calls “an extraordinary performance” in his role as Zach Galifianakis’s mom on the new FX show “Baskets,” comes to the Wilbur Theatre on Saturday. The big Comedy Get Down tour, featuring George Lopez, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, and Charlie Murphy, is bound to pack TD Garden Friday night. Meanwhile J.B. Smoove, perhaps best known as Leon on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is at the Wilbur Friday. And the World Series of Comedy, with funny folks from all over the country competing for the spotlight, is at Laugh Boston Friday and Saturday. Your vote may not sway national politics, but it just might help send one of these people to Las Vegas.
CONFEDERATE YANKEE: Newton Knight, a poor white Mississippi farmer, led a biracial rebellion against the Rebels during the Civil War. It’s a crazy, messy story, and now Matthew McConaughey (who else?) stars as Knight in the movie “Free State of Jones.” “The actor brings his soft, intense drawl and that clinically insane gleam in his eye” to the role, says film critic Ty Burr, and even though writer-director Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit,” “The Hunger Games”) tries to pack too much on screen, Burr likes the movie because it looks “the myths and ongoing untruths of this country’s history dead in the eye. To which we should all say: glory, glory hallelujah.” He gives it three stars. Now playing.
WONDERS OF THE WORLD: What do art and science have in common? A sense of wonder — at least that’s the idea behind an ambitious exhibition, “Explode Every Day: An Inquiry Into the Phenomena of Wonder,” at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. “The show touches on the mysteries of sound waves, solar systems, and sibling relations; the weirdness of love, the rules of perspective, and much more besides,” marvels art critic Sebastian Smee, who calls its curator, Denise Markonish, “one of the most audacious contemporary curators in the country.” It’s refreshing, Smee says, to be in the hands of artists “who, instead of seeking to educate, edify, or otherwise improve us, are palpably out to enthrall us.” The show is on view through April 2.
RHYMIN’ SIMON STRIKES AGAIN: Paul Simon just released “Stranger to Stranger,” his 13th solo album — “Simon’s richest, most instantly appealing collection since ‘Graceland,’ says critic Steve Smith. Now it sounds like he might be on one of his best tours in years, too. Simon has been reaching back to some of his earliest hits, according to reviews on the road, treating audiences to the likes of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” “You Can Call Me Al,” “Slip Slidin’ Away,” and “Homeward Bound.” At 74, he sure has a lot to good tunes to choose from. Simon plays at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on Friday.
THIS ‘OL’ MAN RIVER’ RUNS THROUGH DOWNTOWN: A cast of 50, a 28-piece orchestra, and 300 period costumes? It’s not a touring Broadway show, it’s the latest from Fiddlehead Theatre Company, the up-and-coming troupe formerly in residence at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester. Now Fiddlehead is staging “Show Boat,” Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s epic musical of romance and racism on the Mississippi, in the big Citi Shubert Theatre. “This is a challenge, but we’ve been preparing for it for years.” says co-producing artistic director Stacey Stephens. Founder and co-producing artistic director Meg Fofonoff cites the show’s enduring appeal: “What makes this such a great musical is the combination of a powerful and sometimes unpleasant look at racism, combined with a beautiful love story and a message of hope for the future.” Through July 3.
BALLET IN THE BERKSHIRES: It’s an annual miracle: The best dance artists in the world, coming to perform in a beautiful natural setting. Yes, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is back for the summer, now with a new director, Pamela Tatge, and it’s kicking off the season with favorites Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, returning for the sixth time. In 2014, Globe reviewer Janine Parker hailed “this marvelous company,” and after seeing the troupe Wednesday night in Becket, presenting three commissioned works, she wrote, “It was a pleasure to see that this company, at 20, continues to maintain quality in the most important ingredients: the dancers and the dances.” Aspen Santa Fe performs at the festival through Sunday.
MUSICAL JOURNEY: “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble,” a new documentary from Morgan Neville, offers an intimate portrait of this famous group of musical virtuosos, who are on a mission to showcase traditional cultures around the world. It’s “intensely compelling,” says classical music critic Jeremy Eichler, in part because Neville, director of the Oscar-winning “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” demonstrates “a keen eye and ear for the gritty realism of their itinerant lives.” As for the transformative power of what they’re doing, Neville tells the Globe: “You can’t make music with somebody and remain a stranger.” Opens here Friday.
PAINTBRUSH REFERENDUM: If you find yourself ambling through Faneuil Hall Marketplace, you might notice an unusual storefront decked out in red, white, and blue. “Yes we can’t,” reads one sign inside. “The silent majority: Because it’s too embarrassing to say out loud,” states another. It’s “Boston Campaign Headquarters,” and it’s a parody designed to provoke, the work of conceptual artist Pat Falco. “I don’t know if it’s nonpartisan, or anti-everything,” Falco tells the Globe. Sound cynical? “When you get a large group of people to be cynical together, that’s an optimistic thing,” he says. “That’s where change comes from.” Up through August.
OR STAY IN! Cameron Crowe returns to the milieu of his hit movie “Almost Famous” with “Roadies,” a new Showtime series about a rock band’s road crew, starring Luke Wilson as the tour manager. Crowe’s bona fides as a former Rolling Stone journalist show “in the elaborate backstage settings and in the way they’re filmed as a kind of amusement park ride,” says TV critic Matthew Gilbert, even though each character “tries far too hard to be a lovable know-it-all.” Since this is Crowe’s first TV series, Gilbert holds out hope that he’s learning as he goes along. It premieres Sunday night. Of course, the other TV focus Sunday will be the season finale of “Game of Thrones.” This episode, following last week’s epic battle , is reportedly the longest one ever.
Meanwhile the weekend brings new albums from the Avett Brothers (“True Sadness,” whose unapologetically polished pleasures reframe the band’s rootsy sound, courtesy of producer Rick Rubin), and Deerhoof (“The Magic,” whose “lo-fi exuberance” is ultimately “irresistible,” writes Steve Smith). If you agree, you’re in luck: Deerhoof is at Brighton Music Hall Friday night.
See you next week!