Little Island Goes Big


Brian Seibert
Seibert has covered dance for Goings On since 2002.

When Little Island, the extravagantly landscaped public park that floats above the Hudson River on tulip-shaped columns, first opened, in the summer of 2021, its outdoor performance spaces were especially welcome. At that stage of the pandemic, outdoor shows were nearly the only kind. And here was an Instagram-friendly destination with an amphitheatre, right on the water, seating nearly seven hundred, along with a smaller performance area at the base of a sloped lawn. It shimmered with potential.

The initial programming, partly organized by resident artists, had a populist attitude. Some of the hundred-plus events in Little Island’s first few years featured big names, often from Broadway, but everything had something of a pop-up, neighborhood feel. The title of one program could have served for all: “The Big Mix.”

Illustration by Manddy Wyckens

Too much mix and not enough big is what Barry Diller, the mogul who paid for the park and bankrolls its programming, may have thought. This summer, he’s put his money into fewer and more ambitious projects with nine high-profile premières.

The season opens, on June 1, with a new work by Twyla Tharp. That production runs for almost a month, as does a condensed version of “The Marriage of Figaro” (starting Aug. 30), in which the countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo plays every leading role. Throughout the summer, in weeklong stints, the star bass-baritone Davóne Tines takes on the repertory and troubled story of Paul Robeson; Chris Thile, America’s favorite mandolinist, gives a troubadour treatment to the story of a cocktail bar; and the choreographer Pam Tanowitz applies her brilliant spatial sense to the unusual location. Additional shows in the lawn area boast lots of boldface, too, with spates of music, talks, and cabaret curated by Suzan-Lori Parks, Justin Vivian Bond, and Cécile McLorin Salvant.

But first comes Tharp. Her première, “How Long Blues,” has a live score, by the roots-music experts T Bone Burnett and David Mansfield, and a cast that mixes Tharp regulars with the likes of the Broadway leading man Michael Cerveris. Other than that, all Tharp will share about the work is that it’s an epic narrative on the theme of resilience, and is inspired by Camus. If the project turns out to be Sisyphean, at least Tharp has set her sights high.


An illustration of the New York City skyline.

About Town

Podcasts

“White Devil,” a provocative new series from Campside Media, hosted by Josh Dean, explores the aftermath of a 2021 killing in Belize which made international headlines: the shooting of a senior police officer, Henry Jemmott, by Jasmine Hartin, a Canadian property developer connected to one of the most powerful families in the country. The series isn’t true crime; if anything, the shooting itself, apparently an accident, gets short shrift. Where “White Devil” excels is in using Hartin’s overnight reversal of fortune to examine power and corruption in postcolonial Belize, whose status as getaway and tax haven for wealthy foreigners makes life perilous for everybody else. The show zooms in on Hartin’s former de-facto father-in-law, the British Belizean business magnate Lord Michael Ashcroft, a Tory-supporting, heroism-medal-collecting billionaire, whose local nickname gives the series its title.—Sarah Larson


Off Broadway

Dave Malloy’s pandemic-isolation-era sad-cabaret “Three Houses” takes the form of three monodramas, sung by participants at a kind of supernatural open-mike night, the songs delivered in a quasi-operatic oom-pah-pah recitative. Each section starts the same way: a breakup, then lockdown and a retreat to an otherwise empty refuge, where mental cohesion frays. A small ensemble expands on the soloists’ fantasies, bringing to life a dead grandma’s ghost (Ching Valdes-Aran), or a spider (Margo Seibert) that harasses an increasingly paranoid man (J. D. Mollison), or the metaphorical wolf (Scott Stangland) who tries to blow all the little houses down. The director, Annie Tippe, emphasizes these whimsical elements to warm the evening, but Malloy’s existential horror—and a drumbeat of self-accusation—chills every second of the show’s hundred difficult minutes.—Helen Shaw (Pershing Square Signature Theatre; through June 9.)


Indie Pop

Of Montreal band music artist musician orange jacket blue shirt

Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes.

Photograph by Shervin Lainez

The Athens, Georgia-born band of Montreal has experienced many iterations, all of which revolve around the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Barnes. Across nineteen albums, starting in the mid-nineties, the band’s mercurial indie-pop sound has shifted from the zippy psychedelia of such LPs as “The Gay Parade” and “Satanic Panic in the Attic” to the electronic-forward synth pop of its recent outings, particularly “UR FUN” (2020). Its latest album, “Lady on the Cusp,” marks the end of an era: it’s the last record that Barnes made while living in Georgia. Fittingly, the record’s wheezing tunes are a disorienting jumble of many previous modes. The band plays from the entire catalogue at shows, but Barnes has said that they prefer doing new songs—only then are the crowd’s reactions truly a surprise.—Sheldon Pearce (Elsewhere; June 4.)


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