The New Yorker - USA (2022-01-31)

(Antfer) #1



There are so many shows—and streaming services on which to watch
them—that it is easy to overlook a true gem. But they are out there,
glittering among the schlock, waiting to be discovered. Now is as good
a time as any to hit play on the Peacock series “We Are Lady Parts,” a
comedy from the creator Nida Manzoor about an all-female Muslim rock
band in the U.K., which quietly débuted six hilarious episodes last sum-
mer and will soon start filming a second season. The show—which stars
Anjana Vasan, Sarah Kameela Impey, Faith Omole, Juliette Motamed,
and Lucie Shorthouse, as a ragtag riot-grrrl-esque group of musicians
(and their cheeky manager)—is a modern-day screwball comedy laced
with dashes of magical realism. The women regularly melt into rich
fantasy worlds, as when Vasan’s shy guitarist, Amina, imagines herself
into a schmaltzy black-and-white movie when face to face with her crush.
The show’s strength is in its highly specific and eccentric characters; it
taps into so many aspects of the British Muslim experience (which, in
clunky depictions in popular culture, is so often portrayed as a monolith)
that it moves past sheer representation and into a fully developed, rich,
silly world where the jokes land as crisply as the G chords.—Rachel Syme


Strong is funny and works from the heart. She
could rivet in a show written about her own
generation—one that is at once more sincere and
more at sea than Tomlin and Wagner’s.—Vinson
Cunningham (The Shed; through Feb. 5.)

Whisper House
Young Christopher (Wyatt Cirbus)—his father
killed in action in the Second World War and
his mother sent to a mental ward—is shipped off
to live with his socially awkward aunt (Saman-
tha Mathis), who operates the second-tallest
lighthouse in Maine with the aid of a Japanese
immigrant (James Yaegashi). Composed by
Duncan Sheik, with a book by Kyle Jarrow and
lyrics by both, this musical has a clever conceit:
it’s narrated by two ghosts (Alex Boniello and
Molly Hager) who wish ill on the protagonists.
But the effectiveness of that device is dimin-
ished by the director Steve Cosson’s decision to
have the spectres leer throughout the show like
a pair of B-movie Draculas. Sheik’s melodies are
as stirring as ever, and the six-piece orchestra



The Search for Signs of
Intelligent Life in the Universe
This one-woman show first arrived on Broadway
in 1985, tailor-made for Lily Tomlin by Jane Wag-
ner. Now it has been revived at the Shed, per-
formed by Cecily Strong and directed by Leigh
Silverman. The new production clarifies how
tuned in—and limited—to Tomlin’s rhythms,
and to the problems of the eighties, the original
was. The show begins with Strong as Trudy, who
is “crazy,” but happily so. She can, as she says,
“pick up signals that seem to transmit snatches of
people’s lives,” watching—and enacting—scenes
from them. The characters she visits form a
social frieze; among them are a latchkey kid and
a once earnest activist whose life runs parallel
to the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment.
There are now contemporary references to, say,
Elon Musk, but the play still feels firmly dated.

role-play. Since the killings, Susan (Olivia
Colman) and Chris (David Thewlis) have been
living in France, where fugitive life is unevent-
ful. Susan, a cinephile, blows through ludicrous
amounts of money on rare movie posters and
film memorabilia, while Chris tries and fails
to find a job to support her life style. Their
outlaw existence is endearingly simple, a trifle
boring—they are not so much on the run as on a
long walk. After they turn themselves in, Susan
and Chris unspool their stories to the police as
if telling genre tales. “Landscapers” does not
hand down any real-world judgments—it wants
to excavate the tension between fabulists and
pragmatists, in order to suggest that pragma-
tists are just as blinkered, too insensitive to the
experiences that cause others to abandon the
rational world.—Doreen St. Félix (Reviewed in
our issue of 12/27/21.)

South Side
In this comedy series (now in its second season,
on HBO Max), set in the Chicago neighbor-
hood of Englewood, Simon (Sultan Salahuddin)
and Kareme (Kareme Young) are best friends
who grudgingly clock in at Rent-T-Own, a
shady furniture-and-appliance rental service.
“South Side”—created by Salahuddin, his
brother, Bashir, and Bashir’s writing partner,
Diallo Riddle—derives a great deal of its Black
black humor from the encounters between its
protagonists and the delinquent renters: the
physical aspect of product repossession allows
for so much slapstick. The universe of the series
is dense and technically adroit: we have the
cops, Officers Goodnight and Turner (Bashir
Salahuddin and Chandra Russell, Bashir’s wife);
the mewling politicians, Allen Gayle and Adam
Bethune (Diallo Riddle and Langston Kerman);
Shaw (LaRoyce Hawkins), a terrifying hottie
gangster, and his bullies; the pissy desk worker,
Stacy (Zuri Salahuddin, Bashir and Sultan’s
sister); and a bunch of child wiseacres. “South
Side” is of a piece with animated sitcoms: there’s
the controlled sprawl of loony characters, the
granular picture of a city and its people, the sur-
feit of meticulously wrought gags and cultural
references, the interplay of goofy and existential
humor, the razzing of dirty political princes.
This wackiness is fun, but it is also oddly lit-
erary, a kind of translation of the hyperbolic
in Black American humor.—D.S.F. (12/13/21)

Station Eleven
Don’t let the premise of this new drama from
HBO Max—about several people who survive
a deadly flu that wipes out most of the Earth’s
population—deter you from leaping in; the story
is less about death and destruction than it is
about life, vibrant and wild and humming with
promise. The show, which was created by Patrick
Somerville and adapted from Emily St. John
Mandel’s hit novel of the same name, centers
on an actress named Kirsten (an excellent Mac-
kenzie Davis), who was a child when the plague
hit. (Matilda Lawler, who plays the younger
Kirsten, is also a gifted performer.) Twenty
years later, she leads a Shakespearean theatre
troupe called the Traveling Symphony around
the Great Lakes region. As outside dangers
threaten the group, Kirsten springs into action
to protect her tribe. “Station Eleven” is a weird
and wonderful parable about hope in the face of
crisis and the ways that people show up for one
another. This is not a dystopian bummer—it’s
a celebration.—Rachel Syme
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