January Is Experimental-Theatre Month

Photograph by Jewel Thompson

The singer and guitarist Greta Kline has performed under many names since her early Bandcamp days, in the twenty-tens, but she has been defined by her music as Frankie Cosmos. With her 2016 album, “Next Thing,” Kline announced herself as indie pop’s most stunning miniaturist, presenting detailed, scaled-down scenes from her life as pithy songs. In recent years, Frankie Cosmos has transformed into a full-on band. The group’s last two albums—“Close It Quietly” (2019) and “Inner World Peace” (2022)—have brought a richness to Kline’s bedroom pop without compromising the beloved compactness that has become a Frankie Cosmos signature.—Sheldon Pearce (Baby’s All Right; Dec. 29.)


The New York-based filmmaker Juleen Compton’s first feature, “Stranded,” from 1965—which she wrote, directed, produced, and starred in—should have launched her career behind the camera and in front of it. Instead, it languished in obscurity and has only belatedly been rediscovered. Its freewheeling, New Wave-like style was in step with the times, but its subject and tone were far ahead. Compton plays Raina, a young American woman who travels through Greece and aboard a barge with her straitlaced American boyfriend (Gary Collins) and a gay French artist (Gian Pietro Calasso). Raina dances and sings, and swims naked by night, living and loving freely and challenging viewers with her defiant stare into the camera, even while expressing doubts, in sharp-edged philosophical dialogue, that she never gives in to.—Richard Brody (Streaming on the Criterion Channel starting Jan. 1.)

Pick Three

January is full of experimental-theatre festivals; here are Helen Shaw’s picks.

1. The new-opera smorgasbord Prototype has many tasty-looking offerings, including an opera, by Huang Ruo, about Chinese immigrants (“Angel Island”) and a song cycle by the Dutch artist Wende (“The Promise”), co-composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge. If I could see only one thing, though, it would be “Terce: A Practical Breviary,” by Heather Christian. Her contemporary gloss on a medieval mass follows in the quasi-sacred footsteps of her exhilarating 2022 masterwork, “Oratorio for Living Things.”

2. Some of the shows in the far-flung Under the Radar festival are returning New York successes, such as “Public Obscenities” and “Pushkin ‘Eugene Onegin’ in Our Own Words”; others are international visitors, including “Hamlet/Toilet,” a Dadaist frolic from the Japanese provocateur Yu Murai. But the rare show that’s both new and local is my top pick: “Open Mic Night,” by Peter Mills Weiss and Julia Mounsey, a duo so committed to the cutting edge of the avant-garde that they (or their collaborators) sometimes bleed.

Illustration by Mary Kirkpatrick

3. Every year gets better at the fringe-forward Exponential Festival, which inhabits various venues in Brooklyn. Big experimental folks such as Banana Bag & Bodice and Marissa Joyce Stamps are on the docket, but I’m particularly jazzed for “Two Sisters Find a Box of Lesbian Erotica in the Woods,” by the gonzo playmakers Emma Horwitz and Bailey Williams. Williams wrote “I thought I would die but I didn’t,” an electrifying 2019 meditation on everyday horror; I’m ready to be shocked all over again.

P.S. Good stuff on the Internet:

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