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Well hello again, Weekenders! I see you’re back for more. Of which I happen to have plenty.
So much going on this weekend! The big-screen debut of “Downton Abbey” (which finds our apprehensive Christopher Muther stirring his tea extra tensely), a premiere of “The Crucible” (which has secret witches everywhere sweating), and there’s some Lifetime movie about the NXIVM cult (which members of the Lifetime Movie Cult are required to watch).
For my part, I’ll be spending my weekend cruising around town on those swanky new Orange Line cars, enjoying a White Claw in the dining car. I’m being told they have neither White Claw nor a dining car.
Well all right then; looks like I’m free after all! Let’s do this thing.
THE ARISTOCRATS: In his 3½-star review, Globe film correspondent Tom Russo calls the long-awaited silver screen debut of Julian Fellowes’s “Downton Abbey” a “thoroughly satisfying follow-up that arrives in theaters not quite four years after the series finale aired.” And if the very idea of leaving your own stately manor/trusty sofa to experience “Downton” seems like a heinous breach of grand tradition, let Tom talk you down: “The biggest narrative justification for ‘Downton’ getting feature treatment might be the sweeping quality to all the character developments and showcase moments being juggled here. The intricacy is managed without ever playing like Fellowes took a couple of routine postscript episodes and simply stitched them together.” Is Mary shady to Edith the whole time? This is literally all I need to know. Now screening.
WHICH IS WITCH: If post-Edwardian England doesn’t seem nearly regressive enough for your weekend kicks, you might consider Bedlam and Nora Theatre Company’s production of “The Crucible” at Central Square Theatre — armed with the caveat that Globe theater critic Don Aucoin found it less than bewitching. While Arthur Miller’s classic enjoys fresh resonance as “an allegory of the deadly consequences that can occur when collective irrationality and mendacity (of both the intellectual and moral sort) hold sway,” the production itself, much like the play’s witch-detection technology, still has some kinks to work out. (Fun fact: I won Best Actor for my searing portrayal of John Proctor in Fitchburg High School’s 1993 production of this — which is probably why I look so familiar.) It’s up at Central Square Theater through Oct. 20. Find tickets here.
BIT PLAYERS: Elsewhere in harrowingly relatable drama is the Huntington Theatre’s new production of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” in which everyone’s favorite forgotten characters from “Hamlet” find themselves “trapped in a world in which they have no control and don’t really have any idea what they are supposed to be doing.” (I know the feeling.) A mix of Shakespeare, slapstick, and a generous sprinkle of Sartre make this enduring oddball of a play “terrifyingly funny” according to Huntington’s artistic director Peter DuBois. (Which come to think of it was the same note I got about my “Crucible” performance.) It opens Friday and runs at Huntington Avenue Theatre through Oct. 20. Grab tickets here.
KIND OF BLUES: Over at Passim on Friday, you can experience a more folksy encounter with existentialism in the form of blues-folk legend Chris Smither , who has been honing his craft (and forging a path through the darkness) for 50 solid years. “Most of my songs are just about existence,” he recently told Globe contributor Lauren Daley. “The big questions: Love, death, hunger, ‘Why am I doing this?’ All those things.” The show is sold out, but I recommend keeping an eye on the Passim site in case individually released tickets become available.
PRIVATE PRACTICE: If you’ve got neither the time for a full concert nor the patience to deal with other attendees — well, first of all, it sounds like you might need more of a full-fledged vacation than just a weekend. But secondly, you’re in luck because startingFriday, Celebrity Series presents former New England Conservatory student Rayna Yun Chou’s innovative 10-day “Concert for One” program (through Sept. 29), which is just what it sounds like. Visitors to one of the custom-fitted shipping container “venues” on Harvard University’s Science Center Plaza and in Chin Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway will experience a single, mellifluous minute of music as solo artists (nearly 60 of them, including pianists, vocalists, cellists, and others) go one-on-one with solo audiences. Please note: You will never find a less appropriate time to demand “Free Bird.” Find location and performance info here.
BACH IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: There’s more to hear in Dorchester than the squeal of the Red Line (though that can actually be weirdly pleasant at certain places). Take Ashmont Hill Chamber Music, the far-more-pleasant chamber music group led by artistic director Mary Beth Alger, whose primary goal is to bring local and touring musicians together for homegrown recitals. Sunday’s season kickoff at Dorchester’s Parish of All Saints is part of an ongoing Bach Project, a collaboration between Alger and All Saints music director and organist Andrew Sheranian, who will be joined for the evening’s program by bass-baritone Dashon Burton, baroque violinist Julia McKenzie, and the Ashmont Boy Choir. Check out Zoë Madonna’s recent chat with Alger about the organization, and find tickets here.
SMART ENSEMBLE: On Friday, you can catch one of the country’s most adventurous experimental ensembles, Alarm Will Sound, at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. And I’m going to go ahead and recommend grabbing dinner first, as the evening’s program features Donnacha Dennehy’s “The Hunger,” an “opera on the brink” about the Great Irish Famine of 1845–52, as well as the sweeping, six-movement “When Fire Is Allowed to Finish,” a work by Alexandra Drewchin, a.k.a. Eartheater. Find more info and tickets here.
MEAN GIRL: If you watch “Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion” purely for the Heather Mooney parts, first of all, I’d like to welcome you to my family, and secondly, you still owe Janeane Garofalo a thank you for that performance. Lucky for you, she’ll be at WBUR’s CitySpace on Saturday for a rare-in-these-parts stand-up set (she cut her teeth around here, you know). Dana Cairns opens, and a late show was just added after the first one sold out. (And hey, um, you can’t smoke in here.)
READY TO RHUMBA: If you’ve fully recovered from the trauma of experiencing a lime-chiffoned Sean Spicer on “Dancing With the Stars” (which, if I may be forgiven, I did not explicitly warn you to avoid), you may be game for the all-day New England Open Ballroom Dancing Championships, taking place Saturday at James Powers Hall at Needham Town Hall. And the floor-stomping competition is just the beguine-ing (sorry): Attendees can also step up and participate in workshops, social dancing, and games. Find more info here.
ART HERSTORY: And lastly from the outside world this weekend is the MFA’s expansive new exhibition “Women Take the Floor,” a “takeover” of Level 3 of the Art of the Americas Wing devoted entirely to female artists, and as Globe art critic Murray Whyte calls it, a “kickoff exhibition of what’s shaping up to be a sesquicentennial year of self-recriminating atonement” that “as an apology, is holistic, voluminous, endlessly informative, and now and then kind of fun.” Artists on view include Georgia O’Keeffe, Ruth Reeves, Lenore Tawney, Sheila Hicks, Frida Kahlo, Alice Neel, Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine de Kooning, Maud Morgan, and more. It’s up through May 3. Find more info here.
OR STAY IN: Because those new Orange Line cars aren’t going anywhere (oftentimes literally). On Friday, you can catch the weird meta-movie adaptation of Zach Galifianakis’s deeply weird web series “Between Two Ferns,” as it morphs into a star-studded action-adventure/use of Netflix cash.
On Saturday, you can join me on the couch for “Escaping the NXIVM Cult: A Mother’s Fight to Save Her Daughter,” if only to give Lifetime some props for the quick turnaround. (Seriously though, how?) That’s at 8 p.m.
And on Sunday, it’s the Emmys of course! The self-driving awards show airs at 8 p.m. on Fox, and Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert has been glaring into his crystal ball for weeks. We’re all actually getting a little worried. Check out his picks for all the big winners (and, technically, way more losers).
And that, good Weekenders, is all I’ve got coming down the tracks this weekend. However you spend it, please wait for passengers to exit the train before entering, and make it one you’ll miss come Monday.
See you next time!Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.