The Week in Arts: Alton Brown Returns; Lil Nas X Plays the Hit

The Week in Arts: Alton Brown Returns; Lil Nas X Plays the Hit

Aug. 25;

In 2012 — after writing, directing and starring in 252 episodes of “Good Eats” on the Food Network — Alton Brown needed a break.

He wanted to concentrate on his theatrical tour and hosting the game show “Cutthroat Kitchen.” He also wanted to see how the internet would affect ingredients not readily available to the average viewer, like the North African harissa required for shakshuka, a dish he’d held off making.

And having started his career behind the camera, he wanted to see what advances in film technology might percolate up in the future that would make shooting a bit more, well, exciting.

“I was getting bored with the toys,” he admitted in a call from Marietta, Ga., where he lives and works. “I had told myself I’m going to give it five years.” By the time his calendar cleared, it was seven.

“Good Eats: The Return,” debuts on Sunday, Aug. 25. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from Brown, and then some: The same deliciously brainy mix of science, history and culinary how-to, with a new set (designed by his wife, Elizabeth Ingram) that’s decked out with high-tech playthings like overhead cameras suspended on an Opti-Glide rail system.

The 13 episodes kick off with classic chicken parm before veering into steak tartare, no longer considered “a risky rogue food,” Brown said, and bread-baking — “because the crazy kids, the hipsters, are all into wild sourdoughs.” That shakshuka segment he’d been longing to do? A takeoff on “Casablanca,” right down to the black-and-white, Academy-aspect ratio.

Yet, for all the bells and whistles, “in the end, I’m the guy that just wanted to make stories about food because it’s one of the few things that connects us all,” he said. “Our culture is ripped asunder, and there’s not a lot that holds us together anymore. Food still does.” KATHRYN SHATTUCK

As summer winds down and the days get shorter, there’s one thing left to do: Dance in a park. This week, classes are up for grabs in several New York City parks, including Bryant Park: Moves with Limón Dance, a modern class led by members of the Limón Dance Company and open to all levels and ages (Aug. 31). More free sessions are available, including the show-tune inspired “Broadway Dance with Dodge YMCA at Brooklyn Bridge Park and West African dance at Inwood Hill Park (both on Aug. 26), as well as a session featuring teachers from Strictly Tango N.Y.C. Dance School at Washington Square Park (Aug. 27). Also that evening is Sunset Sala at Pier 45 at Hudson River Park, under theguidance of the instructor Talia Castro-Pozo. Visit the city parks’ website for more styles: Capoeira, line and Latin dance are all for the taking. But no matter the style, the point is to move in the open air. There’s nothing like it. GIA KOURLAS

Aug. 30-Sept. 7,

O.K., yes, “Othello” is one of Shakespeare’s less relaxing plays, what with its tale of eminently avoidable homicide. But as tranquil spots for watching it go — outdoors for free in Manhattan, with the dusk settling in as the drama takes hold — it’s tough to beat the urban elegance of Bryant Park in the evening summer air. There are no tickets or lines, and you can rent a picnic blanket (also gratis) to spread out on the lawn.

Directed by Hamilton Clancy, with Emmanuel Elpenord in the title role, the Drilling Company production starts its six-performance run on Friday, Aug. 30. Like any open-air show, it proceeds at the mercy of the weather, but that can be fun as well. A few years back, the Drilling Company did “Hamlet” under storm clouds so flamboyantly seething that you’d have ordered them up if you could — spectacle onstage and in the heavens. LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES

Aug. 23.

In “Give Me Liberty,” his hilariously chaotic second feature, the director Kirill Mikhanovsky gets personal: Vic (Chris Galust), his aimless young Russian-American protagonist, drives a transport van for the disabled in Milwaukee, just like Mikhanovsky used to do.

But this is no ordinary excursion. Protests blockade the streets, and a coterie of elderly émigrés, including Vic’s grandfather, demand a ride to a friend’s funeral — leaving Tracy (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), forced into a wheelchair by A.L.S., late to an important appointment. Meanwhile, Dima (Maksim Stoyanov), the deceased’s womanizing nephew, refuses to be left behind.

The day trip portion of “Give Me Liberty” spirals into bedlam, as Vic is thwarted at every turn. But a sweet poignancy surfaces as he and Tracy bond later across a frenetic night in a segregated city where seemingly everyone is chasing the American dream, while getting tripped up by disillusionment.

“Give Me Liberty” opened in New York on Aug. 23 before a wider rollout in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Madison, Wis., starting Aug. 29. KATHRYN SHATTUCK

Aug. 30-Sept. 1;

Take a weekend’s worth of cutting-edge music and put it on a boat in the East River, and you get the Here and Now Labor Day Festival at the Brooklyn gem Bargemusic, a barge anchored next to the Brooklyn Bridge that provides one of city’s best recital halls. Over three evenings, listeners can take in a bevy of pieces performed by chamber musicians: The featured composers, including Jonathan Howard Katz, Louis Karchin and Paul Chihara, are not necessarily household names, but all of the works presented are brand-new — a series of world premieres in disparate musical idioms. And the roster of performers is top-tier, including the two-piano superteam of Ursula Oppens and Jerome Lowenthal as well as the composer and pianist Kathleen Supové, who will play some of her own new works. WILLIAM ROBIN

Through Nov. 10;

During China’s Cultural Revolution, a single painting condemned the artist and educator Zeng Shanqing to several years of hard labor. His wife, Yang Yanping, rode out the dangerous period turning out portraits of Chairman Mao. Both painted mostly with oil. But in the United States, where they’ve lived since 1986, the pair have gone back to traditional Chinese pigment and ink. In works like Mr. Zeng’s “Control” (2007), raging horses are broken up into separate blocks of muscle, revealing the abstract potential of the figure. The otherworldly, floral red forms of Ms. Yang’s “Autum Song” (2018) offer an experience of pure color that would be hard to match with paint. Both are included in “Expressive Ink: Paintings by Yang Yanping and Zeng Shanqing” at the Art Institute of Chicago. WILL HEINRICH

Aug. 29;

This year, Lil Nas X became a poster child for viral success. With his breakout hit “Old Town Road,” a country-trap earworm that exploded on the social media platform Tik Tok and went on to smash the existing record for time spent atop Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, the artist, born Montero Hill, made a compelling case for the impact of internet savvy on contemporary hit-making.

But with an ascent so rapid, and a catalog so shallow, Hill has had limited opportunity to perform (a concert for elementary school students may have been his most noteworthy to date). New Yorkers will get one of their first chances to see him live on Thursday at Z100’s Summer Bash. Tickets for the concert — which will also include performances by the DJ Marshmello and the genre-agnostic singer Quinn XCII — are sold out, but the resale market is well-stocked. OLIVIA HORN

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