The New York Times

Review: ‘The Haunting’ Has a Big Problem With ‘Hamilton’

Jesse Bueno, left, and Monisha Shiva in Ishmael Reed’s “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. | Credit: Tanja Maria (The New York Times)

Jesse Bueno, left, and Monisha Shiva in Ishmael Reed’s “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. | Credit: Tanja Maria (The New York Times)

By Elisabeth Vincentelli

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a character, and his hit musical is a punching bag, in Ishmael Reed’s didactic play about historical correctness.

In the four years since his musical “Hamilton” first opened at the Public Theater, Lin-Manuel Miranda has become one of America’s most successful and ubiquitous entertainers. There he is, serenading President Obama at the White House, triumphantly taking his show to a recovering Puerto Rico, portraying a chimney sweep in “Mary Poppins Returns.” And, in a true sign that he has made it to the top of the celebrity mountain, Mr. Miranda has proactively counterpunched potential critiques by playing comedic versions of himself, most notably in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

One way we have not seen him, however, is as a lazy, gullible dumdum — which is how he is portrayed in Ishmael Reed’s show “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda,” currently at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

That’s actually a pretty sympathetic take, considering how little Mr. Reed thinks of “Hamilton,” which he accuses of, among other things, turning a blind eye to the Schuyler family’s ownership of slaves and soft-pedaling Alexander Hamilton’s elitist politics and his attitude toward slavery. Mr. Reed’s views are shared by a range of historians, but he is deploying them by using an art form, theater, that only sets up unflattering comparisons to Mr. Miranda’s work — at least judged purely in terms of form rather than content.

In the play, Lin-Manuel (Jesse Bueno), his senses possibly altered by Ambien, is visited by the kind of people left out of “Hamilton”: slaves, Native Americans, Harriet Tubman (Roz Fox). As if in a cross between “A Christmas Carol” and a trial at The Hague’s International Criminal Court, each of the witnesses lectures Miranda on the reality behind the audience-friendly Broadway razzmatazz. Mr. Bueno spends a large part of the show looking befuddled as his character is being schooled.

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Celine Dion, at the Met Gala, Is No One’s Paper Doll

Photo: Celine Dion (Karsten Moran for The New York Times)

Photo: Celine Dion (Karsten Moran for The New York Times)

Hidden in plain sight for decades, the megastar steps out in eye-popping style for the Met Gala, reveling in her turn as a new favorite of fashion. “I’m never going to take it off,” Celine Dion said. Mugging for a reporter’s iPhone camera with a voice you might associate with Dalmatian coats and Cruella De Vil, she repeated herself. “I’m never going to take it off,” she said, head lowered, tone rising. “It’s mine! All mine!” The subject wasn’t what she was wearing at the moment — a green metallic silk jumpsuit from Isabel Marant and Alexander Wang ankle boots — but an outfit by Oscar de la Renta, the one she will have on when the paparazzi go berserk on the Met Gala red carpet on Monday night. It is a creation that would seem as if designed specifically to test the internet’s breaking point.

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An Artist Rises, and Brings a Generation With Him - Patricia Leigh Brown

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Mr. Kaphar, 42, has a profound connection to the forgotten, from the slaves owned by the founding fathers to the ubiquity of African-Americans in the criminal justice system, including his own father. The recipient of a recent MacArthur “genius” award, the artist is challenging racism in a body of strong work that has entered the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Yale University Art Gallery, and was recently featured at the National Portrait Gallery. Mr. Kaphar is known for appropriating images from American and European art in order to subvert them, cutting them into his canvases to pull back the velvet curtain of history. He wields materials like tar, wire, gold leaf and nails to unearth the past’s inconvenient truths, and to shine a restorative light on those residing in the shadows.

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Darkness Visible, Finally: Astronomers Capture First Ever Image of a Black Hole

The first image of a black hole, from the galaxy Messier 87.CreditCredit Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via National Science Foundation

The first image of a black hole, from the galaxy Messier 87.CreditCredit
Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via National Science Foundation

Astronomers announced on Wednesday that at last they had captured an image of the unobservable: a black hole, a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it. For years, and for all the mounting scientific evidence, black holes have remained marooned in the imaginations of artists and the algorithms of splashy computer models of the kind used in Christopher Nolan's outer-space epic “Interstellar.” Now they are more real than ever.

“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and director of the effort to capture the image, during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C. The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of a galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from Earth, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the implacable power of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.

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‘Jean-Michel Basquiat’ at the Brant Shows His Bifurcated Life

A few years ago, a plaza in Paris was named after the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Brooklyn-born painter who became a global sensation in the early 1980s and died at 27 of a heroin overdose. No similar honor has been bestowed upon Basquiat by the City of New York. However, the opening of the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in the East Village, with an exhibition of nearly 70 works by Basquiat created from 1980 to 1987, serves as a fitting temporary shrine. The Brant in Manhattan is also part of a wave of private museums opening across the country, including the Hill Art Foundation in Chelsea; the expansion of Glenstone in Maryland; and the Marciano and Broad collections in Los Angeles.

But first, Basquiat. The story of this painter of Haitian and Puerto-Rican descent is one of the most documented in contemporary art history. Basquiat moved to Manhattan — partly to escape his strict accountant father — couch-surfed, lived off girlfriends and formed a post-punk band called Gray after “Gray’s Anatomy.” He sprayed poetic, enigmatic graffiti on walls in downtown Manhattan before moving to canvas and starred in an independent film, “Downtown 81.” He dated Madonna before she was famous and made paintings with his hero-turned-friend, Andy Warhol.

Basquiat was also part of a group of Neo-Expressionists that were largely rejected by critics interested in photography, video and conceptual art — but embraced by a popular audience and a surging art market, where he often felt treated like a faux-primitive genius, which he found racist and demeaning. And yet, this seemed to fuel his work — and the anger in it — toward greater heights, forging a brand of African-American history painting that addressed everything from cultural figures to black policemen. His reputation has grown posthumously and in 2017 one of his paintings sold at auction for a record $110.5 million to a Japanese billionaire.

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Did ‘Hamilton’ Get the Story Wrong? One Playwright Thinks So (The New York Times)

Did ‘Hamilton’ Get the Story Wrong? One Playwright Thinks So (The New York Times)

The 15 or 20 minutes before the performance ticked by the same way they do on nights when Rome Neal presides over jazz at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. But this time Mr. Neal was directing a reading of a play. It takes aim at the sensation that is the theatrical juggernaut “Hamilton” and its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.