1. See Zoya Cherkassky: Soviet Childhood
Back in the USSR.
Zoya Cherkassky’s kaleidoscopically colored figurative paintings transport us back to the Soviet Union of the 1980s, when some citizens were trying on nascent freedoms while still living under communism. The scenes are so closely observed that the artist’s social-media following comments on every detail, down to what kind of radio a dissident might be listening to. These paintings are furnaces of experience. —Jerry Saltz
Fort Gansevoort, 5 Ninth Avenue, through June 15.
2. See Brief Chronicle, Books 6–8
The performance-and-media collective i am a slow tide debuts with the New York premiere of Brief Chronicle, Books 6–8, by playwright Alex Borinsky, whose Of Government made Vulture’s best-of-2017 list. Here, he tells a queer ghost story about a mother and son in Baltimore and the guilty specter that visits them. —Sara Holdren
Access Theater, 380 Broadway, through June 15.
3. See As One
Two singers double up as the protagonist of this chamber opera about a transgender character who transitions from baritone to mezzo-soprano. With a score by Laura Kaminsky and a libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, the opera returns to New York for the first time since its 2014 premiere. —Justin Davidson
Merkin Hall, May 30, June 1, 4, and 6.
4. Hear MET Orchestra
Rite of spring.
After a stunning run of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, the Met’s music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and one of its most luminous stars, Isabel Leonard, step away from the opera house but stay close to Paris in an all-French concert program of Debussy, Dutilleux, and Ravel. —J.D.
Carnegie Hall, June 3.
5. See The Jewish Soul: Classics of Yiddish Cinema
The pre-WWII Yiddish cinema captured a bygone language and culture and so remains essential. The series “The Jewish Soul” presents six restored films made in New York and Poland: an atmospheric adaptation of the Yiddish-theater standby The Dybbuk (1937); Her Second Mother (1940), a “lowbrow Second Avenue entertainment”; and Tevya (1939), in which Maurice Schwartz brings Sholom Aleichem’s milkman to life decades before Fiddler on the Roof. —David Edelstein
Film Forum, through July 3.
6. See Josh Smith: Emo Jungle
A lush palette.
Few painters could fill all three of David Zwirner’s giant white-cube spaces so convincingly. Josh Smith repeats a number of motifs: the Grim Reaper, a turtle-bird form, a four-legged human-spider creature. His electric color makes every painting different yet always as an expansion or response to all the rest. An encyclopedic joy. —J.S.
David Zwirner, 525 West 19th Street, through June 15.
7. See Prisoner of the State
Reimagining Beethoven’s only opera.
Composer David Lang’s latest quiet extravaganza retells Beethoven’s Fidelio — the story of a political prisoner rescued from solitary — in a production by Elkhanah Pulitzer, who casts the Phil’s musicians as participants in the penal system. —J.D.
David Geffen Hall, June 6 to 8.
8. See For the Birds
Kathy and her flock.
Richard Miron’s rich, strange doc is a profile of an Ulster County woman, Kathy Murphy, whose more than 200 chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys are causing a stir — prompting animal-advocacy groups to swoop down. Is Murphy a loon or someone whose connection to these creatures is a profound attempt to connect to the real world? The film is executive-produced by Brian Reed, co-creator of the podcast S-Town, and Cindy Meehl, of the superlative horse-whisperer doc Buck. —D.E.
IFC Center, opens May 31.
9. Go to BookCon
Inside the cultural pipeline.
The storytelling and pop-culture mash-up returns with book-to-screen panels on forthcoming adaptations like John Green’s Looking for Alaska (Hulu), Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler’s Cursed (Netflix), and Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 (AMC, June 2) as well as talks with The Handmaid’s Tale showrunner Bruce Miller, indie-pop duo Tegan & Sara on their upcoming memoir, Neil Patrick Harris with Eva Chen on children’s books, and comic-book writer Chuck Wendig on science fiction today.
Javits Center, June 1, 2.
10. See Underground Railroad Game
A comedy, actually.
Created by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard with the Philly-based company Lightning Rod Special, the incendiary Underground Railroad Game returns to New York for 18 performances. Welcome to Hanover Middle School, where a pair of teachers tackle American history, race, sex, and power in a ferocious, sensational, very R-rated lesson. —S.H.
Ars Nova at Greenwich House, 27 Barrow Street, May 30 to June 15.
11. Hear Alexei Lubimov and Calidore String Quartet
Working on commission.
When Alexei Lubimov won the first Cage Cunningham Fellowship, the pianist spent the $50,000 prize on commissions for new music. He and the Calidore Quartet will premiere Pavel Karmanov’s chamber work for narrator, prepared piano, string quartet, bass, and tape, plus Sergei Zagny’s Baroque-inspired piece for organ. —J.D.
Baryshnikov Arts Center, May 30.
12. Hear Everything That Happened and Would Happen
Europe is his playground.
The avant-garde showbiz guru Heiner Goebbels stages flummoxing theatrical events. His multimedia take on everything having to do with 20th-century Europe seems tailored to a space as immense as the Armory’s Drill Hall. —J.D.
Park Avenue Armory, June 3 to 9.
13. See Ocean Vuong
Letters from a young poet.
In prose as lyrical as his poetry, Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a letter from a son to his illiterate mother, a Vietnam War refugee in America plagued by PTSD and unmoored in her new country. It’s an unforgettable attempt to make sense of a life. Catch Vuong at the Strand after the book’s release.
Penguin Press, June 4; the Strand, 828 Broadway, June 5.
14. Go to Governors Ball
Pray the weather holds.
The annual blowout features food, fun, and music: hip-hop acts Brockhampton and Tyler, the Creator; indie rockers Mitski and Soccer Mommy; electronic heavyweights Major Lazer and Gesaffelstein; soul singers Blood Orange and the Internet; rockers the Strokes and the Voidz; popsters the 1975 and Florence + the Machine; and more. — Craig Jenkins
Randalls Island Park, May 31 to June 2.
15. See Summerworks
From the fringe.
Clubbed Thumb’s series gave rise to the Pulitzer finalist What the Constitution Means to Me. This year it brings in a new crop of envelope-pushing plays: Sarah Einspanier’s tilted comedy about public defenders breaking bread, and maybe bad (Lunch Bunch); Zhu Yi’s story of a turf war on gentrifying Chinese soil (You Never Touched the Dirt); and Daniel Glenn’s take on colonialism and morality in pre-nationhood America (King Philip’s Head Is Still on That Pike Just Down the Road). —S.H.
The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, through June 28.
16. See Iris Scott: Ritual in Pairing
Pop into this pop-up.
Iris Scott makes “finger paintings” portraying tigers in the night, bowerbirds, South Asian drag queens, and herself as a towering belle of some fantasy ball. So much sincerity and obsessiveness come through here that you lower your skepticism and revel in the lushness and love. —J.S.
Filo Sofi Arts, 507 West 27th Street, through June 7.
*A version of this article appears in the May 27, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!