Film: Veteran British filmmaker Mike Leigh is known for his low-key, low-budget contemporary tales of the politically downtrodden, but his latest, Peterloo, breaks from that mold with an epic history of a Manchester massacre in the summer of 1819. That is when armed forces on horseback charged into a crowd of 60,000 demonstrators out for electoral reform, killing 15 of them and injuring hundreds more. The action is well captured, but Peterloo is mainly a film of ideas, about the social injustice of this dark moment in British history. The result is surprisingly talky, yet still compelling, exactly the sort of film your high school history teacher would want you to see.
Theater: When are you going to go see Palm Beach Dramaworks’ superb rendering of Fences, one of August Wilson’s two Pulitzer Prize-winning dramas? You have until this Sunday, when this powerful tale of an embittered Negro League ballplayer ends its run in West Palm Beach. It is Wilson’s 1950s play in his 10-play cycle covering the African-American experience during the 20th century, but while director Bill Hayes recognizes that the work is very specific to the era of desegregation, it is also Wilson’s most universal play, one that anyone in a tense family dynamic can identify with. And when you have actors of the caliber of Lester Purry, Karen Stephens and Jovan Jacobs, the results can be truly memorable as they are in this, one of Dramaworks’ best productions yet.
Music: While much of the music this weekend will be made at Easter services in churches, there are a couple things coming up just after the weekend, which is the informal end of the season. On Thursday, the fine Escher String Quartet comes to the newly revamped Norton Museum of Art for a concert of American and American-influenced music: The lone String Quartet of Samuel Barber, the Quartet No. 1 of Charles Ives, and the Quartet No. 12 (in F, Op. 96) of Antonin Dvořák, the so-called American Quartet, so named because Dvořák wrote it while living in New York as head of the National Conservatory. The 7 p.m. concert, sponsored by the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach, had been promoted as a concert featuring the premiere of a new quartet by Andrew Norman, but that piece was not ready for its world premiere in Akron, Ohio, last month and the Escher has swapped it out. Nevertheless, this is a great chance to hear an outstanding young quartet in some fascinating and familiar music. Tickets: $75; call 379-6773 or visit cmspb.org.