Our five faves of the moment.
1 "The Brothers Size" is a story of brotherly love. But the eloquent, powerfully affecting one-act at the Guthrie is filled with tension as the two brothers nearly come to blows. Complicating things is the presence of one of the brother's best friends from prison. With excellent performances by James A. Williams, Namir Smallwood and Gavin Lawrence, this play uses myth and metaphor to explore bonds among three black men. www.guthrietheater.org
2 Iranian graphic novelist-turned-filmmaker Marjane Satrapi delivers a savory treat with her second movie, "Chicken With Plums." This Tehran-based tale concerns a lovesick violinist who dies of a broken heart. But that's only the beginning. Satrapi sends the viewer hopscotching back through his past, the fantastical around every corner. Animated sequences burst onto the screen. Azrael, the angel of death, appears with horns and black face paint. It's all handled with a comic flair.
3 Sometimes you have to just give in and read a trashy romance, but if it's by Eloisa James then you can at least feel good about it. Her new "The Ugly Duchess" is bawdy and racy, romantic and entertaining -- but historically accurate and well written, too. (That's because James is actually Minnesota native Mary Bly, a professor expert in Shakespeare and Renaissance studies, and daughter of writers Robert and Carol.) The ugly duchess threw her husband out when she found out he had married her for her fortune. Of course, there was sexual tension between them, and what else could we do but keep turning the page?
4 Nicolai Fechin was a Russian painter who emigrated to the United States in 1923, settling in New York, Taos, N.M., and eventually Los Angeles, where he died in 1955. He became a famous Western-themed painter but was largely forgotten in his homeland. That was until the recent show in Kazan and Moscow that has now traveled to Minneapolis' Museum of Russian Art. The 40 paintings and drawings include portraits and landscapes but none of his early work, which the Russian government would not allow out of the country. www.tmora.org
5 Whether our September weather allows for more treks into the woods or on the water, Minnesotans' summertime love affair with the great outdoors can at least live on in spirit via one of the best kids-music albums to come along in quite some time, the Okee Dokee Brothers' "Can You Canoe?" The refreshingly un-hokey, bluegrassy duo wrote all the songs on a paddling trip down the Mississippi River -- documented in a DVD packaged with the CD -- and the real-life inspiration flows through such singalong gems as "Thousand Star Hotel."
Poll: If the state's $1.9B surplus were "fun money," how would you spend it?