1 If you want to understand ice hockey, the USSR, the power of Western cash, Russians, the dictatorial nature of the KGB, the authoritarian NHL and puck shooting as Marxist propaganda — while being entertained every step of the way with terrific humor — check out "Red Army." Gabe Polsky's from-Russia-with-love documentary is an utter delight, the rise-and-fall-and-rise saga of five star athletes of Soviet hockey from the 1970s to the present.
2 We still wish 89.3 the Current wouldn't play him so often, but we can't deny the perplexing charm of Father John Misty's sophomore album, "I Love You, Honeybear." The former Fleet Foxes drummer turned Southern Cali folk-rock Renaissance man piles on the strings, the heartache, the coy one-liners, the wordy titles and the dramatically laid cuss words as if trying to make "grandiose" a compliment. He repeatedly flips his songs on end, too, leaving you wondering what they're all about well after they've already sucked you in.
3 "The Woman in Black," the second-longest-running play in London's West End, is about a man who has been through a terrifying supernatural experience. Desperate to explain it to his family and friends, he rents a theater to tell his tale and hires an actor to coach him and play a role in performing the gruesome story. Nathaniel Fuller and J.C. Cutler, two Guthrie veterans who have never shared a scene there, are the true joys of this production at the Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo. www.yellowtreetheatre.com
4 Noted short-story writer Laura van den Berg's novel "Find Me" is a graceful dystopian drama set in the near future (the Weather Channel still exists) as a disease sweeps the country, robbing people of their memories before killing them. The book's narrator, a lonely young woman, is found to be immune, and she agrees to enter a hospital to be studied. The haunting first half of the book takes place in the weird hospital, and the equally haunting second half as the woman travels the country, searching for her birth mother. This powerful debut about memory, loss and stories gets under the skin in a deeply unforgettable way.
5 In a world of instant images, it seems ridiculous to spend days, even weeks, laboriously drawing or painting a picture of a blossom, mushroom or wasabi root. Ridiculous until you see what 47 international artists — including three Minnesotans — have produced in "Weird, Wild & Wonderful," a show of astonishing botanical paintings at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. They eloquently depict the veins in a leaf and the translucent wings of a fly. arboretum.umn.edu