This week, Jared Bowen explores an exhibition of spectacular art with a political edge at the Fitchburg Art Museum and provides his take on the new plays "Love! Valour! Compassion!" and "Wig Out!"

"Fantastical, Political," on view at the Fitchburg Art Museum through June 3

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"The Music Box" by Dave Cole
Howard Powell / WGBH News Howard Powell / WGBH News

At the Fitchburg Art Museum, a new exhibition finds beauty in the subversive. "Fantastical, Political" presents works by five contemporary artists from New England. At first glance, this mixed-medium gallery presents beautiful, even extravagant examples of fine art, ceramics, and architectural traditions. But upon closer inspection, viewers will find commentaries on animal testing, feminism, patriotism, and the Syrian civil war. "Each of these artists in different ways are using ... the aesthetic to draw people in," says curator Lisa Crossman. "Those aspects really create a comfortable environment to then start to look closer, to look deeper, and think about all of the layers of these issues." Jared describes "Fantastical. Political" as "an exceptionally smart show that invites fanciful looking before luring you into a very sobering search for meaning."

"Love! Valour! Compassion!" Presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre through May 19

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(L to R): Brooks Reeves, Jeremy Johnson, Joey Pellitier, Keith Foster, Michael Blunt, David Anderson, & Cody Sloan in Zeitgeist Stage Company’s production of "Love! Valour! Compassion!"
PicasaRichard Hall/Silverline Images, courtesy of Zeitgeist Stage Company

Zeitgeist Stage Company presents Terrence McNally's Tony Award-winning play "Love! Valour! Compassion!" The story takes place in 1994, where eight gay, male friends gather over a series of summer weekends at the Dutchess County farmhouse of Gregory, an established Broadway choreographer. In the shadow of the AIDS crisis and a public that has yet to accept them for who they are, this close cast of characters support each other through issues of fidelity, creative doubt and soul-searching. "With skillful direction and a really remarkable ensemble," says Jared, "we are quickly drawn into a tight-knit family of friends hellbent on making each other matter, even if the rest of the world won’t see it that way."

"Wig Out!" Presented by Company One Theatre in collaboration with the A.R.T. at OBERON through May 13

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(L to R): Aliyah Harris, Krystal Hernandez, Miles Jordan, Ally Dawson
Liza Voll Photography, courtesy of Company One Theatre

Dive into the glittering ballroom drag scene with Company One's production of "Wig Out!" written by the Oscar-winning co-author of "Moonlight," Tarell Alvin McCraney. "Wig Out!" begins with a fateful subway encounter when Miss Nina draws the curious Eric into the House of Light — a center of the Drag Ball universe and a place that provides family to young men wrestling with sexuality, masculinity and creative expression. "While the play itself veers toward the soapy — which works more than it doesn’t," says Jared, "'Wig Out!' compels for its fantasia of impressions around identity, sexuality and artistic expression that drive drag culture as a sanctuary."

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