GBH Executive Arts Editor Jared Bowen presents his weekly picks of the best of Boston's arts and culture every Thursday. This week, the theatrical production of "Life of Pi" Comes to the American Repertory Theater, while the winter solstice is celebrated at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

'Solstice: Reflections on Winter Light'

Presented by MASARY Studios, an artist collective that focuses on interactive performance art, "Solstice: Reflections on Winter Light" is an annual light and sound installation in Mount Auburn Cemetery. Bowen calls the installation “absolutely mesmerizing,” and that everyone should “stop what you’re doing now and get your tickets.”

"Solstice" features four distinct experiences, starting with a story chapel. Visitors then witness a candlelight ceremony, drawing upon ideas of solace and remembrance. A “sculpture of light and haze and evocation” stands in the cemetery’s Hazel Dell before reaching Bigelow Chapel, wherein Bowen says “you get this whole sense of music.” A musician plays inside the chapel while an outdoor animation plays.

A hand holds a small votive candle among many other identical candles at Mount Auburn Cemetery
Candlelighting is just one part of the "SOLSTICE" installation at Mount Auburn Cemetery
Aram Boghosian MASARY Studios

'Life of Pi'

Playing at the American Repertory Theater through Jan. 29

Originally a book by Yann Martel and later a film directed by Ang Lee, the stage adaptation of "Life of Pi" comes to the American Repertory Theater before it heads to Broadway. The play follows 17-year-old Pi, whose family flees India for Canada on a ship with their collection of zoo animals. When the family shipwrecks, Pi is left on a life raft with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a royal Bengal tiger.

Bowen warns that the play “is not your Disney version ... this is vicious, this is hard, maybe even not for young children for some of the scenes that you see here,” but says there is an incredible beauty to the production, particularly in the puppetry used for the animals. Bowen spoke to one of "Life of Pi's" puppet creators, who said that among the most crucial elements to the show’s puppet animals was breathing, which acts as “a mechanism for communication among the performers who are operating the tiger” in addition to bringing life to the creatures. The precision and beauty of the puppets was so remarkable that in the play’s production on London’s West End, the seven actors behind the tiger collectively won, for the first time ever, the Olivier Award for best actor in a supporting role.

The American Repertory Theater’s production of "Life of Pi" allows Boston audiences to experience the wonder of the work through a suspension of disbelief. As Bowen explains, while “it seems inconceivable that this young man could be on a life raft with all of these animals ... here is where the magic of the theater really works.” Audiences grapple with whether the animals truly were on that life raft with Pi, or whether they were symbolic, representing Pi’s family and his attempts to grapple with survival.

A large puppet of a zebra, maneuvered by three puppeteers, is led across the stage by actors during a rehearsal for "Life of Pi"
Sathya Sridharan (“Mamajhi/Pandit-Ji”); Rajesh Bose (“Father”); and puppeteers Avery Glymph, Andrew Wilson, and Betsy Rosen as “the Zebra” with Brian Thomas Abraham (“Cook,” behind) in rehearsal for Life of Pi
Lauren Miller American Repertory Theater