Weekly Culture Review: Bill Maher, the Tonys, and a Trumpian “Julius Caesar

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Like so many weeks lately, this one has been both glorious and tragic, and culture has reflected that. On Sunday, the day of a Tony Awards that featured delights (“Great Comet” live!) and winces (Kevin Spacey as Johnny Carson!), Delta announced that it was withdrawing support of the Public Theatre because of a Trumpish version of “Julius Caesar,” and Bank of America followed suit. That day, I took in another timely revival: the Red Bull Theatre’s fizzy new production of Gogol’s “The Government Inspector,” which, in Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation, makes its eerily resonant themes about corruption, vanity, and human cravenness feel like a very good time. The Public, of course, is far from the only politically vulnerable arts organization. Last week, the investigative-theatre company the Civilians sent an urgent e-mail to supporters, quoting the White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who recently called the Civilians’ science-focussed show “The Great Immensity,” from 2014, “a waste of your money” and a reason to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. It was a rough week in other respects as well. The anniversary of the Pulse night-club massacre, in Orlando, fell just before a terrible day of mass shootings, including at a Republican practice for the Congressional Baseball Game. Jia Tolentino reported from the sad and surreal Bill Cosby sexual-assault trial, which stretched on in Pennsylvania, and Doreen St. Félix wrote about Bill Maher’s weird, effortful apology for saying the N-word. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in his Senate testimony, further heightened the week’s surreality. There were, however, some bright spots. Monday marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia ruling, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws in the U.S.; read my colleagues Lauretta Charlton, on a moving video inspired by Loving, and David Muto, on a Japanese-American lawyer in the case who established the laws’ basis in white supremacy. Tracy K. Smith, whose poem “Wade in the Water” appeared in last week’s magazine, became the Poet Laureate. David Weigel, the intrepid Washington Post political reporter, explores an appealing alternate reality—that of prog rock—with incisive brio in his new book, “The Show That Never Ends,” which Kelefa Sanneh wrote about this week. And I’ve been enjoying the new podcast “Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty,” in wide release this weekend, about the amazing life of the late hip-hop manager. It introduced me to a terrific song I somehow missed in my youth: “J Beez Comin’ Through,” by the Jungle Brothers, which bops along with a jauntiness that, after repeat listens, I have even started to feel.

Catch up on more of the week in culture:

Bill Maher’s Weird, Effortful Apology for Saying the N-Word,” by Doreen St. Félix. In a spectacle of racial catharsis, a parade of black guests went on Maher’s HBO show to chastise him for his flippant use of the slur.

Photograph by Joan Marcus

In Defense of the Trumpian ‘Julius Caesar,’ ” by Rebecca Mead. Art is not life, and giving Shakespeare’s play a contemporary resonance does not amount to an endorsement of assassination.

Photograph by Matt Rourke / AP

The Twisted Argument of Bill Cosby’s Defense,” by Jia Tolentino. The comedian’s lawyers have argued that the incident for which he is on trial, an alleged rape, should be viewed in a romantic context.

Photograph Courtesy Everett Collection

My Twenty-Five Best Films of the Century So Far,” by Richard Brody. These are the films that I’ve watched and rewatched, and that I’m impatient to watch again.

Photograph Courtesy Warner Music Group

The War on Drugs’s Tribute to the ‘Loving’ Decision,” by Lauretta Charlton. The video for “Holding On” is a plainspoken, cinematic tribute to love, interracial marriage, and small-town American values.