Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy holidays!

Dear readers,
I’ll be taking a short hiatus from DistrictBeat for the holidays, though if I hear of any good deals, I’ll be sure and post about them. I hope that your holidays are joyful, and that your travels are safe. I look forward to planning many more adventures together in the New Year.

Thank you for reading. Happy holidays and happy New Year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quick hit, not arts or culture but you have to get to the theater somehow. Important for all Washingtonians.

The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority has been saying for years that it was working with Google to add the Washington Metro and bus systems to Google Transit. This week they announced that it is not happening any time soon. Not only is Google Transit easier to use than WMATA’s site (even with the major upgrade), but the process of converting the data for GT’s use makes it easier to open up the information as opensource for others to create new ways for us to interact with it. Open data access is something I am a big proponent of.

GreaterGreaterWashington has a petition that already has over 700 signatures that they are taking to the metro board of directors. As a public agency, Metro deserves to hear from you. Please take a moment and sign the petition.

Quick hit: It’s powerful and well done, but brace yourself

Performance: Blackbird
Theater: Studio Theatre. 1501 14th St, NW
Metro stops: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line)
Genre: Drama
Cost: Starting at $36 with the student discount. They also have half price rush tickets 30 min before the show or you can usher (more here)
Dates: Through December 21Site: here

This will be a short review since Blackbird is only playing for a few more days. It is exceptionally well done. Both actors deliver wrenching performances. And yet, if I had to describe how I felt during the show, I would say that it made me want to vomit. It is an incredibly difficult subject matter and the author doesn’t pull any punches. I was supremely uncomfortable throughout and I was relieved only by the fact that there were 150 other people who were just as uncomfortable as I. But don’t take this to mean that you shouldn’t see it. It is theater that shocks you out of your complacency and that is exactly its intent. It is meant to jostle you, it is intended to disturb. It does not shock for shock's sake, but rather, it rattles your cage thoughtfully (if such a thing is possible). It is like tearing off a band-aid and seeing your humanity underneath. If you get a chance, or if you can’t get tickets to the Last Days of Judas Iscariot (which you should, but they only have tix for Saturday’s matinee left) then I definitely recommend that you go. Just bring some chocolate with you.

Quick hit: cram as many plays into 60 minutes as you can. I dare you.

Performance: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (with guest artists, the Neo-Futurists.)
Theater: Woolly Mammoth Theater, 641 D St, NW
Metro stops: Gallery Place-green/red or Archives/Navy Memorial-Green
Genre: an hour of amazing insanity
Cost: $30. If you have a fringe button you can get them for $20.
Dates: December 15-21 and December 26-January 4
Site: here

We saw TMLMTBGB this week. It’s still great. Go see it before it leaves. Please…

I have nothing new to say about it, but I do concur with this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

But I am le’ WOWed

Performance: Les Miserables
Theater: Signature Theater (4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA)
Metro: Pentagon (yellow and blue lines) and then a bus. Directions here.
Genre: The world’s favorite musical
Cost: from $30 or you can Usher. I am working on finding more deals
Dates: Extended thrugh February 22
Site: here
Rating: 5 “Starving Artists” (out of 5)

The problem with theater, especially musical theater, is that sometimes the audience can feel disconnected from the action. Theater is powerful because we, the audience, get to witness real people, having real emotion but the construct of the proscenium often separates us from those people. I saw a show last night that did not have that problem. Signature Theatre’s production of Les Misérables puts you on the Barricade.

Signature got special permission to do a production of Les Mis that is very different from the traditional staging. In fact, as I understand it, their agreement required that they omit certain iconic elements in order to ensure that this production was unique. Even thought it has a full cast and a large pit orchestra, the whole thing takes places in a black box theater that seats what I estimate to be about 100 people. Seats are set up on three full sides of the thrust so that the people find themselves no more than 5 rows from the action (or in the wrap-around balcony which is low and only a few rows deep). While the original production is often said to be powerful, this production is best described as intense, perhaps because you so intimately share the experience with the characters.

The performances in the show are, without exception, brilliant, though Helen Hayes nominee Felicia Curry stands out at Eponine. Her performance was wrenching. The visuals are also quite rousing. The use of black, white, and grey for the costumes and set make the very few hints of red stand out in a striking way. All told, this show is a must see. It is fresh take for fans of the show and it is a powerful experience for those who are new to it.

Discounts: I know that Signature is not the cheapest theater in town, by far. I can tell you this. I had a man on the inside who helped me to get tickets (he was, great in the show, btw). He has promised to keep me posted when deals become available and I’ll pass the information along. In the meantime, there are obstructed view seats for $30 and they are barely obstructed. Signature also does discount nights for students during previews, but we have missed it. Finally, I hear that it is a great place to usher and I will do my best of find more information. You can also call signature and follow the instructions to speak to the volunteer coordinator. (571) 527-1860. I’ll keep you posted when I hear about deals.

p.s. for those of you who didn't get the reference in the title.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Not Just Any Broadway Revival!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen. I am thrilled to present our first blog post, by my friend Jay. If you have DC arts and culture to review, send me an e-mail. And now, without further adieu:

Not Just Any Broadway Revival!!!The Musical "West Side Story" is coming to DC!! If you know anything about musical theater, you've probably heard of this show. It is considered to be one of the greatest all time classics. West Side Story first opened on Broadway in 1958. But before a musical comes to Broadway, it often performs for several weeks or months in another city in order to test it out in front of an audience. In 1957, West Side Story ran at the National Theater in Washington DC before coming to Broadway. To celebrate the show's 50th anniversary, a new production West Side Story will once again perform at The National Theater for about four weeks before it opens on Broadway in October of 2009.

This revival is reported to be radically different from any other production of West Side Story ever staged. The production will have Spanish interwoven throughout the dialogue and the songs, a new element never before included in the show. It is being directed by Arthur Laurents who wrote the book and also just won the Tony for best Director for the current Broadway production of Gypsy. The guy is really old!! This show is sure to sell out pretty quickly when it opens in New York so this is a great opportunity to see the show before anyone else. It is running from December 15th -January 17th and tickets range in price from about $50-$100 but students can get half-price tickets with a student ID. GO SEE IT!!!

Performance: West Side Story

Theater: National Theater (1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW)
Metro: Metro Center (blue/orange/red) Directions here.

Genre: Classic Musical

Cost: from $25 with student ID (must be picked up in person) for select performances.
Dates: Through January 15

Two great ways to see discount shows at the Arena Stage

Performance: Next to Normal
Theater: Arena Stage Crystal City (1800 Bell St, Arlington, VA)
Metro: Crystal City (Yellow and Blue) directions here.
Genre: Rock Musical
Cost: $10 on student night. $25 “New Deal” tickets.
Dates: Through January 18
Site: here

Word on the street is that the new Johnathan-Lawrson-esq show at the Arena Stage is great. It got some great reviews in its off-Broadway run and now it’s making its DC debut. It should be a lot of fun and they’ve create two great ways for young adults to see it for cheap:

  • Student Night: December 22nd is student night. Tickets are $10 plus fees. You CANNOT beat that. Reserve your ticket’s here. Use the code “STUDENT: Anybody want to go with me?

  • New Deal Seats: Arena knows there’s a financial crisis, and that we don’t have a ton of money to spend on arts. So, as of 12/12 they have released la limited number of $25 tickets to each of their shows this season. This is an amazing deal! In fact, they’re calling it the “New Deal”. We should all take advantage of it, if not for this show than the next. Maybe other theaters in the area will catch on. We should book soon because I am sure they will get scooped up quickly, if they haven’t already. Call (202) 488-3300 to make your reservations today. Here’s what’s left in the season.
EVERYONE should take them up on these offers. Please send e-mail my way if you want to go see Next to Normal with me. Here’s a video of the show:

But why was it a musical?

Performance: Gray Gardens
Theater: Studio Theatre. 1501 14th St, NW
Metro: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line
Genre: MusicalCost: Starting at $44 with the student discount. They also have half price rush tickets 30 min before the show or you can usher (more here)
Dates: Through January 4
Site: here
Rating: 2.5 Starving Artists (out of 5)

Gray Gardens is an interesting show. It’s a musical, based on the 1975 documentary of the same name, about an aging mother and her daughter, once American aristocracy, who live together in a ramshackle house in the Hamptons with dozens of cats, countless fleas, and a few raccoons. Edith and Edie Bouiver Beals are two… unique… women. At 79 and 56, they talk, not so much too each other, as near each other. The play tells the story of how this expansive estate(from which the play gets its name) went from being the summer retreat of Rockefellers and Kennedys to being the eyesore and health hazard that housed these two recursive women.

Now you may be asking, “but why would you make a musical out of this?” and so was I. It was, an interesting story, but not that interesting. It was well preformed, but not brilliantly. The music was good, but not amazing. And, at the end of the day, I just couldn’t figure out why they made it a musical. The most engaging parts were the scenes that took place in the 70’s (much of the first act was a flashback). The interplay between the two women was quirky and fun, but at the end of the day, I’d recommend renting the film and skipping the musical. That said, I hear great things about Blackbird, which is playing now at the Studio Theatre too and I’d recommend spending your money on that. We’re going to try and catch it this coming week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A second chance to see a powerful play

Performance: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Theater: H St Playhouse – 1365 H. St, NE (It’s a decent walk from Union Station (red line) or you can take the X2 bus from Gallery Place right to their front door. Check WMATA for suggestions.)
Genre: Drama, in the best way
Cost: $18 student ticketsDates: Through December 21
Site: here
Rating: The spring staging earned 5 “Starving Artists” (out of 5)

If you see one show this year, you should see this one.
This past April, Lady AWesome and I saw Forum Theater’s production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at the H St. Playhouse. We were both floored by the production. It is a really exceptionally written play that imagines Judas on trial in a modern courtroom for selling out Jesus. It deals creatively, and powerfully, with the ideas of good and evil, sin and sacrifice. Even as a non-Christian, I really connected to the show. Well, it’s coming back to the H St. Playhouse and you NEED to go see it before it leaves. I really agree the CityPaper’s City Desk, this was one of the best plays I have seen in this city and it was a DC Theater Scene’s audience choice award winner for best play of the year.

And, I have some great news. Tickets aren’t too expensive, but if you want to see the show for free, you can. I got an e-mail a few days ago saying that Forum is looking for ushers. As I have said before, I think that Ushering is a great way to see theater for free. If you’re interested, e-mail Rose.

I hope you will go see this show. It shouldn’t be missed. We may not go again, so share your thoughts below after you go see it. Yay comments!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

30 plays in 60 minutes is time enough for insanity

Performance: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (with guest artists, the Neo-Futurists.)
Theater: Woolly Mammoth Theater, 641 D St, NW (Metro stops: Gallery Place-green/red or Archives/Navy Memorial-Green
Genre: an hour of amazing insanity
Cost: Monday 12/15 is Pay-What-You-Can night. Tickets are $30. If you have a fringe button you can get them for $20.
Dates: December 15-21 and December 26-January 4
Site: here

Are you looking for a fun, energetic way to round out your year? Well I can think of no better way than spending an evening with the Neo-Futurists who are making their triumphant return to the Woolly Mammoth Theater this month. I don’t know how to describe their show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, except to say that it is crazy, intense, heart wrenching, serious, ridiculous fun. This zany troupe of actors has made a name for themselves in their home of Chicago, and all around the country for their shows where they frenetically attempt to squeeze 30 short plays into 60 minutes. We saw it last year and it is nothing less than manic, in the best possible way. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to spend an evening, and there are some great ways to see it for cheap:

  • Monday 12/15 is pay-what-you-can night. Some theaters in DC do this where they have a select night where you set the price. Lady AWesome and I are going. Shoot me an e-mail if you want to go. According to their website, here are the rules (I highly recommend you get there very early: “Tickets are sold at the theatre those evenings 90 minutes prior to showtime. Two per person, cash or check only.”

  • Fringe Button discount: Did any of you go to see any shows during the Capitol Fringe festival? Did you buy a button? If you did and you saved it (or if you are booking online) then they sent out an e-mail and posted to their website saying that you can get $20 tickets by using code 223. You can also still buy a button here, which is good for discounts all over town, all year. It’s a worthwhile investment.

  • Have you joined Goldstar yet? You can get all sorts of discount for DC arts and culture and the service is free. Register today. They are offering $15 tickets to TMLMTBGB (but there is a 4.50 service charge per ticket, grrr. But I guess that’s how they stay in business).

Let me know if you want to come see the show with us on Monday. It’s going to be a blast.

Two new shows at Studio

Performance: Gray Gardens
Theater: Studio Theatre. 1501 14th St, NW (Metro stops: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line)
Genre: Musical
Cost: Starting at $44 with the student discount. They also have half price rush tickets 30 min before the show or you can usher (more here)
Dates: Through January 4
Site: here

Performance: Blackbird
Theater: Studio Theatre. 1501 14th St, NW (Metro stops: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line)
Genre: Drama
Cost: Starting at $36 with the student discount. They also have half price rush tickets 30 min before the show or you can usher (more here)
Dates: Through December 21
Site: here

Lady AWesome and I are big fans of the Studio Theatre. We have enjoyed every show we have seen there. I have not yet seen Gray Gardens or Blackbird, but I hear great things about both.

There are some really excellent ways to get in to Studio at a discounted price or for free, which is why Lady Awesome and I go so frequently. Click here are three important tips on how. Lady AWesome and I will be ushering one or both of these shows in the next two weeks. If you are interested in joining us, shoot me an e-mail.

Going to the Studio Theatre for free or cheap

The Studio Theatre is, in my opinion, one of DC’s best theaters. They do innovative and powerful work at an incredibly high production value. Their main stage shows are always well cast, and well performed, and their smaller theater is a perfect place for an intimate drama. They find really interesting, modern work and they bring in fascinating guest artists. There is a nice mix of material, from The Road to Mecca to Jerry Springer, the Opera. And the best part is, there are 3 great ways to see theater there for free or cheap:
  • There is a $5 discount on all tickets with your student ID.
  • 30 min below each show, they do rush, except Saturday nights. If you have a student ID, tickets are half price. If you do not, then tickets are $30. Remember, this is based on availability, so you may want to call ahead to see if it looks like there will be tickets.
  • Usher, and you see the show for free. Lady AWesome and I have ushered at Studio a couple of times. You get to help out and you see the show for free. And the staff is really good about making sure you can see the whole show, though you may have to stand. This is a FANTASTIC way to see theater for free. If you are interested, e-mail to ask about availability. I highly recommend that all y’alls take advantage of this.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cirque... or a less expensive alternative

Performance: Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza
Theater: Plateau at National Harbor (not metro accessible)
Genre: Circus Arts
Cost: Student tickets start at $49.50
Dates: Through December 14Site: here
Rating: 5 “Starving Artists” (out of 5)

Wow. That’s really all I have to say about that. Just… wow. We just got back from Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza and once again they blew my mind. I know I risk sounding pretentious when I say this, but it was really one of the best Cirque shows I have seen (of the four I have seen live or the few others I have seen on Bravo.) Really, as Stads said in comments, if you have the money, cirque is worth the splurge. Student tickets can be as low as 49.50 (and there are no bad seats).

It is showing about 20 minutes from DC in the new, surreally artificial “National Harbor” convention center complex. It’s a bit of a trek, but definitely doable. This show had a plot, but unlike Corteo (the last cirque show I saw) it really adds to the experience while not distracting from it. Each act is better than the last but I have to agree with my friends who said that the “wheel of death” was the coolest. That said, the juggler was by far the best I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of jugglers. But really, cirque is not about the individual acts, it’s about eliciting a sense of wonder and transporting you to a surreal world where the impossible is possible. They seek to put the “arts” back into circus arts.

Kooza is playing in DC through December 14th and it easily earns 5 out of 5 on my “Starving Artists” rating system.

But I also promised a less expensive alternative and I shall deliver. New York’s Metropolitan Opera recently produced La Damnation de Faust, which was directed by Robert Lepage, a veteran of Cirque. Apparently he has incorporated a lot of cirque-like elements into Faust and the production is supposed to be excellent. It is showing in an HD broadcast via Fathom Events at movie theaters in the DC area today only (12/3). The closest to downtown is in Friendship Heights and it is showing at 7:00. There are also some other productions in MD and VA. The ticket cost is $18, which is definitely cheaper than cirque. If you like opera at all, I would definitely recommend you see this. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on it.

That’s all for now. Comment below if you end up seeing Faust and tell us if you liked it.

Performance: the Met presents La Damnation de Faust
Theater: Local movie theaters, including the AMC Mazza Gallerie (5300 Wisconsin Ave. NW)Genre: Opera and Circus Arts
Cost: $18
Dates: Today only (12/3) at 7:00
Site: here

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Very quick hit (because I am at work) on standup at 6th & I tonight

It’s my lunch hour but I wanted to take 5 to tell you about a cool event tonight (I can’t go, but you should):

The very funny boys from the comedy troop Stella, made up of Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black and David Wain, who are the masterminds of films like Wet Hot American Summer, will be at 6th and I Historic Synagogue tonight. I hear they give at great show and tix are only $27.50 in advance or 29.50 at the door. I hear they give a great show and I think you’d enjoy it. I highly recommend you check it out (and tell me how it was).

More info here and here

Monday, December 1, 2008

On Mondays I take trips to the doctor’s house.

Restaurant: Granville Moore’s Belgian Beer and Gastropub
Address: 1238 H St, NE
Metro: It’s a decent walk from Union Station (red line) or you can take the X2 bus from Gallery Place right to their front door.
Genre: Belgian (beer and mussels and fries.)
Cost: $10 mussels on Mondays 5:00-7:00, $16 at all other times though one order will probably be enough for two people.
Rating: 5/5 “Starving Artists”

Eating dinner at Granville Moore’s is like taking an evening vacation to Europe. Open the door and you find yourself instantly transported to a place that is both foreign and familiar. It is our neighborhood joint for a bit of Belgian flare.

Granville Moore’s Frittes, Ales, Moules (1238 H St, NE) is a truly European dining experience. A shining example of the gastropub tradition. The proprietors have converted a historic townhouse (where the original Dr. Moore practiced medicine for more than 50 years, often pro bono, in the mid 1900’s) into a stripped down bar/restaurant with a self described “healthy Belgian fetish”. The bare walls, exposed plaster, and original beams create a warm, intimate feel, where neighbors meet up for a drink or a bite. The food is always excellent, and the rotating menu of over 50 Belgian beers is an attraction in and of itself. Over all, it is the friendly dining experience that makes this one of my favorite spots in DC.

Monday nights have been mussels night in my life lately. Why not start your week with a happy hour special of $10 for chef Teddy Folkman’s signature dish (5:00-7:00 only)? It is definitely a great deal, although when Lady AWesome and I dine here we usually share an order of moules and an order of the frittes, and unless we are famished, that is enough. Even without the special, that is only 22.50 (plus beer, of course) for two people, which definitely ain’t bad.

Of all the Mussel preparations I have tried, the “fromage blue” (blue Cheese, local applewood bacon, shallots, spinach, white wine, lemon) is definitely my favorite. It is this dish that put Food Network’s Bobby Flay to shame on a recent episode of Throwdown. That said, the “biere” and “fungi” versions of the mussel dish are also delicious. As a side dish (or for those of you who don’t eat shellfish [Abs and Gords, I know you are loyal readers and I don’t want to leave you out]) don’t forget to order some of Chef Teddy’s Belgian frittes (fries). The well seasoned pieces of potato are great alone but they also come with a few of GM’s inventive dipping sauces (I strongly recommend the chipotle mayo or the bacon-chive, but again I neglect the kosher folk).

As far as beer goes, I usually ask for recommendations from the bartender. The staff are usually well trained in the types of Belgian beers and they should be able to help you find one you like. A few that I have had recently that were good and reasonably priced were the Bink Blonde in the blonde/golden category, the Blanche de Bruxelles in the wit beers (wheat beers), and the Karmeliet in the tripel category. All were great.

All of this comes together in a restaurant that I have no hesitation in giving a 5 out of 5 on my scale of “Starving Artists”. Both the food and the atmosphere can best be described as hearty. So I guess what I’m saying is that if you haven’t made it to Granville Moore’s in Northeast DC yet, you should get there soon. And if you’re going, give me a call, I’m only a few blocks away and I’ll come meet you. I never need much convincing to pay them a visit. See you there. –20Something.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.