Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Belated Snow Day post #3: A cover for every pot, (but this was not my cover)

Performance: Mommy Queerest
Theater
: Theater J, 1529 16th Street NW
Metro Stops: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line. Directions
here.
Genre: Gay? Jewish? Seinfeld-ian? Definitely a comedy

Cost: All tickets are half price for people 35 and under (and the Sunday shows are only $30 to begin with). Get $10 off tickets before Dec 16thwith promo code TJ10. Also goldstar has tickets starting at $15.
Rating: 2/5 Starving Artists.

In the history of popular culture, there have been a number of things that I didn’t like, even though everyone else seemed to. Skip-it, Halo 2, 30 Rock, and LOLcats are just a few examples. So I have considered the possibility that I am not to be trusted as an authority on all things popular. It is with this caveat that I tell you how much I didn’t like Mommy Queerest, the newest show at Theater J. Much of the rest of the audience seemed to be really enjoying themselves while I twiddled my thumbs. The crickets in my head were befuddled by the laughter around me. So take my word for it, if you want.

Mommy Queerest is the new one-woman show by the humorist Judy Gold. This is the second time she’s brought a show to Theater J (the first was 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother). This production is a world première and it certainly feels pretty rough. The basic premise is that Judy has always felt that her life would make a great sitcom. She is a huge fan of the sitcoms of her childhood. All the hits of the 60s and 70s get a mention. And so she makes references to The Brady Bunch and The Waltons, with which she draws loose parallels with stories about her life. Judy want to make it very clear that she is a 6 foot tall, Jewish, lesbian, mother of two, and so she repeats this phrase a number of times, to diminishing humorous effect. The TV executives she parodies seem to think that these characteristics that would be fitting for a quirky neighbor on a sitcom, but wouldn’t not make for a great principal, and I’m inclined to agree (sorry Judy). I can only hear how her life was a little bit like Bewitched, or strangely similar to Gilligan’s Island so many times before things start to get repetitive. There were a few funny lines, but nothing memorable. The whole thing feels like a gimmicky standup routine; a boat with too many holes in it to safely carry us for an hour and fifteen minutes.

But then again, everyone else was laughing (or at least it felt like it). And these weren’t courtesy laughs. People seemed to legitimately enjoy it. The girl next to me said she loved it, and that Judy had basically described her childhood. Other than the tired clichés and stereotypes from the bottom of the comedy barrel, I didn’t identify strongly with her story. Comedy is an interesting beast. When performed well, a routine’s specificity is universal. More than once I’ve heard stories where Jewish comedians are told that their familial reminiscences are perfect descriptions of someone else’s Korean family. And I’ve heard this story told using any two ethnicities (which I guess goes to prove the point even further). But I couldn’t really find my life in Judy’s because hers felt like an amalgamation TV’s least funny stereotypes.

The whole thing left me with a feeling of simulated nostalgia. I got that she was reminiscing, but I wasn’t able to go there with her. And I did not think this was generational, as that girl next to me that I mentioned before was younger than me. So, the whole thing felt like C-rate material in an A-rate venue. Kinda disappointing.

But don’t take my word for it…. DC Theatre scene called it a warm and funny delight.

Quick hit: From AWesome to SOmething

Hey all you DB fans. By now you've eaten your fried food, ham, harvest items, or similarly appropriate holiday food or you've demonstrated your feats of strength, and now you are bored and waiting for that New Year's celebration to come around.

While you wait, I write to provide an exciting news item for fans of the blog:

Lady AWesome is going to become Lady SOmething!
Last Wednesday, DB's founder and primary writer, 20something, asked his girlfriend and and DB contributor Lady AWesome to marry him (and she said yes of course)! Fear not - they will both continue to provide you the low-down on all things cool in the District. Oh, and she's not actually going to change her handle to lady SOmething. We just thought that was funny.

There isn't to much else to report as most of the acting and music worlds are celebrating the holidays as well. We look forward to sharing "All The News That's Fit To Print" on DC arts and culture on the cheap as soon as 2010 is official.

Have a happy and safe new year.

- theClubScout

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow day review #2: Maybe bronze, probably not Solid Gold

Performance: The Solid Gold Cadillac
Theater: Studio Theatre. 1501 14th St, NW
Metro stops: Dupont Circle -Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line
Genre: $inderella meets Wall $treet
Cost: Tickets are $50+. There are student rush tickets (when available) 30 min before the show for $19 or you can usher (more here). Also, keep your eyes open for Goldstar discount tix.
Dates: Through January 10
Rating: 3/5 stars

I'm going to keep this one brief. My basic point is that if you are going to see a play this season, and you are deciding between this show and the one I just posted about (the Fantasticks), then definitely see the latter. Studio Theatre's Solid Gold Cadillac was nothing special. It was good, and interesting, but didn't stand out in any way. Nancy Robinette was definitely the strongest part of the show in the leading role as Laura Partridge, but even she didn't blow our minds. It seems that everyone is pretty excited about how well this 1953 Broadway hit holds up, and how relevant it seems to be. I too, was impressed with this, but after about 15 minutes, that fact lost its luster. Then we were left with a play that was funny, but not riotous, and relevant but not specific. Ultimately, though there was nothing wrong with this play, there wasn't anything particularly special about it either, and for that reason alone, I think you have better options around town this season.


Now, I'm going to go make grilled cheese and tomato soup, because that's what you do on snow days.

Snow day review #1: Do you believe in magic?

Performance: The Fantasticks
Theater: Arena Stage at the Lincoln Theater ( 1215 U Street, NW,)
Metro: U St station. Directions here.
Genre: Musical
Cost: $10 for the under 30 if you call the week of the show. $25 “New Deal” tickets for anyone (call for these as well). And there are $35 tix from Goldstar for those who are over 30 and miss new deal.
Dates: Through January 10
Rating: 4/5 Starving Artists


I’ll start out by saying that I’m a big fan of magic. I always have been. In fact, there was a time when I aspired to be an armature magician (“aspiring to be an armature” about explains how good I was). So, the new production of The Fantasticks at Arena Stage had me at “tah-dah”. From the very first moments of this play, when the narrator conjures flowers and actors from nowhere, you know this is going to be a very different theater experience. Was it an amazing theater experience? No, probably not. But it sure was different.

Arena offers an intriguing reimagining of the play that holds the distinction of being the world’s longest running show (17,162 performances off-Broadway from 1960 to 2002). Director Amanda Dehnert has set all of the action in an abandoned amusement park. This accomplishes two things: first, it let’s the fairytale elements of the show flourish in a more imaginative, less literal environment. Second, it gives her an excuse to infuse the whole show with magic. Not the “magic of theater” mind you. Like real, excellently executed, Vegas style magic. These are more than just parlor tricks; they are startlingly grand illusions. Lady AWesome pointed out that the magic was so good that it occasionally distracted from the rest of the show. I too spent entire scenes trying to figure out how they did this or that. But all told, I thought the illusions were the strongest part of the show.

Which is to say that the production is not without its flaws. The original staging was in a theater small enough to spit across. In U St’s beautiful Lincoln Theatre (which is probably too big to shout across) the play gets a little lost. It feels as if it was stretched to fit the space, and in some places it’s been pulled a little too thin. Not all of the singing was as strong as I wanted it to be. Most notably, Sebastian La Cause seemed to really struggle as the play’s narrator and trickster, El Gallo. He, and most of the others give solid performances, but the music seems to have been made subservient to the more technical aspects of the show. I should say that Addi McDaniel was quite good as Luisa, but If you’re going to direct an iconic musical like the Fantasticks, I’m not sure you should sell the music part so short.

But when all is said and done, I’m happy that magic is appearing in more DC theaters. Lady AWesome and I LOVED the version of Macbeth we saw at Folger last year, which was directed by Teller (yes, of Penn and Teller). And in both cases, the magic was more than just a trick to keep your attention. It added to the sense of fantasy and mystery at the heart of both shows. I think that this unique take makes this production worth seeing, in spite of its occasional failings. So go take a look and then make some comments appear below to tell us what you thought.

And yes, I was ashamed of some of those magic puns back there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keeping You In The Musical Know (Holiday Edition)

Life is busy. We’ve all been buying holiday presents, making travel plans, watching Glee (yup, so what if I like it?), and (hopefully) filling ourselves with holiday cheer. While I’m pretty on top of all of that stuff, I often forget to plan what to do with that extra evening, day off, or free time that seems to magically appear at the last moment. If I had a nickel for every time I was left looking for an activity or show at the last second, I’d have – somewhat ironically – more money to use for activities and shows.

So – in keeping with my goals, I humbly submit for the approval of the midnight society a list of upcoming musical events that I’m betting you have not yet noticed that might peak your interest. I hope to attend a few of these. See you there!


- theClubScout


PS - Feel free to leave a comment below if you know of any other awesome music coming to DC in December or January. I'm always listening...



Fri 12/18 - The Greyboy Allstars @ the 9:30 Club ($25) - Make yourself a sandwich with funk and jazz spread all over two slices of jam band and you can taste what these guys do. I’ve never seen them live, but I have their CDs and I’d really like to go to a show.

Web: http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?orgid=3595&pid=6628498

Go if: You love meandering jams, you love an awesome groove.


Fri 12/24 @ 6PM – All Star Jazz Jam @ the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center (Free!!) – I’ve had real hit or miss experiences going to jazz. Its like a conversation – I often leave a show saying either: “We really connected” or “I don’t know what the hell he was talking about”. For this reason, I love when jazz is cheap or free – if I don’t get it, I can call it “a learning experience” rather than “an expensive way to feel dumb”. These dudes are all really good, the singer will keep them from going too far into Coltrane weirdness, and the price is right. Free shuttle from the Foggy Bottom Metro.

Web: http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=searchDay&bmonth=12&byear=2009&bday=25

Go if: You’ve got some time on your hands, if you love jazz, or if you live nearby.


Tues 12/29 @ 7PM – The Roots @ the 9:30 Club ($45) – These guys are currently the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. They have a rapper and a tuba guy – need I say more? They are a true hip-hop band (rather than a group with pre-recorded music) and have won a Grammy (I think for being the coolest guys out there).

Web: http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?orgid=3595&pid=6640937

Go if: You love hip-hop, but really appreciate when the beats and melodies are created on something other than a computer.


Thurs 1/7 @ Time TBD - THE GRAHAM KEIR GROUP FEATURING LENA SEIKALY @ Twins Jazz ($TBD) – A Jazz Guitar based quartet with an added vocalist – I’ve been looking for a great player who recognizes the classics (Wes Montgomery, George Benson), but has a modern touch. Rumor has it that Graham Keir is that kind of player and I intend to find out for sure. Lena Seikaly is the guest vocalist.

Web: This show is still somewhat secret. Check the Twins Jazz site for updates here: http://www.twinsjazz.com/performances.htm

Go if: You get jazz – this one is less for the "Oh jazz - what's that?" type and more for the "check out those dissonant chords!" type.


Sat 1/9 @ 8PM – Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band @ the Rock and Roll Hotel ($15) - Chopteeth is a 14-piece Afrofunk orchestra with lots going on. They do songs that merge African and American style with funky guitars and a horn section and have former members of Busta Rhymes, Toots and the Maytals, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Gladys Knight & the Pips. I have a live recording of theirs and really like it. Tickets are cheap and this place is right in the heart of town.

Web: http://www.ticketalternative.com/Events/8719.aspx

Go if: You love Jackson Browne, African Music, and all things in between.


Sat 1/16 @ 7:30PM - Eddie from Ohio @ the Birchmere ($35) - These guys do something along the lines of alternative folk music (if that genre even exists) and do it really (really) well. They have phenomenal voices and are fun to watch.This show is a little far off, but tickets will be gone before too long so I thought I'd pass it on.

Web: http://www.ticketmaster.com/search?keyword=Eddie%20From%20Ohio

Go if: You love great harmonies, acoustic stuff, and a wholesome good time.


Happy Chrismahanaquanzika (or Festivus!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quick Hit: Stand-up + Music + Gay Jewish Mothers

Performance: Mommy Queerest
Theater
: Theater J, 1529 16th Street NW
Metro Stops: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line. Directions here.
Genre: Gay? Jewish? Seinfeld-ian? Definitely a comedy
Cost:
All tickets are half price for people 35 and under (and the Sunday shows are only $30 to begin with). Get $10 off tickets before Dec 16th with promo code TJ10. Also goldstar has tickets starting at $15.
PWYC: Dec. 16th.
We're going: Dec. 20 (Opening and Press night)

They say: Judy Gold, star of the critically acclaimed 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, is back in this hysterical coming-of-age memoir with music about Judy's life-long love affair with sitcoms and her professional quest to finally land a TV show of her own. But is America ready for a gay, kosher, 6'3" feminist SEINFELD with two kids, one bathroom, and weekly trips to the nursing home? And why can't Judy get legally married in the state of New York anyway? Funny, biting, revealing, and very timely.

We say: Two years ago, Theater J hosted Judy Gold's one-woman show 25 Questions, and they've brought her back again, this time with music. I'm not familiar with her, but you can check out a bunch of youtube clips to get some samples of her sense of humor. ("Judy Gold in an Atlanta hotel" is lame, but the others are funny). 20something and I are excited to go to the opening night production and will be sure to report back.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quick Hit: Neo-Futurists come back for another 30 plays

Performance: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
Theater:
Woolly Mammoth Theater, 641 D St, NW
Metro:
Gallery Place-green/red or Archives/Navy Memorial-Green. Directions here.
Genre:
You name it, it happens
Cost:

All tickets are $30, goldstar has $15 tickets for limited dates
Dates:
Through January 2
We're going: Unfortunately, we won't make it this year. But you should go and let us know how it is. (and comment below)

They say: An underground Chicago favorite, this long-running late-night hit returns to Woolly with brand new material. The eccentric Neo-Futurists race against the clock to perform 30 miniature plays in 60 breathless minutes. With a menu of vignettes ranging from zany to risqué to profound, it's the perfect interactive holiday treat for DC's quickwitted audiences.

The Neo-Futurists, creators of over 60 original, full-length productions, are a collective of wildly productive writer/director/performers who create immediate, non-illusory, interactive and head slappingly affordable performances. From their theater above a Chicago funeral home, they have toured from San Francisco to Romania and won the coveted Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival. Their acclaimed play 43 Plays for 43 Presidents was performed for President Jimmy Carter (he liked it!).

We say: We've seen this show twice before and had a blast both times. The show is engaging and entertaining and eccentric. The Neo-Futurists put together 30 disparate mini-plays, all of them unique. The combination provides plenty of laughs, a fair share of thought provoking moments, a tad of improv and enough energy to remind you why we all love going to shows at Woolley. Check out last year's review for more details.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Quick Hit: PWYC Saturday

Performance: The Solid Gold Cadillac
Theater: Studio Theatre. 1501 14th St, NW
Metro stops: Dupont Circle -Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line
Genre: $inderella meets Wall $treet
Cost: Tickets are $50+. There are student rush tickets (when available) 30 min before the show for $19 or you can usher (more here). Also, keep your eyes open for Goldstar discount tix.
Dates: Through January 10
PWYC: TOMORROW (Saturday) 2pm. Tickets on sale at 12pm

They say: Written in 1953, Howard Teichmann and George S. Kaufman's lost American classic percolates with startling contemporary resonance. A "fairy tale" disguised in farce, this play follows the trials and travails of Mrs. Laura Partridge, a minor stockholder in a major corporation. In this farcical Cinderella story, big business meets its match when Mrs. Partridge takes on the big, bad, board of directors, ultimately bringing the executives to their knees. A true David and Goliath story, The Solid Gold Cadillac underscores the power of the individual in the face of corporate corruption.

We say: The Solid Gold Cadillac is the second of three "money plays" that Studio is doing this season. We saw the first, Adding Machine: A Musical, earlier in the fall. Cadillac sounds a bit lighter than that dark, cacophonous musical. Hopefully the $econd of the $eries will be just as $uccessful. Also, check out the WashPost interview with the actors.

We usher at Studio all of the time and highly recommend that as a fun way to see the show and volunteer at the same time. If you are looking for something to do in the middle of the day on Saturday, go to their Pay-What-You-Can show. We can't make it, but if you go, let us know how it is.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

LAST WEEK TO SEE TWO IMPRESSIVE SHOWS

Two wonderful shows are closing this Sunday, and there are some great deals to see them. If you are going to be around DC for the weekend, and you're looking for something to do (besides on Thursday, of course) I've got two great tips for you.

Performance: Angels in America
Theater: Forum Theatre, now at Round House, 8641 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (next to the AFI movie theater)
Metro stops: Red Line, Silver spring
Genre: Political and social dram-mentary
Cost: $25, $15 for under 30.
Dates: Through Nov 22
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Starving Artists

I already wrote about Part 1: Millennium Approaches. All I can say is that part two was even better. Even the parts of the first half that annoyed me are less noticeable in the second part. I discussed it with Lady AWsome and our friends Z and M and we've decided you don't need to see the first part in order to see the second. If you can find a friend to give you a 5 minute explanation of Millennium Approaches (or you can read this), you should be fine. If you can only see one part, make sure it's the second. It's a bit on the long side, but definitely worth seeing.

Performance: Full Circle
Theater: Woolly Mammoth Theater, 641 D St, NW
Metro:
Gallery Place-green/red or Archives/Navy Memorial-Green. Directions here.
Genre:
Political satire, or so says nytimes
Cost:
For the final week of the show, all remaining tickets are $15 when you order online and use the promo code 710. How cool is that.
Dates:
Through Nov 29
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Starving Artists

Last week was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I hate to date myself like this (thought "20Something" is kinda a giveaway anyway) but that means I was 4 years old when the wall fell. So needless to say, the time period isn't etched into my memory like it is for people who are a bit older. I wasn't an avid consumer of news on world affairs when I was 4. Surprised?

But none of this makes Full Circle, the play currently being produced by at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company any less accessible. The play takes place on the eve of the fall of the wall, and mentions a number of historical figures and events. I have to say that a little history about some of these might have been helpful, but it certainly wasn't a breaking point (see below for a Wikipedia reading list)

But what makes this play truly interesting and unique has nothing to do with the subject matter. The most intriguing part of the play is the staging. The production is part of a movement of site specific works called Environmental Theater. The action takes place all over the building, and the audience literally follows the actors as they move from scene to scene and room to room. It's definitely one of the most thought provoking productions I've seen in a long time. If you're in the mood for something completely different, this is the play to see (just wear comfy shoes).

Wikipedia reading list:
Berlin wall
Erich Honecker
Environmental Theater
Heiner Müller
Berliner Ensemble

Monday, November 23, 2009

Music Mondays: The Beat Goes On

I love music - not the fleeting way in which people have loved dancing wedding ceremony videos or POGs (remember those?); this is a long term love affair that began in the early 80's. Pots and pans from age three (favorite record to jam to was Steve Winwood), saxophone from age eight, guitar from age seventeen, and a cappella in college.

While I can't comment on whether or not I have musical talent, I can claim to have experienced ears. They have listened to thousands of CDs (first one was "So Much for the Afterglow"), downloads (ahh..., college), video views (Youtube murdered my free time), and concerts (from performing and viewing vantage points).

I hold a special place in my heart for live music - no recording can capture the sounds, sights, and smells of a live show. There is a certain thrill associated with going to a stadium and singing dancing with the masses, though I find it no less exciting (and sometimes far better) to see a musician up close in a small bar or club where the music jumps out at you and there is always the possibility that you just might make some personal connection to the music, venue, or performer.

I am thrilled to be guest writing on District Beat. If you've read the blog before, you know that DC is a veritable beehive of music and culture; it seems quiet from the outside, but look more carefully and there are tons of amazing things happening. If you've lived in DC for a while, you also probably know that you won't find many of the places that make DC one of the best cities for young people in guidebooks or on the "main drag" - you need to know someone who has that inside view. Someone who knows where to look and whom to ask for all the cool stuff going on in this town. Lest you forget - 20Something is still your theater theologist, your cultural curator, and your local liaison to all things artistic in Capitol City. I just hope to open new doors for you in the realm of local live music. Maybe one day I'll be considered your music maven or your reverend of all things rock, but, at least for the moment, I'll keep the my head out of the clouds and just hope to bring you the best of the best that DC music has to offer.

So, for the next few months, I'll be scouring DC for stadium acts and dive bar house bands and all things in between. I'll look through calendars at jazz bars, metal clubs, coffee houses, and area theaters. I have two simple goals: 1. To share great venues and artists with you, and 2. To show you how much there is in this city. Look for posts from me a 2-3 times a month (on "Music Mondays") and feel free to post comments on what I write and email me (theclubscout@gmail.com) with any interesting upcoming shows.

"The music is all around you. All you have to do is listen" ~August Rush

Monday, November 2, 2009

Yonkers is just fun to say

Performance: Lost in Yonkers
Theater
: Theater J, 1529 16th Street NW
Metro Stops: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line. Directions here.
Genre: Dramedy
Cost:
All tickets are half price for people 35 and under (and the Sunday shows are only $30 to begin with). Goldstar has tickets starting at $12.50
Rating: 4/5 Starving Artists

In 1991, a new play premiered in DC, by a well known playwright. The play received mediocre to awful reviews. The chief drama critic for the Post, Lloyd Rose, wrote that the playwright "has been writing plays for 30 years and he still can't handle the basic elements of dramaturgy." The play then went to Broadway, where it continued to receive some mediocre reviews. Later that year, it also won the Pulitzer Prize. It ran on Broadway for two more very successful years, and was made into a film in 1993, staring Richard Dreyfuss. I think that this is an important lesson for us critics. Sometimes we have no idea what we are talking about (maybe most of the time for me). That play, btw, was Lost in Yonkers, which is being staged in DC for the first time since its 1991 debut. Theater J rolls out the red carpet for Neil Simon's triumphant return, in the hopes of redeeming the play in the eyes of Washingtonians, and I think they may just have done it. The production is, over-all, very strong. There are a few really fun performances, and a strong vision for the design. Tana Hicken and Holly Twyford are particularly noteworthy as Grandma and Bella. Twyford's performance is full of joy and warmth, and Hicken's presence on stage is enthralling. It was fun to see them reunited, as we enjoyed them both in Studio's Road to Mecca (back before I was blogging). And I thought that the 16 year old Max Tallsman was really great as the young Max, who, along with his brother Jay (Kyle Schliefer), is the central character of the play.

There were a lot of really interesting design decisions. I thought the set was wonderful. Daniel Conway does a great job of recreating Grandma's Yonkers apartment, in which the play is set. There were a lot of very subtle touches – like having a breeze come through an open widow and rustle the curtains – that really brought the environment to life. And the sepia color scheme gave everything the feeling of being set in a sort of timeless past.

I was really intrigued by Director Jerry Whiddon's decision to have the actors use some old time comedy timing that was reminiscent of an Abbot and Costello sketch. It's hard to explain what I mean here, but it's a kind of old fashioned timing and over the top delivery of which the Marx Brothers would have been proud. It seems Whiddon had two choices: either to go for a more lifelike bent like this, or to give it a more classic comedy feel like this (sorry for the high school production in that link, but it was the best example I could find). Either would be ok, but his route does not do too much to help you connect with the characters. Perhaps this style is somewhat implied by the setting of the play and its banter-ish dialogue, but I was still struck by how strongly they went in this direction. I'm not sure if I loved it, but I was impressed with the consistency of the approach. It was used appropriately throughout.

I'm not sure why the show got so thoroughly panned in '91. It's an interesting little piece, though perhaps a little predictable. It has some interesting characters with a fair amount of depth and humor. I can't tell you exactly why the critics didn't get the show in 1991, but I'm glad that it's back so we can give it a second chance.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Super quick hit: Kennedy center Discount

They Kennedy Center has discounts for 25 & under through their ATTEND discount program. The full list is here. Check out especially August: Osage County tickets for $20. I'd make this post longer but the tickets go so fast I don't want you to waste your time reading this. Go buy tickets before they sell out!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quick Hit: Perfect for Halloween

Performance: Blood Sweat & Fears II
Theater: Molotov Theater Group, 1409 Playbill Café, 1409 14th Street NW
Metro stops: Dupont Circle-Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line
Genre: Gore-fest
Cost: $18, Goldstar has $9 tickets
Dates: Thought Oct 31
We're going: Oct 30, Wanna Come?

They say: The show is a cabaret-style production of three Grand Guignol one-act plays, with needlessly amped-up sex, drugs, rock and roll, blood and appalling behavior with stuffed animals. "This is pretty typical for a Molotov production – weird, gratuitous, and sophomoric. If you sit in the first few rows of the theater during the show, you might want to wear clothes you don't mind getting a little wet – or maybe a poncho. There's a good chance of some random fluids flying around, and we can't guarantee where they'll all spray."

We say: This production has gotten a pretty mediocre review from DC Theatre Scene. They are probably right that this isn't great theater, but if you are in the mood for quality, a show that warns you not to sit in the front row is probably not what you would pick. It should, however, be a great way to celebrate Devil's Night. Molotov's mission is "To revive the style of the Parisian 'Grand Guignol' horror plays - dramas that deal with macabre subjects and often graphic violence." The Grand Guignol was a Parisian theater that specialized in realistic but over-the-top horror plays. I'm not sure how Molotov does during the rest of the year, but I bet they make a killing in October. If you're in for some unnecessary violence, you should email us and come too.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Angels in America, Part I=nearly perfect

Performance: Angels in America
Theater: Forum Theatre, now at Round House, 8641 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (next to the AFI movie theater)
Metro stops: Red Line, Silver spring
Genre: Political and social dram-mentary
Cost: $25, $15 for under 30. Update: Goldstar has tickets for 12.50 but there are $4 in service fees. Might be good if you are over 30 though.
Dates: Through Nov 22
Rating for Part I: 4/5 Starving Artists
We're going: Part II - ? Pick a date and we'll come with you!

Angels in America tells a captivating story. Lady AWesome pointed out that it's hard to ruin material as good as this. It's Tony Kushner's epic. But this is not to say that Forum isn't up to the challenge either. The Playbill's note from artistic director Michael Dove says that AIA is the "most Forum play possible", and I totally see it. This play is unique and challenging, but not at all inexcusable, and it's right up Forum's alley. They tackle the work with the kind of fresh eyes that we have come to expect from this young company, now in it's 6th season and new home at Roundhouse's Silver Spring stage. All told, it's a great work, and for the most part the team was up to the challenge.

I say "for the most part" because there were a few elements that didn't do it for me. I was saddened by how un-compelling I found two of the main actors (Daniel Eichner as Joe Pitt and Alexander Strain as Louis Ironson). I've seen both before, and once again I found them to be uninspiring. And yet, they keep popping up at theaters around the city, so other people must like them. Maybe it's just me. Hmm…. These two dull performances were certainly well compensated for by an otherwise marvelous cast. Casie Platt is particularly striking as Harper and Karl Miller is fantastic as Prior Walter.

I loved the set by Tony Cisek! The back of the stage is draped with a giant tarp that sort of press down on the stage. It is as if the weight of the world is crushing the characters and it adds a sense of forebodingness and gloom that services the story well. Light and sound (designed by Colin K. Bills and Matt Neilson respectively) are also used to good effect to create as sense of palpable tension on stage. This is yet another simple and well thought out production by the team at Forum.

BE FOREWARNED: this is a 3 hour and 20 minute play with two intermissions. It does not feel long at all, but I think all three of us who went that night were a little tired by the end. None of us were sad we went, but we might have rested in preparation if we had known. We are all three excited to see part II if that tells you anything. And, if you'd like to join us, shoot me an e-mail and we'll count you in.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It’s not that it wasn’t interesting…

Performance: 4.48 Psychosis
Theater: Factory 449, 1021 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Metro stops: Mount Vernon Sq or Chinatown
Genre: Drama (with a capital "D")
Cost: $20 (sorry no special deals, but $20 isn't bad)
Dates: Through Oct. 25
Rating: 2.5/5 Starving artists

I've been putting off telling you my thoughts on this show for a couple of weeks, and I know this doesn't do you any good, so I apologize. The problem is this: I know what to say when I love or hate a performance. It's the ones in the middle that are the issue. How do I tell you about a show to which I was indifferent? Though, perhaps, that's all you need to know.

This production has been getting rave reviews, so you don't have to take my word for it, but it didn't do much for me. I thought it was a fascinating take on the inner workings of a suicidal mind, and I might have loved to read it in a book, but it didn't captivate me on stage. The production was strong. A cast of 10 people stood on chairs and portrayed the various voices in the playwright's mind. Knowing that this was the last play that British playwright Sarah Kane wrote before she died made it all the more intense. The writing felt like free form poetry, streaming consciousness without much need for lucidity or sense-making. And all that's cool, but after a few minutes, I felt like I got it, and my understanding didn't grow as the show went on.

The show is well staged and well preformed by all, and I commend Factory 449 for tackling this difficult piece. I get why this did well at fringe this year. It is very… fringy, and that is not always a bad thing. But outside of that context, it just didn't do much for me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quick Hit: At Lost!

Performance: Lost in Yonkers
Theater
: Theater J, 1529 16th Street NW
Metro Stops: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line. Directions here.
Genre: Jewish, but not too Jewish
Cost:
PWYC Oct 21 and 22, $30 preview Oct 24 and 25 matinee, all tickets are half price for people 35 and under (and the Sunday shows are only $30 to begin with). Goldstar has tickets starting at $12.50
We're going: Not sure yet. Let us know when you want to go.

They say: In a remarkable coming-of-age story that won 4 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, two brothers are left to fend for themselves in a dysfunctional household with their formidable immigrant grandmother, sweet but simple-minded aunt and a hoodlum of an uncle. This classic American tale is simultaneously comic and poignant.

We say: Theater J's production of Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize winning play looks like it has potential. We attended the season preview event and caught a glimpse of the very young Max Talisman in action. During the discussion at that event, there was a lively debate about what gives a play Jewish content and how much "Jewish" needs to be in a play for it to make Theater J's list. There was obviously no consensus on these more rhetorical questions, but there was a consensus that for potential patron who might be concerned that plays at Theater J are too "Jew-y," Lost in Yonkers might be a good way to ease into their season. Theater J also frequently hosts talk-backs and post-show discussions. Check out the schedule here.

Quick hit: Wear comfortable shoes?!?

Performance: Full Circle
Theater:
Woolly Mammoth Theater, 641 D St, NW
Metro:
Gallery Place-green/red or Archives/Navy Memorial-Green. Directions here.
Genre:
Political satire, or so says nytimes
Cost:
from $15 for people under 25. $15 rush seats sold 2 hours before curtain
Dates:
Oct 26-Nov 29
We're going: Oct 26 for PWYC, wanna join us in line?

They say: The ancient Chinese myth of the chalk circle re-emerges at the fall of the Berlin Wall: as the crotchety East German Chancellor watches a play, students suddenly riot and the profiteers swoop in. Amid the chaos, two women launch a madcap chase to save an orphaned baby and outrun the vultures of both communism and capitalism. Their journey through Woolly's entire building comes full circle back to the stage—but can a disgraced artistic director help them reset the nation's moral compass? Full Circle is inspired by The Chalk Circle, a Chinese zaju play written in the Yuan Dynasty, which inspired The Chalk Circle by the German poet Klabund, which inspired Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

They also say: Full Circle is performed throughout Woolly's facility and the audience will move with it. Comfortable shoes are recommended for this unconventional experience.

We say: We see just about everything at Woolly and their Pay-What-You-Can and 25&under deals make it super easy. Full Circle has an all-star cast including Jessica Frances Dukes (Eclipsed, Fever/Dream, and Antebellum), Sarah Marshall (who we loved in BOOM!), and Naomi Jacobson (stand out performance in Maria/Stuart). And the thought of running around the theater is certainly in intriguing. We are going on the first PWYC night (there is also a second night of previews on Oct 27). If you want to join us in line, send us an email and we'll save you a spot on the sidewalk.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quick hit: DC JCC lits up the night(s)

Performance: Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival
Theater: DC JCC, 1529 16th Street, NW
Metro stops: Red Line, Dupont Circle
Genre: Jewish
Cost: Various, as low at $8 for under 25
Dates: Oct 18-27
We're going: Oct 22 and Oct 27, Wanna Come?

We say: My friend and fellow blogger, Reading the District, told us about this festival. He recommends Dara Horn, the Heeb Storytellers, and the slam poetry. Since he's an English major and reading teacher, I always turn to him for recommendations for literary festivals. Also, everyone I know has been recommending the book All Other Nights, so it's awesome that the DC JCC is hosting Dara Horn as part of the festival. I'm definitely going to see her and might hit up a couple more. 20Something is intrigued to learn more about Jonathon Keats's
new book of modern Jewish folklore so we may go hear him speak on the 22nd. The list of low-cost events is below and the full calendar is available here. If you want to come to any of the events, send me an email.

FREE PROGRAMS

  • Volunteer for the Festival and attend any event for free! Click here.
  • Melvin Urofsky, Louis D. Brandeis, A Life, The Bernard Wexler Lecture on Jewish History 2009, Monday, October 26, 7:30pm. Click here.

LOW-COST PROGRAMS

  • Melissa Ford, Navigating the Land of IF: Understanding Infertility and Exploring Your Options
    Sunday, October 18, Noon. Click here.
  • Screening of Adam Resurrected
    Monday, October 19, 7:30pm. Click here.
  • Robin Gerber, Barbie and Ruth
    Tuesday, October 20, Noon. Click here.
  • Zoë Heller, The Believers
    Tuesday, October 20, 7:30pm. Click here.
  • Shana Liebman, Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish: The Heeb Storytelling Collection
    Wednesday, October 21, 7:30pm. Click here.
  • Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression
    Wednesday, October 21, 7:30pm. Click here.
  • Past Imperfect: New Jewish Fiction
    Thursday, October 22, 7:30pm. Click here.
  • SLAM! An Evening of Spoken Word Poetry
    Saturday, October 24, 9:00pm. Click here.
  • Sefer Safari: A Children's Book Event
    Sunday, October 25, 10:30am. Click here.
  • Joy Ladin, Transmigration Poems
    Sunday, October 25, 11:30am. Click here.
  • Neal Bascomb, Hunting Eichmann
    Sunday, October 25, 7:30pm. Click here.
  • Dara Horn, All Other Nights
    Tuesday, October 27, 7:30pm. Click here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quick Hit: Emerge Concert

Performance: Alyssa Jacey and Margot MacDonald Live at Sabores Lounge
Metro Stops: Cleveland Park (Red Line)
Genre: Sweet tunes, dude
Date: Wednesday, October 14. 8:00-11:00
Price: $8 and 15% off dinner (not including drinks) with ticket purchase at Sabores Restaurant the night of the show!
Ages: 18 and up
I'm going! You should too

They Say: Emerge Music Group, in partnership with Sabores Lounge in Cleveland Park (Washington, DC) are excited to welcome Alyssa Jacey and Margot MacDonald to our first show! Join us for an incredible night of music as we kick off our Emerge Live Music Series at Sabores Lounge.

We Say: I don't know much about these two artists, but I checked out their Myspace pages (links below) and they sound great. My buddy (and new colleague) Ira does some awesome work with emerging artists, and he's putting on the show. He has impeccable taste in music so I'm deff going to check it out.

The Deets:
ALYSSA JACEY is making her first ever appearance in Washington, DC. This LA based singer songwriter is making a strong impression as she opens for artists including Meiko, Paula Cole, Bushwalla and more.

MARGOT MacDONALD has been recognized as New Artist of the Year and best Modern Rock Vocalist by the Washington Area Music Awards (WAMA). She is seen as a leader in the growing young artists community in the DC area.

Sabores Lounge, located at 3433 Connecticut Avenue NW, is just a few steps from the exit of the Cleveland Park Metro Station.

Quick hit: Angels in 2 parts

Performance: Angels in America
Theater: Forum Theatre, now at Round House, 8641 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Metro stops: Red Line, Silver spring
Genre: Political and social dram-mentary
Cost: $25, $15 for under 30. Update: Goldstar has tickets for 12.50 but there are $4 in service fees. Might be good if you are over 30 though.
Dates: Through Nov 22
We're going: Part I - Oct 16 Wanna Come?, Part II - ? Pick a date and we'll come with you!

They say: Set in Reagan-Era New York City, Angels in America is Tony Kushner’s two-part epic on national themes, the AIDS crisis, and spiritual and political morality. Forum presents the play that affected an entire generation for the current 2009 American landscape. A colorful array of characters become intertwined as they grapple with identity, community, guilt, intimacy and forgiveness. At once harrowing and uproarious, Angels in America is a fiercely theatrical modern morality play and a landmark of the American stage.

We say: Forum Theatre is doing Parts I and II of Angels in America this fall. Part I is already on stage and has received rave reviews. Part II opens Oct. 26 with Pay What You Can previews on Oct 24 and 25. Both parts are running simultaneously until Nov 22. Check their calendar for details. A pivotal work of modern American theater, Angels may require some background reading. We are going to see Part I on Friday (Oct 16). We'll probably see Part II also. If there is a day you want to go, send us an email and we'll tag along.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Quick hit: 2nd chance to see best of Fringe

Performance: 4.48 Psychosis

Theater: Factory 449, 1021 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Metro stops: Mount Vernon Sq or Chinatown

Genre: Drama (with a capital "D")

Cost: $20 (sorry no special deals, but $20 isn’t bad)

Dates: Through Oct. 25

We're going: 10/11 at 7pm. Wanna come?


They say: Awakened by the shock of her own suicide, a woman is driven to reassemble the fragments of a life plagued by unsuccessful therapies and endless medications. Playwright Sarah Kane’s final play before committing suicide at the age of twenty-eight.


We say: This show premiered at the 2009 Fringe Festival, garnering glowing reviews and winning numerous awards. For those who missed it over the summer (ourselves included), Factory 449 has re-staged the show. Don’t miss it this time around. We are going on Sunday (tomorrow) at 7pm. If you want to join us, just drop us a line.

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