Tuesday, December 29, 2009

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

Performance: Mommy Queerest
: Theater J, 1529 16th Street NW
Metro Stops: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line. Directions
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 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
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
Woolly Mammoth Theater, 641 D St, NW
Gallery Place-green/red or Archives/Navy Memorial-Green. Directions here.
You name it, it happens

All tickets are $30, goldstar has $15 tickets for limited 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.

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