Wednesday, February 7, 2018

SOMETHING ROTTEN!  is about  a couple of bad eggs making an omelette (a yoke about Hamlet?).

If you didn’t think that was funny, not to worry,—the lines come so fast and furious in Something Rotten!— there’s a new one every minute.

 The Bottom brothers, jealous of Shakespeare’s success, have to come up with a play that has everything that even the Bard hasn’t thought of.    

Something Rotten! has been nominated for many awards but like the Bottom Brothers won few.   However that doesn’t stop the show.   If you really must have Tony award winning musicals,  their rousing “A Musical”  with clues given by Nostradamus as to what he sees in the future has a snippet of every one.  

Shylock wants to invest in the show—but what to call him.  There are Puritans too, and of course there has to be love scenes and in the end a courtroom to decide what to do with all these characters.  

Shakespeare is of course the rock star with  “Shakespeare in the Park” for his what else — “Will Power.”

What the show is —  positive proof that no one can lose.    Nick and Nigel Bottom might never be the star that Will Shakespeare is, but there is a new world out there waiting for musicals—where nothing rhymes.  We should have seen it coming that
where all this is going is for this troop to head to America!

That is after they learn their lesson from —who else but Shakespeare— “to thine Own Self” —be true.

Everyone is a star in this production but special kudos to the crew for the lighting which dazzled at a record breaking pace keeping up with  this high energy touring company.  The National Theatre has probably had all of those Tony award winning shows, but they never any of them so eye popping as  Something Rotten!.

The National Theatre in Washington DC until  Feb. 18, 2018.

Monday, January 29, 2018


Sarah DeLappe’s award winning play The Wolves doesn’t just tell about teamwork—it shows it!  
Studio Theatre’s production of The Wolves is a great team of actresses working together with a great director and creative team and coming up a winner.
The Wolves are a girls’ soccer team who have an undefeated record.  #2 (Merissa Czyz),  #25 (Chrissy Rose), #11( Lindsley Howard),  #13 (Sarah Turner), #36 (Jane Bernhard), #7 (Katie Kleiger), # 14 (Maryn Shaw), #8 (Shanta Parasuraman), and #00 (Gabby Beans)  stretch and squat and banter about everything they can think of—and a lot of time like they aren’t thinking at all. 
They throw up, bleed, get injuries.  They are smart, sassy, funny, angry, and compassionate.  Fearful and brave, they are trying to find their own strengths and sensibilities.  
Anne Bowles is the soccer mom whose brief appearance signals their entry into the bigger life game that is outside of Saturday soccer practice.
Studio’s Director of Design Deb Booth has set them in an indoor soccer turf  so that audience members can feel just like they are watching a game.
Paul T  Toben for lighting design, Sarah Cubbage for costumes, and Mikhail Fiksel for sound—they make it real.
Director Marti Lyons,  Movement Coach Stephanie Paul and  Soccer Consultant Manya J Makoski are at their winning best at keeping the words and the motions going as fast and as exciting as the sport.  
 By the way, if you wonder how authentic this play,  Makoski is a retired professional soccer player whose professional career as midfielder spanned nine years with the National Women’s Soccer League. As a teenager, she was part of the 2002 U-19 World Cup Team that won the  FIFA World Championship in Alberta, Canada. She currently serves on the coaching staff  of the University of Maryland’s women’s soccer team.

Until  March 18, 2018 at
The Studio Theatre
1501 14th Street NW 
Tickets: 202.332.3300 

Monday, January 22, 2018


As glamorous as the settings of Tosca are, they are also authentic.

Recent productions have missed that point in creating rather dull minimalist stagings  — something that the Met has now admitted as they return to the scenes of the opera as Puccini saw them.

  A quick google search  turns up  a self guided tour  of Tosca’s locations.

In Act I,  Tosca moves from  the chapel in the church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale in Rome on the afternoon of 17 June 1800

Sant’Andrea della Valle is a Baroque basilica designed in 1524.   Ornate—white marble, gold stucco, enormous frescos of the life of the saint, the church is near
Piazza Navona.  

Next act,  Tosca is in chamber in the Palazzo Farnese on the evening of 17 June 1800,  before going to  a country villa that night.

Palazzo Farnese is close by to the Sant’Andrea della Valle.  The  sumptuous Renaissance palace, built  partly under the direction of Michelangelo, is adorned with magnificent frescoes and furnishings.  It was once a home for a noble family and is now the French Embassy.

Tosca then moves from Scarpia's apartments in the Castel Sant'Angelo before the dawn of 18 June 1800, and to the chapel and finally to a platform on the roof of the castle at dawn on 18 June 1800.

Castel Sant’Angelo is a 15 minute walk from the Palazzo Farnese. Built around 135 A.D. as a mausoleum for the Roman emperor Hadrian, later converted to a fortress, then a state prison, then in the 1500s a shelter for popes during conflicts.  It is  now  a national museum with frescoed papal rooms on the upper floors and displays from  armor and piles of stone cannonballs to spooky passageways and ornately decorated rooms.

You can see it all in a couple of hours of walking around  Rome, or you can vicariously enjoy the settings as well as the glorious music at the next Met 

This new Met production by Sir David McVicar’s  has been called “smashing. ” While many cast changes in the last few months, the pair of lovers— soprano Sonya Yoncheva  as Tosca  and tenor Vittorio Grigolo as Cavaradossi
have been labeled as  “hot .”  Željko Lučić  as the  police chief, Scarpia, “a true villian”  and Emmanuel Villaume conducts. 

but can’t get away to Rome ?  
And the Met performance on Jan. 27, 2018 has long been sold out.
Not to worry
Fathom Events Live  has just the ticket for you 
in the Live in HD production of Tosca on January 27, 2018.

The Skin of Our Teeth

The Antrobus family might be an ordinary American family but the cast at Constellation for Skin of Our Teeth is simply superb!

There is a husband and wife, George and Maggie (Steven Carpenter and Lolita Marie)  and their two children—a scarred boy —Henry —and the perfect girl— Gladys. (Dallas Tolentino and Malinda Kathleen Reese).  Clue is that Henry was once called Cain.

Then there’s the maid, Sabina (Tonya Beckman), a combination of Lillith and the Sabine women. 

 Everyone wants to get into the act.  In Thornton Wilder’s absurdist American classic Skin of Our Teeth,  they do.  

 For starters, there are such unlikely characters as a baby dinosaur and a wooly mammoth.  Along comes Moses and the three Muses.  There’s a fortune teller and Plato.  

All have their place in the lives of the Antrobus family  in telling this story that moves from their home in Excelcior, New Jersey, in the path of a gigantic glacier sweeping the continent, to an Atlantic City boardwalk when the alarms go off for the Biblical Flood, and then back to their home, now a bomb shelter brimming with books after an apocalyptic war.

In their 5,000 years of married life,  George and Maggie have seen  and survived it all — including the constant threat of  Sabina to quit—with equanimity.

While critics in 1942 praised this frisky farce, which has no limits to what it will do for a laugh,  Wilder, who would serve in World War II,  had a more serious message.  Taking the title from Job 19:20: “ I am escaped with the skin of my teeth,” Wilder posits that  human beings have no limits in what they will endure to survive and go on.
Mary Hall Surface directs.  The  creative collaborators who have taken on the fantastic include Costume Designer Frank Labovitz  who dressed everyone from  beauty pageant contestants to refugees; A.J. Guban as both Scenic and Lighting Designer; Justin Schmitz, s as Sound Designer; Matthew Aldwin McGee as Puppet Designer; Jimmy Stubbs for Props Designer; and Casey Kalebarounds as Fight Choreographer. 
The cast includes Jenna Berk (Stage Manager/Ensemble), Natalie Cutcher (Ivy/Ensemble), Lilian Oben (Fortune Teller/Ensemble), and Keith Richards (Mr. Tremayne/Ensemble), Gerrad Alex Taylor (Telegraph Boy/Interviewer/Ensemble), Ben Lauer (Dolly/Broadcast Official/Ensemble), Colin Connor (Frederick/Fred Bailey/Ensemble), and Mary Miller-Booker (Broadcast Official/Hester/Ensemble), and understudies Billie Krishawn, Jack Novak, Valerie Adams Rigsbee, and Nate Shelton. 

WHO: Constellation Theatre Company 
WHERE: Source, 1835 14th St. NW, Washington DC 20009 
WHEN: January 11 – February 11, 2018 

Monday, January 15, 2018


You can take the characters out of their place in Restoration high society, but you can’t get rid of the sex, lies and luxury that goes along with them.  

That is what Theresa Rebeck has done with William Congreve’s great Restoration comedy, which she has freely adapted and directed, and is now playing at the Folger Theatre.

The staging is stunning, set in the boutique beach setting of the Hamptons in summer—an envious spot to be in but particularly now in the midst of Washington’s blustery windy winter.  

 Kristine Nielsen is simply smashing as Aunt Rene, who knows the numbers—whether it is the $600 million dollars of her niece Mae has inherited (played by a believable altruistic Eliza Huberth) or the convincingly inconstant wanna be husband Henry  (Luigi Sottile).

The klatch of their friends who tell it as it is—that is gossip and scandal of course—include Brandon Espinoza as Charles , Elan Zafir as Reg, Erica Dorfler as Katrina, and Daniel Morgan Shelley as Lyle.  Ashley Austin Morris is the  summer time waitress who tells the audience everything else.

The original play is  300 years old, and an object d’arte  that winds through the plot  is a treasured heirloom that had been stolen and recovered.  The Way of the World might be a show of the extreme of wretched excess of consuming goods,  but it also shows that one treasure can be re-discovered.  And while  love does not win over all,  true lovers learn to get a long with it all as that is the way of the world.

The celebrated creative team includes Tony Award® nominee Alexander Dodge (scenic design), Tony Award® winners Linda Cho (costume design) and Donald Holder (lighting design), and M.L. Dogg (sound design). 

And yes, we all want to go shopping with them!

 The Way of the World  is part of The Women’s Voices Theatre Festival.  
Now on stage at Folger Theatre from January 9 through February 11, 2018. 
Folger Theatre Box Office at (202) 544-7077 / online at 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China
at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 

The two best loved visitors to the United States from China are the Pandas and the Terracotta Army.   While the pandas lie around their zoo enclosures chewing what looks like a very long toothpick of bamboo all day,  inspiring smiles and giggles, the clay warriors stand quietly in museum exhibits,  conquering all who view them. 

Most recently ten of those  warriors out of the estimate 8,000 found in the necropolis built for the Emperor Qin Shihuang in the Chinese province of Xi’an Shaanxi, (along with over 130 related works of art) arrived at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Qin Shihuang appears to have been practical, paranoid and pleasure loving in this world, but he could never have imagined  in his quest for immortality, that he would be so popular 2,000 years later.   Or that the warriors  who were  intended to accompany him in facing the deities in the afterlife, would take on their own after life all over the world. 

The statistics behind Qin Shiuang’s vision  are staggering, even for those who think in terms of China’s incredible size and  population today.  Ruling from in the third century BC, he  had 300 extravagant palaces and 400 lodges, so that he could stay a different place each night.  

What started as his vision on how to meet the deities in his after life, required an estimated 700,000 workmen created this dwelling place for his eternal rest.   His regime, known for relentless cruelty (at least as historians of the dynasty that followed recorded) resulted in over a million deaths for failing to follow his laws.  

Interesting how some of the great archeological discoveries (the Lascaux caves, the Dead Sea Scrolls)  are made by ordinary people.  Farmers plowing a field for instance,  find a pot which then leads to work for generations of archeologists and historians etc. to  put it all together of what might have happened.  In the end, it is museums that create displays for the ordinary person to see just what that object was likely used for.

The backstory of the Terracotta Army is similar.  Prior to its discovery by farmers digging a well in 1974, all that was known about the First Emperor was written history.  

 It  began with the developing  Qin state, under Ying Zheng (259-210 BC), who unified China and declared himself Qin Shihuang, or the First Emperor of Qin.  An empire was formed and his journey to immortality soon began soon after he became the king of Qin in 246 BC.  The warriors were created as protectors of  the tomb of China’s First Emperor at his death.

What the archeologists are discovering is not so much what supports the written life history but what it tells us about his life style and that of
his court.  The art works in his reign  are  splendid for the  details such as intricately designs on the armor.  

While it is clear that the bodies of the figures were mass produced in some assembly line fashion, each face appears to be unique.  But truly amazing to art historians is not only how the works differ from preceding  and more primitive Chinese artifacts but the evolution of the sculpture in what is a relatively short period of time.  

Consider this:   This rapid development from passive  to active poses  in sculpture has no counterpart in Greek or Roman statues, where such innovations took centuries to develop.  

The army is formidable even if it is made of clay.  There is no mistaking Qin’s  importance as a ruler on earth.   Whether that had that effect on the divine ones, it certainly inspires awe and wonder to mere modern mortals who come to see them. 

The exhibit takes about an hour or so to go through  to look at selections that took artists and workmen 36 years to build.  To uncover the whole story to understand this unique find might take centuries. 

Sidenote: The Emperor who wanted an afterlife  is known not only for this amazing archeological discovery but lives on— where else but in  the Metropolitan opera (“The First Emperor” with Placido Domingo as the Emperor).  

The  beloved pandas of course have their counterpart in stuffed panda bears as toys.

As for the Terracotta Army, check out video games section. 

Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China
Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond Va (to March 11, 2018)
(until March 11,  2018)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Les Misérables 

Les Misérables— despite its title which means  “the wretched” —  is wondrous! 

This new production of the phenomenon known as Les Miz brings a much needed spark of hope of the possibilities of love to hearts that have been broken or whose hopes have been dashed by the exigencies of life. 

 Les Miz’s music is haunting as befits the life journey of selfless sacrifice leading to salvation for one man and the tragic ending of the obsession of another.  It calls for a complex web of characters employing wide vocal choices  to follow the stories of these two men who are engaged in a life long bitter tug of war.  The dramatic tenor role of Jean Valjean is most poignantly sung by Nick Cartell.  Valjean has suffered a great injustice in  being imprisoned for 19 years for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread.  He escapes for a  life of hiding from his relentless pursuer, the conflicted  officer of the law,  Javert,  sung  with operatic intenseness by baritone Andrew Love.

For those who know Les Miserables well,  there are a few surprises in this  production  with this exciting new staging and scenery. Not only was the story inspired by Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel,  but the scenery has been reimagined, inspired by Hugo’s  drawings and paintings (over 4000).  

This celebrated opera-musical has broken records at the box office (in 32 years, seen by 70 million people in 44 countries and in 22 languages around the globe). What  is not measurable is how often its songs—“I Dreamed A Dream,”“On My Own,”“Stars,” “Bring Him Home,”“One Day More” —have lifted  human spirits.   

At the National Theater in Washington DC,  until January 7, 2018—  Les Miz is the ultimate Christmas gift.