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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Treasured 'Jules', Knox on Wood, A 'Wilder' Evening, A Capitol Good Time

Highly recommend the current exhibit at American University's Katzen Center. Attended the opening last night and saw the famous Pulitzer-Prize winning political cartoonist/author/playwright Jules Feiffer sitting there amongst his cartoons and drawings. (Richard Nixon telling us that we miss him [for the comic possibilities] and a "liberal" Senator telling us how bad war is [until a Senate vote comes up] are just two examples.) Asked if he thinks of the cartoons or the words first, Feiffer said "always the text."

Also on display is Gary Knox Bennett's Call Me Chairmaker. Wow, talk about many different ways to sit down! Bennett gives us 52 examples of chairs from zig zag to thrones to ladder-inspired. The only problem is that they won't allow you to sit on them. The Washington Print Club Biennial also has a show up, featuring some amazing works from the collections of their members. I was particularly intrigued by a James Ensor print - a retrospective of the Belgian avant-garde painter of the early 20th century. The Museum Modern Art just opened a major retrospective of Ensor that I highly recommend. Other prints that stood out for me were from Chagall, Renee Stout, George Bellows and Kiyoshi Kobayakawa. Colorful drawings from Haiti also adorn the first floor. Most of the exhibits are up through Aug. 16.

Also while up in New York last week, I saw a beautiful production of Our Town at the Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village. This American classic by Thornton Wilder is being given a breathtaking and intimate production that makes you see why it won the playwright a Pulitzer Prize in 1938. David Cromer, the imaginative director, also plays the stage manager who transitions flawlessly from the turn-off-your-cellphones pitch to the description of the "Town" and its inhabitants. Another production of Our Town will take place July 15-18 at Georgetown University as a joint production between their well-regarded theater program and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. I just saw the new play there called Brianpeople, by Jose Rivera, who wrote the screenplay for The Motorcycle Diaries. Though quite lyrical, it's hard to recommend. The performances are interesting but the dreamlike and sinister qualities of the play just don't add up to a satisfying whole.


A double WOW for this year's A Capitol Fourth lineup. In a scheduling change, there will be TWO rehearsals for cool folks like us to attend, on Thursday and Friday at 8pm. (The actual show is Saturday, of course.) Performers include Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin, the cast of the Jersey Boys, Michael Feinstein and Natasha Bedingfield. My guess is that Thursday's rehearsal will be the least attended by far, so if the weather is good, may be the one to attend. See you there!

Going to A Capitol Fourth on Thursday would also free us up to go to Dupont's First Friday on Friday. I've seen interesting notices for Hillyer Art Space (Selections by the aforementioned Renee Stout) and Printmakers "Meet Your Printmaker" Show so far. Will look out for more.

The Embassy of Canada is hosting a Canada Day celebration on Wednesday afternoon.
The Fringe Festival starts July 9 - recommendations to come.
A staged reading of What the Butler Saw by Joe Orton comes to McLean on July 6. It is one of the best farces ever written.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

So-So Seagull and HI-LIGHTS of the Week

We saw a preview of The Seagull on 16th Street at the DC Jewish Community Center on Thursday. Their work has been excellent this season with good productions of The Accident and The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall. Artistic Director Ari Roth has adapted the classic Chekhov play for their last outing of the season. It's worth seeing, but I wish they would have just gone for a more straightforward production because it is such a great play and it has some of the best actors in Washington (Brian Hemmingsen, Naomi Jacobson, Tessa Klein, J. Fred Shiffman and Jerry Whiddon). Roth has inserted some Jewish references about lighting candles and honoring the Sabbath, the thought being that every play Theater J does needs to be integrated with Jewish components. I think it makes the play a bit confusing and takes away from some of the elements that make Chekhov so wonderful. Chekhov's characters are always striving to be somewhere else, to love someone who doesn't love them. The three sisters always talk about going to Moscow. Uncle Vanya and others love the unattainable Yelena. The characters in The Cherry Orchard hold on to a past that is quickly being axed away. But Chekhov gives his characters an incredible warmth, humor and humanity that makes us care - otherwise we'd go home and start throwing dishes or the cat around. We saw ourselves in them and thus - through the dialogue that makes us laugh a little - we feel their pain so distinctly. By tinkering with The Seagull, Roth doesn't give the story and characters enough time to develop and make sense. So you see scenes of brilliance, but not a whole.

I also saw the film The Brothers Bloom. Writer/director Rian Johnson had success with Brick three years ago, a typical high school story made atypical by an original "hip" language used by the characters. (recommended to rent) I just expected more from this one. It was entertaining but just got a little tiresome.


TURN LEFT AT THE END OF THE ROAD -Free film, panel and reception co-sponsored by the Middle EastInstitute and Embassy of Israel
Reservations required click below
Moroccan immigrants (who think of themselves as French) aren'ttoo happy about the arrival of Indian immigrants (who think of themselves as British) in their dusty Israeli desert town, makingfor a captivating mix of old enemies, cultural mine fields,the very British game of cricket, teenage girls and the sexualrevolution of the Sixties.

HI-LIGHTS! of the Week.

SUNDAY, June 21
Fox Searchlight and
Gifford's Ice Cream and Candy Co. will be offering a free sundae on the first day of summer, in celebration of the film, (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. It starts at noon and locations are Downtown DC by E Street Cinema, Bethesda by Bethesda Row Cinema, Chevy Chase, Maryland & University Town Center- Hyattsville, MD.

Monday, June 22
Joseph O’Neill appears at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose on Connecticut Ave., to discuss his much-heralded book Netherland. Hans van den Broek, who came from the Netherlands, is adrift in post-9/11 New York after his wife returns to England with their son. Siri Hustvedt, in her review last year, said, “Netherland tells the fragmented story of a man in exile—from home, family and, most poignantly, from himself."

Cinema and Drafthouse in Arlington will be showing Adventureland Monday and Wednesday at 7:30 pm. The funny and overlooked movie highlights a summer working at a theme park.

Tuesday, June 23
The Embassy of Sweden on the Georgetown Waterfront presents the 2009 Jenny Lind Concert at 7pm. Suggested donation: $10. rsvp to A reception courtesy of SWEA DC will follow.

Wednesday, June 24
French Embassy (for those fully recovered from last night's Fete)
"Welcome" is one of the most outstanding French films of the year. From director Philippe Lioret (Don't Worry, I'm Fine) comes a deeply moving political film about illegal immigration, which met with popular and critical acclaim in France.
(preceded by the short film Taxi Wala)In French with English subtitles -
La Maison Fran├žaise, Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Rd., N.W.ADMISSION: General $8, Seniors/Students with ID $5 Reservations
required / ( - Please provide your surname, first name and number of guests that will attend.

Thursday, June 25
We're back to the House of Sweden (not a bad place to go back to) for the Sustainable Network of Washington's Open House Reception, from 4-8 pm. Complimentary Valet parking at the House of Sweden and a complimentary shuttle service from the Foggy Bottom Metro (Blue/Orange lines). Just look for the House of Sweden staff. No RSVP required. Please bring anyone and everyone; the more the merrier.

Friday, June 26
The Watergate Gallery on Virginia Ave. has an opening of Summer Sculpture from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

Saturday, June 27
One of my favorites, The
Katzen Arts Center on the campus of American University, has an opening to celebrate the The Haitian Sailing Project, Margaret Boozer, and the famous political cartoonist/author Jules Feiffer. Also on display there will be the Washington Print Club 20th Biennial.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Musical 'Chess' Masters Tonight in Arlington, Food Glorious Food

Just a quick one today to put in a plug for a couple events. Tonight at Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, there's a special tribute to Chess Records featuring some wonderful area musicians. First at 7:30 they will show the movie Cadillac Records, a very underrated film from last year starring Adrian Brody, Jeffrey Wright and Beyonce (this is where she first sang At Last). Then will come the all-star musical tribute.

Also tonight don't forget about the FRESHFARM MARKETS' 2nd Annual Local Foods Movie Night at Letelier Theater in Georgetown.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Seagull Flies In, Nordic Jazz Continues to Soar, Galleries Heat Up

Just back from the rooftop of the House of Sweden for yesterday evening's second night of the Nordic Jazz Festival! (Sunday's opening at the ultra-swank Finnish Embassy was a smash.) I highly recommend the Jonas Kullhammar Quartet, who played a bunch of originals last night and will play again tonight at the House of Sweden and Friday at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. Tickets are available at the door tonight ($30) though it looks like it will have to be inside because of our Irish weather.

Tomorrow I hope to report on Theatre J's last play of the season, The Seagull on 16th Street. There are Pay What You Can performances Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoon. Anton Chekhov wrote four classic plays: The Cherry Orchard, The Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya and The Seagull. There have been numerous star-studded productions, film adaptations and translations over the years. Growing up, I recall sitting behind James Earl Jones during a black production of Cherry Orchard, and seeing Julie Christie in the pivotal role of Yelena in Uncle Vanya on Broadway. She was incredible - for her best work from those days, rent McCabe and Mrs. Miller, the great Altman film with Warren Beatty. Julianne Moore played Yelena in Vanya on 42nd Street, Louis Malle's wonderful film of a company doing the play (translation by David Mamet!). As for The Seagull, rent Henry Jaglom's Summer in the Hamptons, a loose adaptation with a great cast. Theatre J has been excellent this year.

Also on Thursday night is an art opening from 6-8pm at the Goethe Institut on 7th Street titled Young German Photographers. Their openings usually draw a nice crowd and feature interesting work - I'm told there's a big meetup group going.

Also on Thursday are openings at Gallery Plan B on 14th Street, Long View Gallery on 9th Street, and McLean Project for the Arts. It's a shame that the 14th Street galleries don't coordinate their openings much anymore. Though it looks like Irvine Contemporary on 14th Street will have a block party Saturday evening following an opening at Hounshel down the block.

Friday night, I always like the openings at Galleries 1054 off of 31st Street in Georgetown, next to the Sea Catch Restaurant - especially on a nice evening. Cross MacKenzie has been doing very interesting openings and Friday's Milgrom on Morandi looks so again.

Next door, Parish Gallery remains perhaps my favorite for its combination of quality art and photos, diverse atmosphere and incredibly friendly hosts. Friday, look for the new work of Robert Paige.

It looks like Arling
ton Arts Center has an opening that night as well - also a favorite. I will head to Silver Spring after that to catch an outdoor SilverDocs film, For All Mankind, about the 24 men who traveled to the moon.

Saturday evening is incredibly full with events. I may have to head over to the French Embassy for their Fete de la Musique where Friend of Ronndezvous (FOR) Brian Gross is playing at 8pm (among the 50-plus musical acts scheduled). With the nice weather expected, it's fun to stroll the grounds of the French Embassy listening to music and celebrating the midsummer night. (Our Swedish friends from last night say that this is one of the biggest holidays in their country.) $8 online, $10 at the door. More on the other stuff later.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oldtown, New Paintings, Ibtimania, Food Movies and The Seagull Flies In

Let's preview some upcoming events.

Thursday is Oldtown Alexandria's Monthly Second Thursday Art Night at the Torpedo Factory. This week's installment is titled Dancing in the Streets. They're promising live music, two gallery openings, breakdancing (I'm much better at that than swing), and a chance to win free tickets to King Lear, starring Stacy Keach at The Shakespeare Theatre.

We'll be in Bethesda on Friday night, leading a 2nd Friday Gallery Walk. The highlight this Friday will be the winners of the Bethesda Painting Awards at Fraser Gallery and that we are finally coinciding with the blues music of the incroyable Brian Gross trio at Sala Thai.

Saturday, from 5-7 pm, check out the Adult Student and Faculty Show at 545 7th St., SE on Capitol Hill. They have nice community-oriented openings.

On Monday, June 15, at the 6th and I Historic Synagogue, where FORs Gary and Suzanne got married on my birthday 4+ years and two kids ago, visit the opening for the latest art exhibit, paintings by Irit Zohar. It is co-sponsored by the Embassy of Israel and you are asked to RSVP.

In honor of another FOR, the superstar blogger Ibti Vincent - currently biking around the country in the name of organic food - next Thursday, June 18, the awesome Letelier Theater in Georgetown is the place to be for Local Food Movie Night! There will be two short films - including "Nora" that I saw and liked at the Environmental Film Festival - wine, and fresh food samplings. I've been to Letelier three times and it has rained each time. If it finally does not rain, then patrons can enjoy the awesome courtyard they have. Tickets are $20, reasonable and for a good cause - Freshfarm Markets. Check out their DC Farmers Markets on their calendar. (can I link to you now, Ibti?)

Also that night (Thursday, June 18) is a Pay What You Can for the new Theatre J offering, The Seagull on 16th St. The play stars among others, Jerry Whiddon, who we loved in Studio Theatre's award-winning Blackbird earlier this year, and Tessa Klein, who we watched with a smile in The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall. Decisions, decisions!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Couple Shout-Outs and Drop-Ins; Wednesday Happy Hour, Friday Singles Artwalk, Sunday bbq

Wow, anyone who followed us to the Istituto of Italian Culture for last night's EuroAsia Shorts Finale was rewarded with interesting films and a cool reception. If you missed it, stay tuned in the coming months for more recommendations. I would say put down Thursday, Sept. 10 on your calendar for the opening night of the DC Shorts Festival. Last year's rooftop opening reception was one of best events of the year.

Remember, we're doing the Single Volunteer Artwalk this Friday in Bethesda. Should be awesome with three or four nice galleries, good Thai food, the music of the Brian Gross trio and 30 of your new closest friends. E-mail me if you want to join us. My social bike bike club, Bike & Brunch, is having a Happy Hour at Sequoias on Wednesday (6pm on - free appetizers) and the big annual Fletchers Boat House Picnic next Sunday the 14th. Everyone's invited.

On the culture front, I can recommend two new ventures. The film Easy Virtue takes the standard British country estate affair and has some fun with it - with two of the best actors working today: Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas. (See my interview earlier this year with Scott Thomas on the DC Film Society Web site.) Jessica Biel (from 7th Heaven days) takes on key role of the "American wife" and does okay with it.

An actress who does more than okay with her role is Valerie Harper in the new Arena Stage production of Looped at the majestic Lincoln Theatre. The play focuses on legendary actress Talullah Bankhead at a latter point in her career. Harper, of Rhoda fame, makes a grand entrance and just gets grander from there. This is the definition of a star turn, the play being a fun vehicle for a wonderful actress. The crowd gave her a standing ovation on Friday night.

One of my favorite galleries is Printmakers on Connecticut Ave. I stopped in on Friday to see the new monotype prints show from Marian Osher called Eyetinerary. The prints happily transport you into mid-summer at the beach, with pastel colors and inviting scenes. Gallery Director Karisa Senavitis, a fellow Jersey Shore native, also told me about next month's exciting show called Meet Your Printmaker (opening July 3), where you'll be able to see a selection of 40 print/printmaking studios from around the world.

Lastly, let me give an incredibly nice shout-out to Barbara, whose home/gallery at 2015 Q St. #2, NW, has been entertaining First Friday patrons for a couple years now. Friday she had some new interesting work up from resident artist (and also nice) Rafael Gallardo. Barbara defines what community is all about. She is there to welcome everyone with a smile, offer food and drink, and make you feel incredibly comfortable. It's always very hard to leave and return to the Art Walk. Thanks Barbara!

Friday, June 5, 2009

'American' the Beautiful and a Different Dupont Walk this Weekend

With all the rain today, I might head to American University's Katzen Museum tonight for their latest opening, featuring the 20th Washington Print Club Biennial. Underground parking, free drinks and appetizers, and some exciting exhibits might make for a perfect combination for the weather doldrums, rather than a soggy First Friday.

This weekend the Dupont Kalorama Museum Walk gives free access to some of the most interesting and not talked about places in Washington. (Heck, just walking in free to the Phillips and sitting down in front of The Boating Party or in the Rothko Room is worth it.) The Dumbarton House and The Anderson House are two of the highlights.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Long (Gone With the Wind) and the Shorts of Film; Pedal Your Goods at Goethe, a Golden SilverDocs and Fete de la Musique

The EuroAsia Shorts continue for three more nights this week. Although reservations are filled, it seems to be no problem to arrive by about 6pm and get in at 6:20. Tuesday night, a great lineup of humor shorts took over the Indian Embassy in Dupont Circle (after some wine and appetizers!). The highlights for me were: a "singles" short from France with a Neil Labute ending; a Waiting for Godot Spanish scenario about finding Woody Allen's glasses; a 10-year-old German boy proposes marriage to an adult woman (this one will probably be shown Saturday at the "best-of"); and a happy ending, Bollywood take-off on an arranged marriage.

Thursday, the shorts come to Korea's KORUS House, Friday the Japan Information and Culture Center, and Saturday the ornate Istituto Italiano di Cultura. (Probably have to get there earlier on Saturday to get in.) Kudos to Jon Gann for organizing all of this - he should be running the big DC Film Festival.

I also made it over to the Library of Congress to hear Michael Sragow discuss his new book about the director of Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz: Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master. We were treated to some great stories and film clips from Sragow, the film critic of the Baltimore Sun. Unrecognized for many years, Fleming is finally getting his due. He took over from George Cukor on GWTW and won the Academy Award for Best Director. Also considered one of the most handsome men in Hollywood, Fleming was linked to some of its prettiest women, including Clara Bow and, near the end of his life, Ingrid Bergman. There's an interesting article in The New Yorker about him and the books by David Denby.

Okay, more interesting things going on:

Friday at 6:30 the Argentina Embassy near Dupont Circle is showing a free movie called El Custodio. First Friday will be taking place nearby - tough to do both unfortunately.

Over on 14th Street, the esteemed Hemphill Gallery is having a frame sale all day Saturday.

This Sunday at 3pm and 6pm at the Shakespeare Theatre, catch a free rehearsal of their new much-hyped production of King Lear with Stacy Keach.

Next Thursday, June 11, there is a fundraiser at the Goethe-Institut on 7th Street:

Pedal Power! for Climate Ride
Featuring remarks by cycling advocate Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Patrick Serfass, member of Team XTreme4, winner of the 2008 Race Across America, followed by two award-winning films and a reception. Tickets $20/$18.

On Friday night, June 19, SilverDocs, the documentary festival in Silver Spring, will show its annual outdoor free movie in the courtyard behind the theater. This year's entry is For All Mankind, about astronauts.

On Saturday night, June 20, venture over to the French Embassy for its Fete de la Musique. It's only $8, and if the weather is good, it's a nice way to feel like you're in Europe for an evening.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hendrix-inspired French Art, Varda Rocks and Bike and Brunch Rolls

Looking at his abstract works of startling colors, Thierry Guillemin waxes rhapsodically about Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and other music luminaries. It's the music that inspires the Toulouse, France-born artist who has a current show at Studio Gallery in Dupont Circle. He even named one of the paintings Voodoo Chile, in honor of the Hendrix song he recalls listening to at the time. His new show, Aparte (Stage Whisper) - "like when an actor turns to the audience to say something" he whispers - will brighten Studio's downstairs until June 20, including another "opening" this Friday during Dupont's monthly First Friday. Check it out, after mingling with the throngs at nearby Hillyer's Post Secret show. (The man behind the mega-concept, Frank Warren, made an appearance at the surprisingly low-key Artomatic on Friday and was easily the most popular guy in the room.)

"I am alive, and I remember." These are the closing words of Agnes Varda in her remarkable new film, The Beaches of Agnes, that had its DC premier yesterday afternoon at the National Gallery. It was a mesmerizing two hours, as the four-score Varda takes us through her incredible film-making career and her loving marriage to film genius Jacques Demy. Funny that French Embassy cutural attache Roland Celette was in the packed (truly) art house, because I'm sure he would love to show this film at the Embassy. If any film ever begged for a follow-up wine reception, this one did. Varda portrays her life with incredible creativity, starting with mirrors on the beach, moving ahead to a Cinema Paradiso-type segment of two middle-age sons watching footage of their father for the first time - footage shot by Varda - on a moving cart through town! We see early film roles for Gerard Depardieu, Phillipe Noiret (speaking of CP) and... Harrison Ford; leading actors like Jane Birkin standing in for Varda to air her thoughts; snippets of her masterly films that I wish AFI would do a retropsective of (see if you can rent a copy of Lions Love - it looks like a wild romp and stars "Hair" composers Ragni and Rado, Warhol girl Viva, Jim Morrison, who Varda used to have dinner with, and director Peter Bogdonavich). Yes, she is 80, but there is nothing old or plodding about this film. It's one of the most exciting that I've ever seen. I will let you know when it plays again.

On the June radar, look for a couple big Bike & Brunch events - a Happy Hour Wednesday, June 10 at Sequoias in Georgetown and Sunday, June 14 the annual Fletcher's Boathouse Barbecue. The 5th Anniversary Duke Ellington Jazz Festival runs from June 5-15. I'll try to look it over and post some of the free highlights. There's a Pay-What-You-Can on June 17 and 18 of Theatre J's last production of the year, Seagull on 16th Street. (I'll try to go on the 18th - Nordic Jazz Festival is on 16th and 17th.) Their last three productions have been fantastic - Dai, The Accident, and Rise and Fall of Annie Hall.