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Monday, October 26, 2009

Simon Says Quality, Stars Shine in NY and Many New Events!

Caught a preview last week of Theater J's Lost in Yonkers at the DC Jewish Community Center. Theater J continued its strong run of the last few years with the Zero Mostel bioplay earlier this year. And Lost in Yonkers keeps a good thing going. You can do much worse than a solid Neil Simon play with wonderful actors (Tana Hinken, Holly Twyford and Max Talisman especially shine here. Hinken and Twyford played to acclaim last year at Studion Theater.) Jerry Whiddon directs with assuredness and solid timing. It is by no means a great play, as say The Odd Couple is. But it has a lot of funny lines and an endearing quality to it. Theater J has many good deals to see it, some with discussions afterward. Please check it out.

If you get to New York, definitely go see The God of Carnage. Jeff Daniels, James Gandolfini (who was a couple years behind me at Rutgers), Hope Davis (of Next Stop Wonderland fame) and Marcia Gay Harden form an impeccable and riotous ensemble, but they're only on for a few more weeks. The theater sells standing room for just $25 2 hours before the show, and the show is just 80 minutes, so it's a great deal!

Monday, Oct. 26, Jewish Literary Festival, DCJCC, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life. 7:30. Free, a reception to follow.

Tuesday, Oct. 27 - Falls Church Arts and Creative Cauldron October mixer, 5:30 - 7 at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 South Maple Ave.
Thursday, Oct. 29, 4pm - William R. Smyser discusses his book Kennedy and the Berlin Wall: "A Hell of a Lot Better than a War" - Room LJ-119, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress. Free.
Thursday and Friday, Oct. 29 and 30 – Pay What You Can for Forum Theater’s ANGELS in AMERICA Part II: PERESTROIKA at Round House Silver Spring, 8pm
Friday, Oct. 30Kennedy Center Jazz, Jon Irabagon – alto saxophonist, only $15. Wonderful setting of small tables, intimate atmosphere. Usually double the price
Saturday, Oct. 31 - Select Contemporary Photography from the Collection of Lucille and Richard Spagnuolo. 5:30 – 7pm, Walsh Building, Georgetown University
Saturday, Oct. 31Ofrenda – Art for the Dead, an all-day/night celebration at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. Art reception from 3-7pm, parade at 7, masked ball at night (no cover! cash bar)
Wednesday, Nov. 4 - Iconoclash! Political Imagery from the Berlin Wall to German Unification. Opening discussion and reception for this exhibition of political and cultural artifacts and their changed meaning. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. RSVP to
Friday, Nov. 7The FotoWeek 2009 Launch Party promises to be great fun. $15 for appetizers, drinks, photography and friends.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pecha Kucha and Other Great Events in Next Few Days

Events time!
Tonight, Oct. 21, PWYC at the DC Jewish Community Center, Lost In Yonkers. Meet Bike and Brunch group between 6 and 6:30 in Upstairs Lobby.
Thursday, Oct. 22 - Capitol Pecha Kucha Night, Vol. 10, Boffi Studio, 3320 M Street, NW
$10 at the door. doors open 5:30pm, presentations start at 6:30. If you haven't been to a Pecha Kucha, you're missing out!  Short, hip presentations at a cool architectural place, followed by a reception and music. 
Friday, Oct. 23 - Birthday Celebration at Vapianos, 18th and M
Saturday, Oct. 24 - DC Food For All Presents: The Great Harvest. 5-9pm, Big Bear Cafe, 1st and R Streets, NW. Delicious food, music, drinks, $15 donation asked for.
Saturday, Oct. 24 - Design Day at Cadys Alley. Lectures and Talks all day. 11:30am - 6pm. For anyone who recalls the elegant First Thursdays here a few years ago, there's a soft place in the heart for any events they hold.  See you there.
Monday, Oct. 26 - Louis D Brandeis: A Life. Lecture and Reception at the DCJCC, part of the Jewish Literary Festival. Free with reception after.
Tuesday, Oct. 27 - PWYC for Woolly Mammoth new play, Full Circle.  (Also on Monday, but I will go on Tuesday). Try to come early, by 6pm.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Amazing Dance, a Fun Informant and Cyclists to Get Lost in Yonkers

Attended the opening preview of Washington Ballet's Don Quixote at Kennedy Center Wednesday night and what a revelation! When company director Septime Webre told us before the show that he was VERY excited to have Viengsay Valdes of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba dancing the part of Kitri/Dulcinea, he wasn't kidding. She soared and twirled through the show alongside Jonathan Jordan's Basilio, to ovation after ovation. (Personally, I'm a Sancho Panza fan, but here he was just a supporting player.) How she spun on one leg so long and gorgeously I'll never know. I'm not a dance critic so I can't wait to see the review in tomorrow's Washington Post. But this was an exciting event to be at. It continues through the weekend with two performances Saturday and Sunday. But Valdes will only be dancing Saturday night.

I'm a little behind on movies but did enjoy The Informant (3.5 RED DOTS), Matt Damon's break from the exciting Bourne movies. (I think a fourth one is in the works.) It reminded me some of Shattered Glass, but a little lighter. Marvin Hamlisch's music is sensational as always. Has anyone ever seen him in person? He'll be doing one of these cool (and inexpensive) retrospectives at the Kennedy Center Nov. 16 and I will definitely go. I saw him once at an Olssons Books about 10 years ago with an autobiography he wrote. There were about 20 people, the interviewer, Hamlisch and a piano. OMG! He's so nice and modest. He started playing his songs for us, the theme from The Sting, The Way We Were, A Chorus Line, and stuff from further back. I'll never forget it. I should see if I still have the book. Anyway, Soderbergh gets back to some of his cute ways and further away from the Che Guevara stuff in the Informant. It's clever and surprising, not great but good entertainment.

Come meet us (a group from Bike and Brunch) at Theater J in the DC Jewish Community Center on 16th and Q next Wednesday, Oct. 21, for a PWYC preview of Lost in Yonkers. Holly Twyford and Tana Hinken reunite after last year's amazing Road to Mecca at Studio. Jerry Whiddon directs. We also last saw him at Studio last year in Blackbird, that exciting two-person play about the reuniting of a man and woman after he had molested her years before. So this should be first-class stuff at Theater J.

On Thursday, my friend Rob and I usher for opening night of Folger's Much Ado About Nothing. I really enjoy their theater offerings, so I'm looking forward to it and will let you know!

My friend Cinthia of The Culture Club is starting to get very excited over Fotoweek, Nov. 7-14. And who can blame her. We will have numerous postings for that in the next few weeks. She's got some fun meetups coming up including a free screening of the Chilean film The Maid on Nov. 5 at E Street. It got a very good review in today's New York Times.

Okay, let's post this and then I'll do a calendar to follow.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Whoa Nellie!, McKeown Rocks at Java, Coens Go Back to Roots, 'Invention' Shows Off Talented Newcomers, and New Outings!

Good news: Nellie McKay has a new cd out: "Normal as Blueberry Pie." It comes from a line from South Pacific. If you've never heard her, check out her much-acclaimed cd "Get Away From Me" and a song called Sorry. (Yes, the cd debuted a short time after Norah Jones's "Come Away With Me.")  She's independent, plays a mean piano and ukelele, sings standards, raps, writes lyrics, has already starred in a musical on Broadway and now channels Doris Day in her new cd. As I write this, a film called Lover Come Back plays by chance on the tv in the background - with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. (Ms Day is 87 and lives in Connecticut.) I don't see any local appearances yet for McKay, although she will be on Prairie Home Companion Nov. 21.  

In the meantime, we'll have to settle for Erin McKeown, who performs Monday, Oct. 19, at Jammin' Java in Vienna. I highly recommend her and will be there.

I saw A Serious Man (4 red dots) yesterday and was impressed, and I'm not always a huge fan of the Coen Brothers. I thought A Country for Old Men was all style, but enjoyed Fargo and Millers Crossing. A Serious Man opens somewhere in snowy Eastern Europe with people speaking Yiddish. Unfortunately, I didn't have my mother with me to see if the translation was accurate. (I could pick up some of the words from when my grandparents used to visit.) The movie thought-provokes and prods, without any big-name stars. It was good to see Adam Arkin in a fun role - always loved him on Northern Exposure. If there's a moral, it's probably that the "hero" doesn't really do anything wrong but gets tread upon in the shuffle. Sometimes, I feel that any action I take is better than inaction.

Attended the closing night of the Asian Pacific American Film Festival last night, and what a great surprise to see a terrific American film called Children of Invention, directed by Tze Chun, who attended. It's about a Chinese single mother living illegally in Boston with her two children, a boy 10 and a girl 7. She is enamored with pyramid schemes and it finally gets her into trouble, leaving her two children alone. Chun gets great performances from the two kids, nothing over the top; he said it was especially difficult given that you have a maximum of about 6 hours a day with the kids. But they were very professional and had all their lines memorized right away. We will be hearing more of Chun in the coming years, and if he can get a DC release, I will write more about him and the film myself.
Prior to Invention, a short Australian film called Crocodile was shown about a young boy freeing himself from the contraints of life. Again, it showed a lot of talent in its writer-director Maura Milan, who lives in LA and is now at work on a short about celebrity impersonators in Koreatown. Afterward, she explained to me the difference between a crocodile and alligator. Hopefully, we will be seeing more of her and her work in next year's DC Shorts Festival.

I saw a documentary called La Americana at Campus Progress last week and was very impressed. It focuses on a woman from Bolivia whose daughter becomes a paraplegic, forcing her to go to New York to try to earn enough money for her well-being.

On the Schedule
Oct. 13 Come to the Bike & Brunch Happy Hour at the Cleveland Park Bar & Grill
Oct. 14 I'll be reporting from The Washington Ballet's first show of the year, Don Quixote, at the Kennedy Center. (Tickets are cheaper than you may think.)
Oct. 15 The Culture Club Meetup will gather at the Smithsonian American Art Museum for their monthly jazz in the glorioius Atrium there. This is a nice event for ample time to schmooze and hear great music from the Afro Bop Alliance.
Oct. 16 It's Third Friday in Georgetown meaning the openings for the Galleries in the Sea Catch square - great appetizers, wine and the wonderful Parish Gallery has a new opening as always - Joanne Kent
Oct. 17 The Arabian Sights Film Festival will have a reception at the National Geographic following its showing of Masquerades.
Oct. 21 Bike and Brunch will have a group at the PWYC of Lost in Yonkers the DCJCC. Tana Hinken and the wonderful Holly Twyford star. Meet between 6 and 6:30.
Oct. 27 Woolly Mammoth will have a PWYC of their new play Full Circle, and it sounds fun. The promo says to wear comfortable shoes. (Also a PWYC Oct. 26 but Redskins play that night.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Asian Pacific Films, Coming to Amreeka, So-So Paris, More Events

The 10th annual DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival opened Thursday with a documentary called Liberty 9500 from filmmakers Eric Byler and Annabel Park.  It focused on town meetings in Manassas concerning immigrants and the way the town was responding to them.  I really enjoyed Byler's first feature, Charlotte Sometimes, but did not see his second one, Americanese.  These are two talented filmmakers though this piece is kind of difficult to enjoy, unless you are really familiar with this situation.  A couple at the after-party - on the roof of the Rosa Mexicano Building across from Verizon Center! - told me they had seen a previous that was more enjoyable, more personal.
The Festival will close next Saturday night (Oct. 10) with the showing of Children of Invention at the Goethe Institut.  Screenings will be at 7:30 and 9:30 with receptions after each showing.

I highly recommend Amreeka, still playing at E Street Cinemas. It's the story of a Palestinian mother and son who immigrate to Illinois to join her sister and her family (a likeable husband and three daughters).  The film moves slowly, documenting their hardships at home and their hardships coming to a new land.  But the payoff comes later in the warmth of family and friends.

The film Paris by director Cedric Klapisch does show off the city in all its attractiveness from the Eiffel Tower to the Luxemborg Gardens to various neighborhoods.  It also shows off Juliette Binoche who enjoyed a much finer turn in last year's Summer Hours (a good one to rent).  This film's parts are better than its sum.  There are some good scenes with a college professor, and Binoche's brother, Romain Duris (who fared better in Klapisch's L'auberge Epagnole and its sequel Russian Dolls, whose illness is the focus of the film. And as previously mentioned, rent Klapisch's best film, When the Cat's Away.

On the radar...
Tuesday, Oct. 6, The International Club hosts a free cello/accordion concert and wine reception at the Austrian Embassy.
Also on Tuesday, the two-woman folk group Sweater Set plays at the new Capitol Hill place, The Fridge.
The fun folker Erin McKeown comes to Jammin' Java on Oct. 19.
I've been told that The Phillips Collection's Thursday evening gatherings remain especially good, with music, free food and $5 drinks. That same night International Club hosts their last rooftop soiree.
The Culture Club, one of the best meetup groups out there, hosts a well-regarded movie at Goethe Institut next Thursday called Silent Country with the fillmmaker in attendance.
Put Nov. 6 and 13 on your calendars.  There will likely be Single Volunteer guided gallery walks through Dupont and Bethesda, respectively.
Fotoweek, Nov. 7-14. Put it on your schedule!