Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Folger's 'Twelfth Night' rocks Capitol Hill

At Folger's Theatre's Twelfth Night, Richard Sheridan Willis is Malvolio who tries to learn how to smile while James Konicek as Sir Andrew Aguecheek spies on him. Willis's performance is worthy of a Helen Hayes Award nomination/Scott Suchman 
It was the most enjoyable Shakespeare I have seen.

Bar none.

Hands down.

No exaggeration.

Twelfth Night at the Folger Theatre is a hit, a lark, a delight, and everyone feels good at the end, including the gal in my row who caught the bridal bouquet and squealed like a little piggy with several of her friends. And I would have squealed, too.

It's a fantastic ride in a land of make-believe, built on the shipwreck of the Lusitania from World War I in the kingdom of Illyria on a set which doesn't change, but there is so much action, who cares or needs change? It was brilliance by the director, Robert Richmond, and his "creative team" who conceived the landing.

The photographer's perfect timing of the shots and the airy leaps in unison made for mouth drops. The characters run around the stage hither and yon, just like those actors from the silent films of the era, but this is live. It's played upon a stage now, and carried off with aplomb.
And so much music. If ever there was a Shakespeare with more, which is it? Thank goodness we get to hear Joshua Morgan (Valentine) play Debussy's Claire de lune  more than once on the piano. If music be the food of life, play on.

The Twelfthth Night cast could have danced all night to the tunes played by Feste (Louis Butelli) on the ukulele and Valentine (Joshua Morgan) on the electric piano/Scott Suchman
Oh my gosh: Richard Sheridan Willis as Malvolio. A show stealer par excellence. He was simply fantastic. His eyes almost rolled out of his head. Those moments when he tried to smile could have cracked Congressional communication and cooperation. Send him to the Hill! (Wait, he's there.)

What did he lay upon inside the piano? It hurt to look at him cooped up inside the metal cage for so long. It looked so uncomfortable. Poor lad. I began to really feel sorry for him. Does anyone remember the great actor Peter Lorre? A resemblance, no?
Okay: the story (briefly): Twins are shipwrecked, and each believes the other has drowned. Viola makes it to shore where she lands (ahem) a job with Orsino who is in love with Olivia who soon falls in love with Viola who becomes a man, Cesario (to obtain his job), who falls in love with Orsino. Of course.

Malvolio is smitten by Olivia, and Viola's twin brother, Sebastian, turns up at the perfect moment, and Olivia invites him to marriage (thinking he is Cesario), and this all makes sense, doesn't it? An improbable madness rather like life which all goes round and round, up and down, like the swirling waters in the fantastic first scene when the siblings almost drown.
Rachel Pickup seemed so natural in her role of Olivia, she must have been playing herself. (?)

In Twelfth Night Olivia (Rachel Pickup) falls in love with Cesario/Viola (Emily Trask)/Scott Suchman
And I haven't mentioned the supporting cast, dominated by James Konicek (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) who flutters about and steals the thunder.

There's a lot of action up and down the center aisle, too, and another show-stopper who served as musical narrator of sorts was Louis Butelli, master ukuleleist who plays Feste who became entranced by an audience member in the second row, a woman who may have been part of the exquisite cast, too, but that was unlikely since she seemed genuinely flattered. Whatever you will. All's well that ends well.

Another feather in the play cap is the costuming (Mariah Hale). For lovers of Victorian dress, they will adore the gowns. Olivia's are marvelous, darling, especially the bridal gowns at the end which are only on stage such a short time. (Which reminds me: At the DAR Museum (Constitution Hall) over on D at 17th is a terrific exhibition of women's fashions of the 1920s. It's free!)

But back to the subject at hand: The choreography (Eleni Grove) and fight scenes (Casey Kaleba) made me wince several times, fearing the swords were real, and the sounds of the clashes soon gave me to know they were. Or flashed like they were.

And the title: Twelfth Night derives from the twelfth night of the Christmas season, the Epiphany on January 6, the end of the season's merrymaking, somewhat like Mardi Gras when foolishness, gaiety, and fun cease (for a while). So have at it what you will, but hurry for the time draws nigh when these frolics do end.
By the way: I wonder if the designer/artist for the program cover based his or her concept on Ophelia by John Everett Millais, likely the most popular piece in the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition which just ended at the National Gallery of Art. They are very much alike.

(Sshhhhhh….for non-Shakespearean scholars (a minority in this town, but keep mum), we all know that Bill's content can be difficult at times to keep up with, what will all the characters, multiple plots, sub-plots, love triangles, quartets. It does help and adds much to the production's enjoyment to read SparkNotes in advance (3X; it's not long). Available right here which permits readers to mentally straighten out the characters, their roles, and who does what, when, and where, and makes for better grasp of the quick action than that usually gained by reading the synopsis in the program notes while you wait for the show to start. (And you'll score 100 on the test, too, at the end, but who's counting?) Try it and see what you think.)

And now for the nominations:

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Helen Hayes Outstanding Director, Resident Play: Robert Richmond

Helen Hayes Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Play: Richard Sheridan Willis
Helen Hayes Outstanding Costume Design, Resident Production: Mariah Hale
What: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

When: Now through June 9 (dark Mondays) with matinees also on Saturdays and Sundays

Where: Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, D.C. 20003

How much: $39 - $60

Metro stations: Union Station or Capitol South

Duration: About 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission

For more information: 202-544-4600 or (ticketing) 202-544-7077

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2013 National Memorial Day Parade, Washington, D.C.

Members of the North Lincoln High School Band of Knights from Lincolnton, NC march in the 2013 National Memorial Day Parade/Patricia Leslie

The North Lincoln High School Band of Knights from Lincolnton, NC/Patricia Leslie

The National Society of Sons of the American Revolution in the 2013 National Memorial Day Parade/Patricia Leslie

Thousands of holiday celebrants lined Constitution Avenue for the National Memorial Day Parade to enjoy the sights and sounds and to pay tribute to members of the military who have given their lives for the United States.  The American Veterans Center presented the event which it resuscitated only eight years ago.  

High school bands from Oklahoma and North Carolina were by far the most numerous on the parade route. No college bands marched in the event which lasted a little over two hours, and no one seemed to mind.  Onlookers were happy to hear live patriotic music, see the uniforms, the swirling flags and girls, RGIII and his parents, all the marshals, and take pride in our nation's military which was on full display in strict fashion. Oh, and be glad the rain held off.

Major sponsors of the event were Myrtle Beach, S.C., American Airlines, Wells Fargo, the Military Order Purple Heart, T.A.P.S. (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), Fund Raising Strategies, HBO, State Farm, and Costco Wholesale.

The riderless horse/Patricia Leslie

The U.S. Army Band played the Army song, As the Army Goes Rolling Along, without question the most popular tune played by bands throughout the afternoon/Patricia Leslie

Members of the U.S. Army/Patricia Leslie

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard or, maybe, the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard?/Patricia Leslie

The U.S. Air Force/Patricia Leslie

The U.S. Navy/Patricia Leslie

The U.S. Marine Corps/Patricia Leslie

Robert Griffin III with his parents, Army veterans Jacqueline and Robert Griffin, Jr., honorary grand marshals/Patricia Leslie

The first float in the parade was sponsored by T.A.P.S. (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)/Patricia Leslie
The Bruin Marching Band from Alfred Bonnabel Magnet Academic High School, Kenner, LA/Patricia Leslie

Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna, honorary marshals/Patricia Leslie

 The sign on the wagon said "Cashdales"/Patricia Leslie
Ballou High School Majestic Knights Band from Washington, D.C./Patricia Leslie
J.R. Martinez, U.S. Army Veteran, Grand Marshal/Patricia Leslie

Athens Drive High School Marching Band, Raleigh, NC/Patricia Leslie
At 3 p.m. the parade paused for the playing of taps by a solitary bugler, and was followed by a moment of silence/Patricia Leslie

President George Washington must have left Martha in the kitchen to bake a cherry pie.  Without her, he looked like a grumpy old man/Patricia Leslie

President Abraham Lincoln came wifeless, too. Surely the naysayers can figure out the whereabouts of Mary Todd Lincoln/Patricia Leslie
The Franklin High School Black Knight Marching Band from Franklin, PA/Patricia Leslie

A high kicker in the Franklin High School Black Knight Marching Band from Franklin, PA/Patricia Leslie

Another grand marshal, Trace Adkins/Patricia Leslie

Sons of Confederate Veterans from Alexandria, VA, and Maryland/Patricia Leslie

Orange High School Panther Band, Hillsborough, NC/Patricia Leslie
Miami University Alumni remember Lt. Robert Meder, Miami Class of 1939/Patricia Leslie

Concordia Lutheran High School Marching Cadets, Ft. Wayne, IN/Patricia Leslie
Concordia Lutheran High School Marching Cadets, Ft. Wayne, IN/Patricia Leslie

Ninth and Tenth Horse Cavalry, Buffalo Soldiers, Washington, D.C./Patricia Leslie
Cache High School Bulldog Pride, Cache, OK/Patricia Leslie

The Lions Club, a sponsor/Patricia Leslie

Flags and military/Patricia Leslie
The Bayonne High School Band, Bayonne, NJ/Patricia Leslie

 Military heroes First Lt. John Campbell and Master Sergeant Richard Schema/Patricia Leslie
"We can do it!"/Patricia Leslie

Talihina High School Marching Band, Talihina, OK/Patricia Leslie

Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors/Patricia Leslie

James Oliver Johnson High School, Home of the Mighty Jaguars, The Mighty Sounds of the South, Huntsville, AL/Patricia Leslie
It's time to play hearty/Patricia Leslie

Honorary marshal Jerry Yellin flew the final mission in World War II/Patricia Leslie

Those carrying pictures of faces of the fallen veered off the parade route and turned left on 17th towards the WWII monument/Patricia Leslie

Henryetta High School Marching Band, Henryetta, OK/Patricia Leslie

Jefferson Davis High School Marching Band, Montgomery, AL/Patricia Leslie

Sanderson High School Marching Band, Raleigh, NC/Patricia Leslie

A Vietnam veteran/Patricia Leslie

Needham B. Broughton High School Band, Raleigh, NC/Patricia Leslie

Unbelievable!  Some members of the Republic of Vietnam Veterans Association Coalition wore heels to march in the parade/Patricia Leslie
A leg uniform of many colors is frequently seen in and out of parade routes/Patricia Leslie

Hope High School Marching Bobcat Band, Hope, AR, birthplace of President William Jefferson Clinton/Patricia Leslie

Hope High School's conductor/Patricia Leslie
Kuwait/Patricia Leslie

 Schalmont High School Sabres Marching Band, Schenectady, NY/Patricia Leslie
North County High School Raiders Regiment, Bonne Terre-Desloge, MO/Patricia Leslie

Regimental Band and Honor Guard, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Buzzards Bay, MA/Patricia Leslie

The U.S. military on the ready/Patricia Leslie
The airmen marched and chanted in cadence/Patricia Leslie

Honoring the families of America's fallen heroes/Patricia Leslie

Honoring the families of America's fallen heroes/Patricia Leslie

South Ridge High School Skyhawks, Beaverton, OR/Patricia Leslie

Pascagoula High School Panther Band, Pascagoula, MS/Patricia Leslie
Pascagoula High School Panther Band, Pascagoula, MS/Patricia Leslie

Cool dudes aka Central Islip Senior High School Musketeer Marching Band, Central Islip, NY/Patricia Leslie

Marching home again/Patricia Leslie