Wednesday, January 28, 2015

'Be My Baby,' a winter winner in Vienna

Danny Issa and Casey Bauer star in Vienna Theatre Company's Be My Baby, a romantic comedy by Ken Ludwig/Photo by David Segal

I loved this play.  There's so much to love about it:  the humor and style, the story, the fun, the "important message." 

Consider it an early Valentine present from the Vienna Theatre Company, written by D.C.'s own Ken Ludwig, a lawyer by training, a playwright by passion.

The story is totally implausible, but it works.  In Scotland (why Scotland?) a young couple (Casey Bauer and Danny Issa) marry (a play with a wedding!  A surefire winner) but are unable to have children, so the bride's aunt (Allison Shelby) agrees to travel abroad, to California no less, with the groom's caretaker, a grumpy old man, a geezer (John Barclay Burns (related to Robert?)), to fetch a newborn for the childless couple, the baby of a relative who doesn't want the baby (?).  The mutual love the older couple shares is not.  (Did you get all that? Where do playwrights come up with these ideas?  Anyway, it's much simpler to follow than the way it appears here, and...)

The young couple (Gloria and Christy) are a real life young couple, girlfriend and boyfriend, so their "sizzle" is not pretense.  
From left, actors Allison Shelby, Erick Storck, and Danny Issa face Casey Bauer (the bride) and John Barclay Burns (in kilt) in Ken Ludwig's romantic comedy, Be My Baby, at the Vienna Theatre Company/Photo by David Segal

In Be My Baby, everyone does an admirable job of speaking with a Scottish accent (with no voice coach listed in the program) and Burns' accent is actually real (according to program notes), however, in the beginning, Ms. Bauer speaks a little too fast, and is sometimes hard to follow. (I found myself wishing she had a microphone, but perhaps her rapidfire delivery was first scene jitters.)

Ms. Shelby is beautiful and perfectly suited as a grandmother and caring relative, and Mr. Burns is dynamic, delivering zingers, but the two "ensembles," Eric Storck and Meg Hoover, come very close to stealing the show.  They portray several characters and vary their voice inflections and gaits to suit the fancy of a nurse, a flight attendant, bellman, preacher, judge, to name a few of their roles. (Kudos to the costume designer, Susan Devine.)

And for more content, how about some lines from "Scotland's favorite son," its national poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796), spoken in Be My Baby by the living Mr. Burns, such as "For whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people...."?

The sets are simple and adequate.  Strollers and a baby carriage hang from the black ceiling to foretell the future (nicely designed by Suzanne Maloney, also the play's director). Everything is all black, save the mostly wooden structures:  a door frame, a bench, a table, a desk, a railing. In the second act, for some reason, props from earlier scenes remain and clutter up the stage, distracting from later scenes until they are removed. 

And who counted the scene changes?  They zoom by quickly, in and out, and no one will doze.

Particularly effective are Aunt Maud's first plane ride, and the opening car scene when Maud and Gloria ride together and move their bodies perfectly in time with each other and the car's rhythm.

The sound designer/composer Jonathan Powers does an outstanding job with constant baby cries, the noises from different vehicles (a car, a jet engine, a cruise ship's horn) and lots of 60s music brought back to life for those of a certain age.  (Mr. Ludwig celebrates his 65th birthday in March.)  I hereby nominate Mr. Powers for a "watchie" (Washington Area Theatre Community Honors).

At the end, the bride cries real tears, and I did, too, swept away by the moment.  Will Be My Baby have that effect on you?

On opening weekend, almost a sell-out.

Other key crew members: Laura Fargotstein, producer; Mary Ann Hall, stage manager; Micheal J. O'Connor, assistant stage manager; Tom Epps, lighting designer; Kimberly Crago, master electrician; John Vasko, master carpenter; Leta Fitzhugh, scenic artist; and Rachel Comer and Meghann Mirabile, prop masters. 

What:  Be My Baby by Ken Ludwig

When:  Jan. 30, 31 and February 6, 7 at 8 p.m., and February 1 and 8, at 2 p.m. 

Where: Vienna Theatre Company,120 Cherry Street, Vienna, VA 22180 (Vienna Community Center)

Tickets: $14

Parking: Lots of free parking on-site

For more information: 703-255-6360 or visit the website

Duration: Two hours with intermission

To read other local reviews of shows still playing, go to Other Reviews on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Friday, January 23, 2015

It pays to be a Democrat

The residence of the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, 2301 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie

On a cold day last week, officers and governors of the Woman's National Democratic Club walked about a half mile from their clubhouse at 1526 New Hampshire Avenue at Dupont Circle to 2301 Massachusetts Avenue, residence of the Ambassador Mohamed M. Tawfik of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the U.S., who had invited the group for lunch.

Upon arrival, the guests were treated to juices served on silver trays by butlers, and then Ambassador Tawfik led a tour of Egyptian artifacts at the residence, some which are 5,000 years old. 

From the first floor, the tour continued upstairs where the ambassador proudly pointed out several contemporary artworks hanging on the walls, all drawn by Egyptians.  Ambassador Tawfik is an obvious arts enthusiast since he seemed happy to share his vast knowledge of Egyptian art and a bit about each artist. 
Ambassador Mohamed M. Tawfik of the Arab Republic of Egypt invited officers and governors of the Woman's National Democratic Club to his residence for lunch.  Ambassador Tawfik stands in the center with his wife Amani Amin (in blue suit), and club member Mimi I. Hassanein (in head scarf) who helped arrange the event. Egyptian Consul Aldesuky Youssef and his wife are on the far left.  The president of the Woman's National Democratic Club, Anna Fierst (in blue), is on the top row behind the ambassador.

After the art tour, the ambassador and his wife, Amani Amin, led the guests to a large dining room with a long table and three abundant arrangements of fresh red roses, greenery, and little white flowers, strategically designed to avoid interruption of eye contact. (The whole residence was filled with fresh red roses.)

At the table, 22 sat comfortably in seats designated by place cards featuring the Egyptian seal embossed in gold and centered at the top. Guests' names were handwritten in distinctive font on both sides of the card.

Every guest received a printed menu on paper held together with gold twine inside a card on coated stock, the front which pictured a different artifact from the residence with description.  One read:

Egyptian Pottery Drinking Jar Filter. Placed in the neck of drinking jars and perforated so that when the water is poured it is purified.  Decorated with Arabesque animal motifs and geometrical designs.  Fatimid Period, 11th century AD.  Part of the museum collection displayed at The Egyptian Residence in Washington, DC

On the menu were salmon crepes, shish tawook (grilled chicken served with vermicelli and vegetable medley), Mediterranean salad, and umm-ali (baked sweet pastry drizzled with milk and cream).  Tea was served.

Ambassador Tawfik said the Egyptian government has owned the residence since 1928 when it bought the building
for $150,000.  The house is frequently known as the Joseph Beale House and was designed for Mr. and Mrs. Beale. It has a strong French influence with elaborately decorated walls and ceilings.  Built between 1907 and 1909, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

At the luncheon,  club member Mimi I. Hassanein was recognized for her efforts organizing the event. 

Each of the guests said she had either been to Egypt, or it was a destination.  One had honeymooned there.  The ambassador said tourist travel to Egypt is growing, and the country welcomes visitors.  Ambassador Tawfik and Consul Aldesuky Youssef said three museums are under construction in Egypt, including Cairo's Grand Egyptian Museum, the world's largest archaeological museum set to open this year on 120 acres, two kilometers from the pyramids at Giza.

شكرا لك، السيد السفير

المحطة التالية ، مصر !

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A jazzy night at Bethesda Blues

Mary Ann Redmond sings at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club with Jay Cooley on keys, Paul Langosch, bass, Danny Leonard, guitar, and Dave Mattacks, drums/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Bethesda Blues and Jazz sold out last weekend when Mary Ann Redmond and her party of four entertained non-stop for more than 90 minutes.

The audience purred right along with practically everything Redmond put out, and one had the feeling that most there were already fans. 

Before he turned them loose, Bethesda Blues owner Rick Brown came out on stage to thank the audience for coming, and announced his club has surpassed 100,000 in attendance since it opened in 2013 after an $8 million renovation. 

For some reason Ms. Redmond opened the show with a lacklustre "Come Rain or Come Shine," and if you weren't familiar with her music, you might have thought you were in for a loooong night, but that impression was not to last.

Soon afterwards, the entertainment took off, and all the players became stars.
Mary Ann Redmond sings at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club with Jay Cooley on keys, Paul Langosch, bass, and Danny Leonard, guitar/Photo by Patricia Leslie

For a while it was keyboardist and magical arranger Jay Cooley who stole the show, then Paul Langosch on bass took the limelight, then it was master e-guitarist Danny Leonard's (unannounced before show time) turn to shine.
Jay Cooley at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club/Photo by Patricia Leslie

No, wait, there was drummer Dave Mattacks who's played with Sir Paul McCartney, Jethro Tull, Elton John (to name a few) and he stole the show. 

They were all show stealers, professional and incredible to hear all making music for the vocals of Miss Redmond who sings pop, jazz, soul, you name it, with some bossa nova thrown in.
Mary Ann Redmond sings at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club with Paul Langosch, bass, Danny Leonard, guitar, and Dave Mattacks on drums/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Her soul sounds are something akin to Aretha Franklin.   (Has anyone ever called her a "white Aretha Franklin"?) A fan certainly hoped her sexy version of Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar," set at a slower pace, is on one of her albums, and her low, guttural meows unlike any I've heard, made perfect for Peggy Lee's "Fever," a huge hit with the audience, like most everything Redmond sang.

Several numbers arranged expertly by keyboardist Cooley stood out: The Beatles' "Fool on the Hill" and "Can't Buy Me Love," Ray Charles' "Unchain My Heart," Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," and the Supremes' "Stop in the Name of Love."

Near the end, swaying fans stood in a chorus line, arms wrapped around backs to listen.
Jay Cooley on keys and Paul Langosch plays bass at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club with Mary Ann Redmond/Photo by Patricia Leslie

When the lights dimmed and the quintet left the stage, the whoops and applause from the audience soon brought the musicians back for one of Redmond's biggest hits, "Love Me Anyway" which she co-wrote with Todd Wright.  It's  sold three million copies.

If Redmond ditched those heavy office glasses and wore a sexy, sparkly number with red Dorothy shoes, and a mean boa to throw around, she'd give the men something to look at besides the funeral black outfit she had on like she was going to be whisked away after the show to a memorial service somewhere. 

The performers' apparel overall was pretty drab (like a bunch of academicians'), saved by the lighting designer which brought some life to the visuals.  (Music is not totally what you hear. Tones and emotions set the stage, too.)

The crowd sounds from the lobby bar occasionally drifted in to the concert venue during pauses, but everyone was having a good time, and that's what it's all about, Alfie.

Coming up: 

Friday, Jan. 23, Be'la Dona, $20, dance night, doors open at 6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 24, Carl's Rare Roast Beef Band, $10, theater seating only since it's dance night beginning at 8 p.m.

Where: Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club, 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814

How much: See prices

Future shows: Please check out the calendar.

For more information: 240-330-4500

Getting there: The Bethesda Metro station is about 1.5 blocks away, and parking is below the building (free on weekends). See directions.

To read about past shows, please click Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mack McLarty recounts the Cllnton years at St. John's, Lafayette Square

Mack McLarty, left, Bill Clinton's first chief of staff, with Clark Ervin at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. Jan. 18, 2015/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Mack McLarty, 68, President Bill Clinton's first chief of staff, was the guest speaker at Sunday's Adult Forum at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, in Washington.

The man who served Clinton for about 18 months, one of four Clinton chiefs of staff, said all the right things and related popular Clinton history in the almost hour-long session moderated by St. John's member Clark Ervin and attended by about 125 persons.

Before September 11, the White House was judged "at the end of the day by peace and prosperity," the "real measures of success," and "under those criteria, the Clinton presidency was pretty successful," McLarty said.  
Mack McLarty, left, Bill Clinton's first chief of staff, with Clark Ervin at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. Jan. 18, 2015/Photo by Patricia Leslie

When Ervin asked McLarty if al-Qaeda had been on "the radar screen" then, McLarty said "we were very aware of potent and dramatic" events, and "what we now define as 'terrorism.'"

At a 1996 campaign town hall meeting with Republican candidate Bob Dole and Clinton, McLarty said only one question was asked about foreign policy during the 90-minute session.

Bill Clinton was president during the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the "very dramatic" and "tragic" Waco siege the same year.  After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, President Clinton went to Oklahoma where he was not a popular figure, McLarty said, but the president was welcomed "respectfully."

The fellow Arkansans and lifelong friends had some experience with neo-Nazis in their home state. (Both were born in Hope, Arkansas and attended school together.) 

"The security and protection of the American people is [the president's] most solemn and sacred responsibility," McLarty said.
Mack McLarty, Bill Clinton's first chief of staff, at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. Jan. 18, 2015/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The Clinton years saw 22 million new jobs created and working with Congress, "moved over five million people" from welfare to work and worked to achieve "not only a balanced budget but a surplus."   

Today the "country today seems pretty divided....I easily can get on a soapbox about this because....I have very strong feelings about it because it's [gridlock] not serving our country well...gridlock has moved to disfunctionality."  He blamed the 24/7 news cycle and campaign financing for the discord.

"We are paying our elected officials to get the job done."  

McLarty said 99 percent of Congressional members are "decent, hardworking, dedicated, smart people," and about 90 (with half from each party) have joined him in a group working to restore Capitol Hill productivity. "I think there's some hope," he said. 

About the 2016 presidential race, McLarty he has known said Hillary Clinton since before she got married, and she is "by far the favorite candidate on the Democratic side" who "would make an outstanding president."  

Meanwhile, the Republican race "looks to me like a donnybrook."
Mack McLarty, left, Bill Clinton's first chief of staff, with Clark Ervin at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. Jan. 18, 2015/Photo by Patricia Leslie

A governor has a head start in the race, McLarty believes, since he or she has worked with a legislature and is "a little bit closer to the people," economically speaking.  

He praised President George H.W. Bush several times during his talk, including Bush's attempts to help with the Mid-East peace talks which Bill Clinton worked very hard to accomplish.  To attempt "a major peace initiative" for any president or secretary of state is a risk since lack of success will be broadcast, and the president must account for it.

The period between church services left little time for questions from the audience, but St. John's rector, the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, a native of Cuba, got in the first one, and asked why the Clinton administration didn't move to begin relations with Cuba which had been promised at a White House clergy breakfast.  

McLarty said "it was not a high priority" then, but small steps were taken to make some progress until a plane was shot down over Cuba which "sealed off" any dialogue with that country.  With 85 percent of members supporting legislation, Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 which continued the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

He called President Barack Obama's action to open the gates between the U.S. and Cuba "a very bold step," and for the first time, Cuba will be invited to Panama this spring to participate in the 2015 Summit of the Americas which President Obama will attend, too, McLarty said.

He was asked how presidents maintain balance between all the "yes" people who surround the office and who refrain from telling the president what he or she does not want to hear. McLarty said Clinton "knew there was a presidential bubble," but is quite curious anyway, and often invited those with differing views to the White House since he wanted to hear what they had to say.

McLarty is president of McLarty Associates, a Washington-based consulting group, and the chief executive officer of McLarty Companies.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mary Ann Redmond, Langosch, Cooley, Mattacks at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Saturday eve

Mary Ann Redmond/Photo by Michael McDermott

Local jazz star and soul vocalist, Mary Ann Redmond, will perform at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Saturday night with Paul Langosch on bass, Jay Cooley on keys, and special guest on drums, Dave Mattacks.

Redmond has something to please all with her specialities in rock, blues, soul, jazz, pop, and she plays guitar.

Langosch, who teaches jazz at Virginia Tech, played bass for Tony Bennett for 20 years.  Cooley has a following from his many experiences with area greats, playing, directing, and writing.  

Mattacks has played with Elton John, George Harrison, Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens and has recorded five CDs with Sir Paul McCartney.

A resident of Great Falls, Redmond, 55, has won 23 Wammies (Washington Area Music Awards) including three in 2013 for female rhythm and blues vocalist, song of the year, "Love Me Anyway," and songwriter of the year with Todd Wright. 

Another night of great music at Bethesda Blues!

Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club, 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD/Photo by Marc Rubin

What:  Mary Ann Redmond, Paul Langosch, Jay Cooley, and Dave Mattacks at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club

When: 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.  Doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814

How much: $20 at the door or online.

Future shows: Please check out the calendar.

Food and drink: The dining area has a $10 per person minimum which can be applied toward any item on the menu. Check out FAQ here. And here's the menu. I have found the food (beet salad: yummy) and drinks, good and reasonably priced.

For more information: 240-330-4500

Getting there: The Bethesda Metro station is about 1.5 blocks away, and parking is below the building (free on weekends). See directions.

To read about past shows, please click Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Andrew Card in bed with George and Barbara Bush

Andrew Card at St. John's Episcopal
Church, Lafayette Square/Photo by Patricia Leslie

That's what he said Sunday at the Adult Forum at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.

Andrew Card, 67, chief of staff for George W. Bush, was the guest speaker at St. John's, where he held the 150 or so audience members fascinated with his "behind-the-scenes" look at what it takes to be the president's COS.
Andrew Card at St. John's Episcopal
Church, Lafayette Square/Photo by Patricia Leslie

He also served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and just today began a new job as president of Franklin Pierce University. He was the person in the "iconic" photograph of September 11, 2001 who told President Bush in a classroom of second graders in Sarasota, Florida, that the U.S. had been attacked.

In-between flights and trips advising George W. Bush on his 2000 presidential race, Card said Bush called and told him to go to Houston to visit Bush's parents who were longtime friends of Card.  ("I was much closer to his parents" than he was to George W. Bush, Card said.)

He followed George W.'s directive and went to Houston, arriving at the Bush home before George H.W. and Barbara got there (out campaigning). When they rolled in at 11:30 p.m. (Barbara) and midnight (George H.W.), peanut butter and honey sandwiches were on the late-night menu.
Andrew Card at St. John's Episcopal
Church, Lafayette Square/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The next morning, Card got up and got dressed and soon heard a knock on the bedroom door.  There stood the former first lady who expressed surprise that Card was already up and dressed.

"'Come and have coffee,'" she said, and invited Card into the first couple's bedroom. "'Join us,'" she said, and Card did. The Bushes invited Card to "'lay down with us'" in the bed which Card did. (!)

Card said the television was on, and the couple was "chattering away."

In a few minutes, the former president got up, and Card got up, too, but the former president told Card:"'No, stay there with Barb.'"  And Card did as he was instructed:  "I got in bed with the first lady." (What do you say when a former president gives orders?)

The Bushes told Card to "'take good care of our son.'" Card was still unaware "the son" was tapping Card to become his chief of staff.

For the 2000 presidential debates, Card was sought as a negotiator for the particulars of the debates which took him from his job at General Motors far longer than the expected several afternoons. Arrangements took two and a half weeks.

Describing the debates, he said Al Gore violated terms of the third debate in St. Louis when he left his podium and walked into George W. Bush's "space," and Bush just looked at him and won it.

When Card eventually got home after seven weeks on the campaign trail, his wife, Kathy, a United Methodist minister whom he met in fifth grade, asked if he was married to her or to George W. Bush.

At that moment at the Card household, the telephone rang, and it was the candidate calling again. (The Cards are still married.)

Andrew Card at St. John's Episcopal
Church, Lafayette Square/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Card compared being the chief of staff for the president to a marriage, but working for the president is a lot more demanding since the COS is on call 24 hours a day/seven days a week.

It's a job "designed by the needs of the president," and "you also serve the first lady" and her staff.

Schedules, motorcades, gardening, laundry, the "care and feeding of the president" all fall under the jurisdiction of the COS.

"Can the president find time to eat, sleep, and be married?" 

"It's a great privilege and honor" to be the chief of staff, Card said.  "It's an ultimate experience" which can't be called a job since it's not 9 to 5. 
Card said he did not agree with every decision George W. Bush made. "The president should never make an easy decision," and "if so, the chief of staff is not doing his or her job." (Throughout his talk Card was always quick to use masculine and feminine pronouns and correct himself when he forgot.)

Every decision should be "brutally" tough to make, and the president needs to obtain lots of opinions. Being COS is "a management challenge."

The time passed quickly at St. John's where Card never once took position behind the podium which was brought out for him, and no one (save the moderator) seemed to notice the hour was ending, leaving time for only one question:  How do you maintain your enthusiasm?

Earlier in his talk, Card talked about his ceaseless optimism.  "I start every day with faith," welcoming the new dawn at 4:08 a.m. and  Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
He also quoted a passage from Ecclesiastes about God's time which may have been 3:11:
      Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.

To be a chief of staff, "you have to be an optimist....I wanted the president to realize the privilege that was given to him....Optimism is critically important."  If a leader is not optimistic, he or she is hard pressed to get "followers" to go along with the program. 

"Every day was a good day.  You can't have a bad day when you're the president." 

Card said St. John's is "a very special place," a place where he has worshipped many times.  He grew up Roman Catholic, he said.

Wikipedia says "the average term of service for a White House Chief of Staff is a little under 2.5 years," and the person who has served that position the longest is John R. Steelman who held the position for the entire administration of Harry S Truman (six years, one month). Andrew Card is the third-longest serving COS (five years, three months) after Steelman and Sherman Adams, who was Dwight Eisenhower's COS (five years, nine months).

Card was born in Holbrook or Brockton (two reports), Massachusetts and graduated with an engineering degree from the University of South Carolina.   He attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and was first elected to public office in 1975 when voters sent him to the Massachusetts legislature.

I wanted to ask him if he is writing a book.

Next up at St. John's Adult Forum:  Mack McLarty, President Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff, January 18, 10 a.m.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Movie review: 'Mr. Turner' is looong and laborious

Timothy Spall is J.M.W. Turner in Mr. Turner by Sony Pictures Classics
Oh, please.  This is another one of those movie critics' movies, the kind they like and write about for each other.  Rather like that depressing cat movie of last year.

At Rotten Tomatoes, this may come as a shock, but the critics have given Mr. Turner a 97, while we the people who count, who rate, who provide the ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-chang, chang gave it a 61.  That's a big spread. 

We the people tend to ignore the critics and for good reason!  They've got their favorites, and we've got ours, and this ain't one. 

Who do you trust? 

Oh, sure, Timothy Spall does a fine acting job as J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), the painter, as do all the women in the film (Marion Bailey, Dorothy AtkinsonRuth Sheen), and I have no doubt Spall will be nominated for an Oscar, but acting,  beautiful scenery (like Turner's art), and period costuming (by Jacqueline Durran) can't carry the ball without a playbook. Those who come and pay to see movies would like some action, please, a story line featuring more than a joyless, moody artist harrumping and grabbing about.  The script is languid, rather like Turner's pace, a little faster than a drunken slug on New Year's Eve.

(In this role, Spall is proof positive that when it comes to sex appeal, looks don't matter.  Position and money are what counts.)
It's another movie, ho hum, which treats women as second-class citizens, but in the 19th century, I don't think they were citizens at all. Women meant nothing to Turner except when he "needed" them. Grrrummmmmpppp.....or is that grrooppe? 
Turner is not as good as another film about an artist (Big Eyes) which is pretty miraculous that two films are out at the same time about the lives of artists, but Big Eyes was a pleasant surprise, and coming soon,  a review of it. 

The fact that I had to hold my head at a 125 degree angle the whole time at E Street trying to see Mr. Turner certainly made matters worse.  It was the 5 p.m. show last Saturday, and the theater was all booked except for the very front.  Yeeks.  Terrible seats.  I poked the guy next to me who was about 12 going on 35, and voiced my complaint, and naturally, he agreed. I couldn't tell if those in the front three rows had neck cricks or were fast asleep. 

Producers:  Where is the movie on strong women?  Why do we always have to play second fiddle and be your pawns?  I want to see Joan of Arc take on the British, Tina stomp on Ike, Queen Isabella of Spain rule the world, and Catherine of Russia dish it.  You go, girls! 

I can't wait to see the new woman vampire film.  Eat'em up!  Let's go!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

'Downton Abbey' costumes at Winterthur

If you missed Winterthur's splendid Downton Abbey costume exhibit which closed Sunday after a 10-month run, here are some photos of the display. The former home of Henry F. du Pont (1880-1969), Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library in Winterthur, Delaware will re-open to the public March 1 when spring starts up.
Let yours blossom with a day trip up to Winterthur, less than two months and about two hours away, north on Interstate 95.  (Take $16 for tolls north and about $12, heading home.) Winterthur has a garden calendar, too. An excellent day trip from Washington combines Winterthur and Brandywine River Museum, the home and studios of N.C. and Andrew Wyeth, just six miles from Winterthur.  Would you believe they both have places to eat and to shop?/Photo by Patricia Leslie 
 This is one of the gowns worn by Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey, in the gown above/Photo of a photo by Patricia Leslie
An array of finery, including Maggie Smith's gown, at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A summer's day at Downton Abbey and at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library/Photo by Patricia Leslie
"Oh, Bill! Am I ever gonna see my wedding day?" Worn in Downton Abbey/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Close-up of the wedding dress above/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Downton Abbey gowns at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Close-up of the dress on the left, above/Photo by Patricia Leslie
"M'lady, where are your gloves?"  "In the case where I left them." A label at the Winterthur show quoted Emily Post from 1922:  "Ladies always wear gloves to formal dinners but take them off at the table.  Entirely off....Both glove and fan are supposed to be laid across the lap, and one is supposed to lay the napkin folded once in half across the lap too, on top of the gloves and fan."/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Downton Abbey gowns, three  of the 40 costumes in the show/Photo by Patricia Leslie
From Downton Abbey/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The wife of Henry du Pont was Ruth Wales du Pont (1899-1967) ("the best thing that ever happened to him") and this is her "quite heavy" travel case (of alligator or crocodile and carried by the maid) made c. 1920 in England.  Among other items, it contained an address book, ink well and sketch pad, 10 gold-plated and capped cosmetic bottles, an ash tray, photo case, clock, thimble, needle case, shoe horn, button hook, two lipstick cases (one with a lipstick), hairbrush,  combs, hair pin box, soap case, two toothbrushes, a mirror and jewelry box/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Downton Abbey gowns/Photo by Patricia Leslie
This is what you wear for a wedding proposal.  Mine were a trifle removed from these/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Downton Abbey gowns/Photo by Patricia Leslie
What: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

When:  Opening for the 2015 season on March 1

Where: 5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Winterthur, DE 19735 (Winterthur says Google Maps sometimes gives incorrect directions, so it recommends MapQuest.)

Admission: Members are always admitted free. Adults, $25; seniors and students, $23; children, 2-11, $5, and no charge for children under age 2.

For more information: 800-448-3883 
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library/Winterthur

Monday, January 5, 2015

Free Hindemith sonatas concert Wednesday at St. John's, Lafayette Square

Composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), age 28/Wikipedia

Iris Lan will play the complete organ sonatas of German composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) in a free performance at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square on Wednesday, beginning at 12:10 p.m.

The program, part of St. John's First Wednesday series, is scheduled for just 35 minutes, a rare opportunity to hear the complete sonatas by one composer at a single concert.  The sonatas are based on old folk songs.

Hindemith, also a violinist, teacher, and conductor, learned to play the violin when he was a child.  When he was 19, he was chosen assistant leader of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra, and he gained an international following at age 27 when some of his compositions were played at a Salzburg music festival.  

He had a rocky relationship with the Nazis who criticized his music but thought they could use him as a tool. In 1935 he was hired by the Turkish government to reorganize its musical education program which he achieved to worldwide acclaim, and his influence is still experienced and appreciated there today, according to Wikipedia.  Hindemith became an American citizen in 1946 and taught at Yale University, before returning to Europe in 1953 where he died in Frankfurt, near his birthplace.

Juilliard-trained Lan, a renowned Harvard University graduate, is the organist at Manhattan's Church of St. Andrew and a former choir member at St. John's.

St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie
St. John's, known to many Washington residents as the yellow church at Lafayette Square, is often called the “Church of the Presidents.” Beginning with President James Madison, who served from 1809 to 1817, every president has been a member of St. John's or has attended services at the church. A plaque at the rear of St. John's designates the pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by the church during the Civil War.

All concerts start at 12:10 p.m. (with an exception in April), and last about 35 minutes. Food trucks are located at Farragut Square, two blocks away, for those on lunch break.

Who:  Organist Iris Lan plays Paul Hindemith's sonatas

What: First Wednesday Concerts

When: 12:10 p.m., January 7, 2015

Where: St. John’s, Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street, NW, at the corner of 16th, Washington, D.C. 20005

How much: No charge

Duration: About 35 minutes

Wheelchair accessible

Metro stations: McPherson Square (White House exit), Farragut North, or Farragut West

For more information: Contact Michael Lodico, St. John's associate organist and choir director, at 202-270-6265 or 202-347-8766

Future dates and artists of the First Wednesday Concerts are:

February 4: Lena Seikaly, jazz vocalist, with the Dan Dufford Trio performing works by Duke Ellington and friends

March 4: Jared Denhard, bagpiper, assisted by Michael Lodico, St. John's organist and choirmaster, performing Pipes and More Pipes

April 19 (Sunday), 4 p.m.: Spring Concert by St. John's Choir

May 6: The U.S. Air Force Strings accompanied by Benjamin Hutto performing a Handel organ concerto and other pieces

June 3: Benjamin Straley, organist at the Washington National Cathedral