Thursday, December 26, 2019

Another 'Eureka!' show at Mosaic

It may be the D.C. debut, but it won't be the last of this show in D.C.

How does Ari Roth, Mosaic Theater's artistic director, land these riveting, modern tales before anyone else? 

Eureka Day is the progressives gone overboard.  A mirror from the left looking at (laughing at) themselves. (Conservatives will adore it!) 

It's hilarious. It's provoking, and it's another big hit at Mosaic.

Two men and three women make up the  "executive committee" of a liberal private high school in Berkeley, California (where else?). 

Never mind that public schools need all the attention and attendance they can get from wealthy liberal parents. (Think, the Clintons, the Obamas, and Sidwell Friends School; thank you very much, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter who sent their daughter, Amy, to public school when they occupied the White House.)

After all, these are our children for whom we should do the very best and who cares about anyone else? Ours simply must attend Eureka Day! Enough liberal thinking!

A new parent (Erica Chamblee) is the outlier at Eureka Day School who sits on the outside of the group watching the circus, waiting, an audience of one, representing us, the viewers.

Two others in the group, Eli (Elan Zafir) and Meiko (Regina Aquino) are having an affair, of course.  Where would any contemporary sensible production be without this de rigueur practice?

ancing Don (Sam Lunay) moves with the best of them, trying to keep everything and everybody in line, to reach "consensus" and maybe, everything won't be so bad.

Suzanne (Lise Bruneau) is the antagonist with a correction for everything:  Please, they are not Egyptians; they are enslaved persons.  

Please! Here we use only gender-neutral or non-binary pronouns. Get with the program! 

Tsk! Tsk! You really do need an education, don't you, to use those for recycled plates? They are not the right kind.

The script includes discussion about vaccinations.  To vaccinate or not?  Close the school?

The funniest part comes at the end of Act 1 when the committee leads a virtual meeting that parents may attend on Facebook. And do they ever. (Dylan Uremovich and Theodore J. H. Hulsker are in charge of projections.) Sling to the right of us, to the left, take that, and on and on producing regales of audience laughter, so much that who cares what the stage taskmasters are saying?

Eureka has its serious moments, too, but, thankfully, not as many as the humorous ones. (I just came to laugh, after all.  Vaccinations?  What vaccinations?  This is billed as a comedy.)

The music between scenes is divine.  The first act ends too quickly and the second finishes much too fast for it all to be over, meaning I wanted it to go on and on. 

The acting is superb, and the mannerisms drawn by Director Serge Seiden with such swooping and bending and looks, like those loved by audiences the world over.

Mar Cox and Thomas Nagata, the assistant stage manager, are also in the cast.   

Creative team members include Andrew Cohen, set; Brittany Shemuga, lights;Brandee Mathies, costumes; David Lamont Wilson, sound; Deborah C. Thomas, properties; Shirley Serotsky, dramaturg; Claudia Rosales Waters, intimacy consultant; and Aril E. Carter, stage manager

What:  Eureka Day by Jonathan Spector

When: Now through January 5, 2020, Monday, Dec. 30, and Thursday- Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees, 3 p.m.

Where: Mosaic Theater Company, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20002

Getting there: Riding public transportation from Union Station on the streetcar is easy and free, if you can find the streetcar behind Union Station where signage to the streetcar is poor. Valet and parking options are available. 

Tickets start at $20. (Use discount code "2020" to get 20% off.)

Language: Adult

Duration: About two hours with one 15-minute intermission

Post-show discussions:  Dec. 30, Jan. 2, and Jan. 4.

Open-captioned performances: Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 (Call for time on Jan. 4.) 

For more information: Please call the box office (202-399-7993, ext. 2) or email
202-399-7993 e

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A delightful 'Charlie Brown Christmas' lands in Manassas

 Nick MacFarlane, left, is Charlie Brown and Trevor Nordike is Linus in Prince William Little Theatre's A Charlie Brown Christmas/Photo by Melissa Jo York-Tilley

It doesn’t matter that you may have seen A Charlie Brown Christmas 100 times on television because the live show now on stage in Manassas is 100 times better than any old TV version.

And there's just one more weekend to see it.

 The cast from Prince William Little Theatre's Charlie Brown Christmas/Photo by Melissa Jo York-Tilley

Produced by the Prince William Little Theatre, this Christmas special at the Hylton Performing Arts Center is a joyful holiday treat for families to share together in the spirit of the season.
The message never gets tiresome, the scenics are always refreshing, and the Manassas players present a hilarious, sad, and charming musical, sure to leave theatergoers (yes, even the Scrooge in the bunch) happy, especially with a surprise ending.

Any director (Chrissy Mastrangelo here) would be hard put to find actors more fitting for these main roles than Nick MacFarlane as Charlie Brown and Trevor Nordike who is Linus.

Prince William's slumping, stooped-shouldered Charlie Brown shuffles his feet across the stage, accompanied by his able-bodied lieutenant, Linus (comforted, of course, by his blue blanket) in Charlie Brown's quest to find the real meaning of Christmas.

To capture Charlie Brown's essence, it would seem that Director Mastrangelo required Mr. MacFarlane to watch hours of the real Charlie Brown, so reminiscent is Mr. MacFarlane of the cartoon character.

Not to be outdone by any competitor is the effervescent Lucy ((Kacie Brady), the dynamo psychiatrist who is always game for whatever aids her.

"You've been dumb before," she says to Charlie Brown, "but this time you've really done it!"

He sighs:  "Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I know nobody likes me."

To which mean Violet (Bevin Hester) shouts at our star: "I didn't send you a Christmas card!"

With friends like these, is it any wonder that poor Charlie Brown lacks pep in his step?

All is not lost, however, among Peanuts gang members.

The colorful set opens with a "skating rink" where actors ably glide their sock skates to dance in circles with later action shifting to Snoopy's huge, lighted dog house.

And what a dog to steal the show!

This Snoopy (Katherine Blondin) can even make animal sounds.

A big snowball fight adds merriment. (What were those snowballs made of?)

To make the show even better is the live music on stage, lead by Justin Streletz who plays the piano and reminds us of all the melodies lying at the back of our minds. Chris Anderson is the drummer and an unnamed bassist add immense enjoyment to the production.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a great way to introduce youngsters to the joys of live theatre while basking in togetherness of the moment with loved ones (including yourself).

Throughout the presentation youthful laughter flows from the audience, an indication that not only does this Christmas have an important theme, but it's fun, too.

Other members of the Peanuts gang are Lisa Arnold, Timothy Burhouse, Cana Jordan Wade, Darcy Heisey, Laura Castillo, and Lindsey Capuno.

Crew members include Hayley Katarina, assistant director; Jennifer Rodriguez, producer; Katie Morris, stage manager; Suzy Moorstein, costume designer; Michelle Matthews, sound; Nick Mastrangelo, set; Peter Ponzini, lighting; Jeanie Ingram, program, and Ms. Mastrangelo choreographs.

What:  A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz, based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson. Major sponsor: Mark Moorstein of Offit/Kurman

When:  Friday, Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 21, 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 21 and 22, 2 p.m.

Where:   Hylton Performing Arts Center, George Mason University,10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, VA 20110

Admission:  $13 for 12 and younger; $17 for seniors, students, and active military; $20, general admission

For more information: Click here or call 703-993-7759, Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Movie review: 'Jojo Rabbit' is a sleeper hit!

It's one of the Year's Top 10!

The audience rates Jojo Rabbit at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and the critics, 79% (ho hum), so you know it's got to be good since the audience is always right.

"Adolph" (Taika Waititi, the director) is the imaginary friend of "Jojo" (Roman Griffith Davis) in Jojo Rabbit

Easy prediction:  Jojo will make the Top 10 Oscar "Best Movies" list of 2019, practically assured by its inclusion in the Golden Globe nominations.

But Best Actor for a 12-year-old (Roman Griffith Davis)? Naaawwww....just call me ageist. 

What's required for admittance to Jojo is an open mind and tolerance since this is billed as a "black comedy," and that it is, folks. (Parent's warning: It's okay for mature tweens, but the story will be hard to follow for younger children.)

My Jewish friends may find the World War II Nazi Germany setting intolerable, but the negativity gradually collapses to opposition in Jojo, with its underlying theme which strengthens as the show progresses without becoming overbearing.

Jojo Rabbit has a horrid rabbit exchange, but this is a satire, and I know PETA would not let anything happen to a silly rabbit.  

Writer, director, "Polynesian Jew" Taika Waititi
 (who based Jojo on a story by Christine Leunens) has placed himself in a major role (an imaginary Adolph Hitler) who befriends "Jojo" (Master Davis), a member of Hitler's Youth Army. The lad is a bit uncertain what it all means, but there's a surprise in his attic which grows on him and becomes a life lesson.

In this blend of light sci-fi with a fabulous score (by Michael Giacchino), I can assure you no one will be bored.

Jojo has a ton of great actors but none better than Stephen Merchant as the despised straight-up German officer who, I hope, earns a 
Best Supporting Actor nomination. Just one look and a few wordless seconds with this awful person are all that are necessary for his persona as Mr. Evil to emerge.

A Best Supporting Actress nod will likely go to Tomasin McKenzie (who's only 19 years old herself, but never mind). The casting crew deserves a nomination for choosing the other knockouts who include Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, Sam Rockwell, and Archie Yates (a darling boy), among many.

With hate crimes on the rise, exacerbated by world leaders' ignorance, narcissism, self-righteousness, and ethnocentrism, the movie's message subtly undergirds the content which I hope leaves viewers with heightened sensitivities to better acceptance of those who may be different from you and from me.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Historic photo show closes Sunday at the National Gallery of Art

Henry Peach Robinson, She Never Told Her Love, 1857, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund 

For a glimpse of 19th century American cultural history, one could do well to visit The Eye of the Sun, a display of rare photographs from the collection of the National Gallery of Art which children will find fascinating, too. 
Amelie Guillot-Saguez, Portrait of a Girl, c. 1849, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund.

The label copy for Portrait, above, says that although many women were employed in the photographic industry as hand painters, Ms. Guillot-Saguez made and painted pictures at the same time. She was one of the earliest to own her own studio which she opened in 1844, just five years past photography's debut. In 1849 Ms. Guillot-Saguez won a Bronze Medal at the Exhibition of Products of French Industry. 
Attributed to Hippolyte Bayard, Georgina, dead at age 20, c. 1852, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund. Although the sitter looks well enough here, the label copy says this was likely taken "not long before her death."
Andrew & Ives, Frederick Douglass, 1863, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund
American 19th Century, Sojourner Truth, 1864, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund

The label notes that abolitionists, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, used the means of photography to depict themselves with "dignity and grace" in their campaigns to rid the nation of slavery and uplift African Americans. Mr. Douglass may have been the most photographed man in the 19th century.

Rather than the photographer owning the copyright, Ms. Truth was the first to copyright the subject, herself, leading to her control and distribution of the its image and distribution. (You go, girl!)
Francis Frith, The Pyramids of El-Geezeh, from the South-West, 1858, National Gallery of Art,Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund. The photographer visited Egypt three times between 1856 and 1860 and took pictures for his fans of British armchair travelers. The sizes of the pyramids contrasted with the human figures in the foreground give a viewer an idea about their dimensions.

The title of the exhibition comes from a critic, Lady Elizabeth Eastlake (1809-1883) who described the magic of photography and its quick ascent to popular conversation only 20 years after its introduction in 1839. 

Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901) was so taken with the medium that she had her picture taken with her children in 1852,  but, displeased with her appearance, she obscured her face by scratching it out, not unlike some subjects today who may object to their own likenesses. (In another photograph made two days later by William Edward Kilburn, the queen turns her face and hides it with a bonnet. You can see it in the show.) 
John Reekie A Burial Party, Cold Harbor, Va., 1866 albumen print from Alexander Gardner's Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund A few pages from this rare book lay open inside a glass case at the exhibition.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), Xie Kitchin, 1869, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and David Robinson.  Could it be?  Yes, it could, that same "Lewis Carroll" who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Might this be his Alice?  She fits the part, but, alas, Xie is not.  See pictures of the real Alice at the exhibition.  Mr. Dodgson was a mathematics lecturer at Oxford University before he took up photography seriously..

The exhibition is mounted on the occasion of the 180th anniversary of the founding of photography, and the addition of 80 new works to the Gallery's collection, many, on public display for the first time.  It's one of the finest collections in American, the National Gallery touts on its website, and rightfully so!

Thomas H. Johnson, Waymart, c. 1863-1865, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund. Here the photographer shows the scarred landscape resulting from America's rapid industrialization as housing goes up to accommodate laborers working to deliver coal on the Northeast route.
Sir James Campbell of Stracathro, Tullichewan Castle, Vale of Leven, Scotland, 1857, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased as the Gift of the Richard King Mellon Foundation
Charles Marville, Grotto in the Bois de Boulogne, 1858-1860, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund. Mr. Marville was hired by Paris to photograph the renovated park which it became after Napoleon III transformed the area from royal hunting grounds.
Roger Fenton, Moscow, Domes of Churches in the Kremlin, 1852, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund. You've seen one Moscow dome, you've seen them all. Not really, but not much change over 150 years. It's good that Russia doesn't disrupt all its history by removing historic landmarks like what is happening now with some monuments in the U.S.
Pierre-Ambrose Richebourg, Assembly of Troops for Napoleon III, Place Bellecour de Lyon, 1860
Pierre-Ambrose Richebourg, Assembly of Troops for Napoleon III, Place Bellecour de Lyon, 1860, albumen print, Purchased as the Gift of Diana and Mallory Walke
William Henry Jackson, Central City, Colorado, 1881, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Amon C. Carter Foundation Fund and Buffy and William Cafritz Fund.  One of America's leading landscape photographers, Mr. Jackson shot the "booming" town, founded in 1859 after gold was discovered in them thar hills.
Viscountess Jocelyn, Interior of Room, c. 1862. National Gallery of Art, Washington, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation
Alexander Gardner, A Sharpshooter's Last Sleep, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1863, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons' Permanent Fund. This photograph was included in Mr. Gardner's Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866). Unannounced but discovered by a sharp eye, according to the label copy, the photographer moved bodies around from one place to another for greater effect and mistakenly positioned this dead soldier with a musket rather than a sharpshooter's rifle.

American 19th Century, Portrait of a Girl Postmortem, c. 1850, daguerreotype image, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

American 19th Century, Portrait of a Girl Postmortem, c. 1850, daguerreotype image, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund  
The first 50 years of photography when "profound change" embraced the world are covered. (Prithee, when does "profound change" not embrace the world? Is there ever an "unprofound time"? Maybe, the 1950s? But women were beginning to see the light of a new day then. )

Except for the first Sun gallery (there are five), the layout is thematic (unlike that found in this post where the photos are mixed from several galleries).

Included are works by William Henry Fox Talbot, who was one of photography's inventors, Anna Atkins, Édouard Baldus, Gustave Le Gray, Charles Marville, George Barnard, Roger Fenton, Hill and Adamson, John Moran, Eadweard Muybridge, Charles Nègre, Andrew Russell, Augustus Washington, and Carleton Watkins, among others.

The show is rather like a viewing party of a large family photo album of Western culture and practices from the time of photography's inception in 1839 to post (U.S.) Civil War. Upon an initial visit, it may appear that the pictures are laid out happenstance, but that perception contributes to its charm, as a viewer stands and walks to peer into the lives of others, captured by visuals.

What: The Eye of the Sun: Nineteenth-Century Photographs from the National Gallery of Art

When: Now through December 8, 2019, The National Gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and on Sunday, 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Where: The West Building at the National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

How much: Admission to the National Gallery of Art is always free.

Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215