Saturday, December 18, 2021

Film review: National Geographic's 'Rescue,' highly recommended.


You know the ending, but do you know how they got there?

It's a chilling and scary story, told in an excellent National Geographic documentary, The Rescue, about the 2018 saga of 12 boys and their assistant soccer coach who scurried inside a Northern Thailand cave which flooded, trapping them for more than two weeks.

Cave divers from around the world joined members of the Royal Thai Navy Seals and the U.S. Air Force Special Tactics in attempts to save the team.

Manmade forces juggled with Mother Nature and certain forecast monsoon rains in the breathtaking rescue race.

Experts on the ground doubted the know-how of two "old men" in flip flops and shorts, skilled underwater astronauts, who began to doubt their own abilities to rescue the team.

Forced by persistence and beliefs of the Thai people who believed the boys could be saved, 10,000 persons ultimately aided in the recovery efforts. 

The rescuers contacted a doctor friend in Australia to request that he consider administering sedatives to the boys to get them out, but the doctor resisted. He couldn't do it; the possibility was crazy.

But like the Thai people who would not give up believing in miracles, the cave divers would not give up asking the doctor until he agreed and journeyed to Thailand.
Cave divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen from The Rescue/National Geographic

Splices of tape show the 24/7 actions underwater which become a horror show, ultimately ending in death.

Each of the star rescuers is interviewed at length; they describe their backgrounds growing up, when some were bullied, and many were loners, like the nerds at my high school who became the biggest achievers.

What is missing in this tale is why and how the boys went into the cave, why they went so far and why their coach led them.


Since Netflix retained rights to the boys' stories, no first-person accounts by any of them are included in the National Geographic film, an unnoticed absence, save the reasons for their entering the cave in the first place.

That the boys and their coach survived underground for up to 17 days is astonishing and shows what can happen if you "believe" and do not give up.

The film fulfills National Geographic's goals: To "support a diverse, international community of changemakers ...who use the power of science, exploration, education, and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world."

Take a hanky (or more than one). I figured I'd cry in the show. I did.

Husband and wife team, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, directed and produced the film with producers John Battsek, PJ van Sandwijk, Bob Eisenhardt (also, editor).

Daniel Pemberton's music is out of this world.

patricialesli@gmail.com


Monday, December 13, 2021

Tom Brady deflated my Florida Christmas


Buy this card at PunkPopPress for $6.75
 

My sister invited me down to her condo near Orlando for Christmas.  

Great!  

I was only going to stay two nights.  My mother used to say, "guests upset the routine."  I didn't want to wear out my welcome. Besides, my sister had canceled her invitation to me for two years running, so the thought that this visit, too, might not make, seemed a real possibility. 

Not long after she invited me down for Christmas the first time, she wrote at the last minute, "You can get a motel; I don't feel like having anyone visit."

Okay. At that pre-covid time, last-minute prices for area hotels ran a few dollars higher than the cost if you reserved early.

I didn't go.

The next time when she invited me again, another cancellation arrived at the last minute: "I feel sick and you'll have to find somewhere else to stay."  

Okaaayyyyyy.... I did go then and stayed at a dinky motel to see my other sister who lives near Orlando, too, in a 40-year-old leaky trailer which brings us to this year...

A few weeks passed before Condo Sister texted one Monday that her weekend had not been great.  Even her football teams had lost.

How was I supposed to know she was a fan of Cheatin' Tom?

Had I only clicked my brain tab for "refresh," I would have likely remembered that she just might be a Patriots' fan since she had been a longtime resident of New England, and who likes the Patriots and Cheatin' Tom outside New England?  

Well, I guess Tampa fans do now.

At the time, we up here in DCland were lords a-leaping and ladies dancing (still are!) over Washington Football Team's defeat of Cheatin' Tom and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (29-19).

I texted my sister back:  We are celebrating in DC!  The Washington Football Team beat Cheatin' Tom! (Read all about it here.)

Whoa!   

"How dare you!" she texted back.  "There you go again, spouting all that Biden and Pelosi stuff!  I'll just spend Christmas by myself!"

Huh?  

Biden and Pelosi are mouthing the Cheatin' Tom stories, too?  That was a new one on me.

Fortunately, my bags (and I, with credits) fly free on Southwest which did not penalize me for another cancellation. 

After hearing the Tom Brady story, my son texted:  "Come to Nashville, Mom.  You can spend Christmas with us."

Florida is such a gawdawful state anyway with mosquitoes, high temperatures, boring seasons, alligators wandering every whichaway, hurricanes, snakes, no landscapes, humidity, election results that skew crazy, and....... Tom Brady!  

Who needs it?

Thanks, William!  And it's off to Music City I fly!  (Go, Titans!) 

Merry Christmas, Everybody! This Christmas homeless has found a place to celebrate the season, after all.

patricialesli@gmail.com


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Film review: 'Las Siameses,' one of the year's best



At the movie's end, the man behind me said, "I feel like I've been to the dentist and had all my teeth pulled."

I felt like I had seen a masterpiece.

I nominate Las Siamesas for "Best International Feature Film" and Rita Cortese for "Best Performance by an Actress in an International Feature Film." She plays the mother, and Valeria Lois is the daughter who does a pretty good job herself in the movie about a mother/daughter relationship.

The Siamese Bond made its DC debut last weekend at Gala Hispanic Theatre where the Gala Film Fest presented six movies by female filmmakers in this "Latin American Innovation."

Las Siamesas is a black comedy which produces audience guffaws with hard-hitting lines the mom and daughter exchange while on a bus trip to the shore to see apartments which the daughter has inherited from her father.

The bus ride takes a back seat to the relationship, but its momentum heightens expectations.

Daylight gradually wanes, travelers disembark from the bus, and all that remains are 
the two women, two drivers and the audience, a voyeuristic passenger on an existential journey leading (surprise!) to a breakdown.

The ride darkens.

And where there is darkness, loneliness, and consenting adults, there is fire.

The sex scene is the best I can recall, one directed from a woman's perspective without male directors' obligatory exposed breasts. Thank you, Director Paula Hernandez.

The first kiss, the hidden skin, shadows, movements, the passion. Leaving much to the imagination which is as it should be and makes for a better experience.

Listen to the hum of the bus and the magnificent score. That cello! To perfectly match the mood and emphasize the turmoils the daughter and the mother endure.

What appears to be a simple set intensifies the script.

It's bleak, it's funny, it's sad, and arouses emotions, all the moving parts necessary for a successful film. Okay, so maybe the pauses could have been shortened, but otherwise, what to improve?

Las Siamesas has been nominated for several international awards with a victory claimed by Director Hernandez who wrote the script with Leonel D'Agostino.

On another night at the Festival, I saw Ya Me Voy (I'm Leaving Now) by Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda filmed over two years in Brooklyn, about an undocumented immigrant who wrestles with going home or staying in New York where he can continue his relationships and his collections. It's highly recommended, too, but it was Las Siamesas which drove my fingers to the keyboard.

All films are in Spanish with English subtitles. Carlos Gutierrez curated.

patricialesli@gmail.com

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Book review: 'The Columnist' by Donald A. Ritchie, highly recommended for journalism scholars



Who's the Drew Pearson now? I can think of no one who fits the bill.

Drew Pearson (1897-1969) was a muckraking journalist who helped send four members of the U. S. Congress to prison, had two U.S. senators censured and was not timid when it came to writing and broadcasting scandals, making a few mistakes along the way, but, hey! Who's perfect?

The Columnist: Leaks, Lies, and Libel in Drew Pearson's Washington is a must for journalism students and 20th century American history buffs who need or want another revealing look inside what makes Washington tick.

Mr. Pearson was a man who dug deep, who persisted, who was hated by most of the presidents he covered, including
President Harry S. Truman who threatened to shoot Mr. Pearson because of the columnist's criticism of Truman's daughter and wife. (Pearson predicted a Thomas Dewey win.)

Pearson was unafraid of lawsuits and was sued many times, losing only once.

The infamous Joseph McCarthy, feared by most, bore the wrath of Mr. Pearson's writings and broadcasts.
Pearson stood firm in his denunciation of McCarthy but Pearson had advantages most did not: He had a bully pulpit with his column, radio and TV broadcasts, comparing McCarthy's tactics to Salem's witch-burnings.

At Washington's fancy Sulgrave Club, the demagogic McCarthy physically attacked Pearson at a dinner party until stopped by none other than U.S. Senator Richard M. Nixon.

Some of Pearson's sponsors were intimidated by his attacks on McCarthy and dropped his radio broadcasts. His anti-McCarthy crusade
cost Pearson his friendship with the columnist Walter Winchell whom Pearson labeled a "McCarthy cheerleader."

Upon Pearson's death, Jack Anderson (1922-2005), a Pearson protégé and Pulitzer Prize winner, took over the column and renamed it, "Washington Merry-Go-Round. Although Wikipedia claims it's the longest-running column in American history, the most recent column I could find is dated July 15, 2021.

The book has a striking cover, is well researched, and its 367 pages include 90 of index, an extensive bibliography, and notes. The author, Donald A. Ritchie, is historian emeritus of the U.S. Senate.



patricialesli@gmail.com



Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Adventure on the 14th Street bus

A 14th Street bus/photo by Patricia Leslie

I told myself repeatedly over the few days before I rode public transportation to Gala Theatre that Friday night, I would not be intimidated by fear or a number.

I will ride and I will not drive, I said firmly.

And so I did.

The getting there was the easy part, on Metro from Tysons and then up 14th Street on Bus #52 from the McPherson Square station.

At Gala I saw a wonderful
flamenco performance, and wanted to stay for the Spanish Embassy reception afterwards, but the back of my mind rumbled with the gnawing realization that public transportation awaited me at 10:30 at night in the edgy neighborhood.

I skipped the reception at the end of the show and left the theatre and crossed 14th to wait on a bus. Nearby, lights on a police car blinked.

I was happy to see the car and thankful for the upcoming DC mayoral election, for, with the uptick in crime, Mayor Bowser just might have instructed the police to have “all hands on deck.” I hoped so.

At the corner only seconds passed before I was joined by another rider, a woman ranting and raving about Taco Bell: “I didn’t get fired!” she exclaimed. “I quit!” Over and over. She walked back and forth in front of me like a caged beast.

OK, I said to myself silently; I understand. But, where is the bus? 

There it was, ambling down the street at last, although only a few moments had passed since I had begun my wait.

We boarded, and I took a seat opposite the rear exit in case a sudden escape became necessary. The woman sat at the front and continued her loud rants.

Another passenger sat across the aisle from her and pulled out a liquor bottle from his jacket and offered her a drink.

“I don’t need that!” she bellowed.

We passed the Taco Bell a few seconds later, and she pointed to it and screeched: “It’s gonna kill someone!”

I tried to look ahead and out the windows, to avoid "engagement" and locking eyes with anyone.

When you ride a bus at night, you expect these outbursts. They are common.

The last three times I went to Mosaic Theater on H Street (pre-covid) the police were always involved in some form or fashion with activities on the free trolley car.

But that was then, and this was now.

14th seemed loaded with police cars every few blocks with red lights blinking on their car tops. I was grateful. Who wants to "defund the police"?

The bus continued its ramble down the street, stopping and starting to let passengers off and on, while the man and the woman continued their exchange which escalated quickly, and he pulled out a cigarette.

Was he going to light up on the bus? What would the driver do? But, behind his hard plastic window and from all I could see, the driver was oblivious to the action behind him, likely used to it all.

When the man called the woman the “n” word (he was black, too), the woman became enraged. Their conversation grew louder, more heated and indignant until she challenged the man to a fight.

On the bus?

They stood in the aisleway, apart, weaving back and forth in time with the bus’s motions and, began to dance the fighter's dance, yelling their words of conflict and hate.

This performance was more than the flamenco, and it was free!

But, at the flamenco, I wasn't afraid, like I was on the bus, sensing danger since I was within arm’s reach of the two fighters who moved in a semi-circle gnarling at each other, like they were in a boxing ring.

Where was McPherson Square?

I decided to get off at the next bus stop wherever it might be, and the woman got off with me, shouting: “This is not my stop!”

In my haste to cross the street and get away, I was too alarmed to look back to see if she re-boarded. Several blocks remained until the Metro station.

I hurried and descended to Metro's catacombs, happy to be safe.

Safe on the Metro?

The train was practically empty when it arrived and Yeeks! I was the only person to board the car.

I will not be afraid or intimidated, I said to myself. I will not; I cannot. But, I was. And still, I cannot stop; I will not.



p
atricialesli@gmail.com

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Flamenco enflames Gala



Edwin Aparicio in Salvador at Gala Hispanic Theatre/photo by Daniel Martinez
Mariana Gatto-Duran in Salvador at Gala Hispanic Theatre/photo by Daniel Martinez


The entrancing story, Salvador, presented by the Flamenco Aparicio Dance Company, is based on the life of choreographer and artistic director, Edwin Aparicio which debuted five years ago at Gala Hispanic Theatre.


Its revival this month with Mr. Aparicio, the company's founder, is one of two shows at Gala for the 17th annual Fuego Flamenco Festival, a celebration co-founded by Mr. Aparicio.

Today and tomorrow the flamenco menu includes De paso by the Sara Perez Dance Company with Rubén Puertas, prize winner of Madrid’s prestigious Certamen of Dance competition.
Edwin Aparicio dances his life's story in Salvador at Gala Hispanic Theatre/photo by Daniel Martinez


Salvador opens in the 1980s in El Salvador where Mr. Aparicio lived as a child amidst gangs and soldiers who often kidnapped children to mold them into soldiers.

After his parents leave for the U.S., he's left in the care of his grandmother, his only solace to provide him comfort amidst the dangers on the streets and it's to her, his other grandmother, and those of the co-director, Aleksey Kulikov, that Salvador is dedicated.

Act I ends with Mr. Aparicio's gradual exit from the stage while his life resumes as a young Edwin (danced by Ricardo Osorio Ruiz). A distressing separation from his grandmother, reminding the audience of their own painful farewells from loved ones, unfolds as the boy departs to join his parents.

Life in Washington, D.C., their residence, was hardly any better for the youngster. His family's Mt. Pleasant community erupts in a 1981 riot of cultural war and property destruction.

Dance offers young Edwin some respite, but he is told he doesn't look the part of a ballet dancer, but suddenly, the doors to flamenco open.

He heads to Spain which opens the third and final act. There, he trains with renowned teachers before his debut in Madrid in 2001. 

Over time Mr. Aparicio dances countless solos on stages throughout the U.S. and performs major roles with the Washington National Opera and the Washington Ballet.  Today, Mr. Aparicio is a faculty member of the Washington School of Ballet. He is the founder of the Flamenco Aparicio Dance Company and received the Cross of the Order of Civil Merit in 2015 from King Felipe VI of Spain.

All through Salvador, large photographs from the era are posted high on the backdrop to help lay the foundations of Aparicio's life.

In colorful attire, six female flamenco dancers with sexy looks matching their motions, embellish Aparicio's life with heels beating on the floor to become another musical instrument in the orchestra of four. 

Those four almost steal the show with their strong, unrelenting voices and music of the time.

Amparo Heredia and percussionist and singer, Francisco Orozco cry the anguish of Aparicio throughout the performance while Richard Marlow strums his guitar without pause.

Gonzalo Grau, a two-time Grammy nominee and Salvador's musical director and composer, plays keyboard.

For the finale, Aparicio pairs with his younger self (Ruiz) to dance. 

After the ending, when all the performers and orchestra members came to the stage for audience accolades last weekend, co-artistic director Kulikov joined the dance party and showed how he could stomp his heels and shake a tail feather, too, for the delight of all.

Production staff included P. Vanessa Losada, production manager and light board operator; Rachael Sheffer, interim production manager; Delbis Cardona, production assistant; Devin Mahoney, technical director with Steve Cosby, Renegade Productions; Christopher Annas-Lee, lighting with Hailey LaRoe; Brandon Cook, sound; Kevin Alvarenga and Joel Galvez, house managers.

Sona Kharatian, Washington Ballet, was the ballet choreographer.

Dancers: Cosima Amelang, Mariana Gatto-Duran, Catherina Irwin, Sara Jerez Marlow, Dana Shoenberg, Kyoko Terada.

Guest dancers: Noura Sander, Washington Ballet, and Anna Menendez, flamenco teacher
At the end of the night, co-directors Edwin Aparicio, left, and Aleksey Kulikov celebrated flamenco at Gala Hispanic Theatre/photo by Patricia Leslie


What: XVII Fuego Flamenco Festival

Masks: Masks and proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID test required for all performances.

When: Saturday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m.

Where: Gala Theatre, 3333 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010.

Tickets: $48; $35 for seniors (65+), military, and students; $35, group sales (10 or more); $25 ages 25 and under. To purchase, call (202) 234-7174 or visit www.galatheatre.org.

Handicapped accessible

Duration: About two hours with one intermission

Metro stations: Columbia Heights is one block away or get off at McPherson Square, take bus #52 or #54 
up 14th, or, instead of the bus, walk two miles, save money and expend calories! Lots of places to eat along the way.

Parking: With Gala's validation, a flat rate of $4 is available at Giant grocery around the corner or pay $1.50/hour at the Target nearby.

For more information: Call (202) 234-7174 and/or email info@galatheatre.org

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Book review: 'The Woman Who Stole Vermeer'

 


Rose Dugdale is 80 years old this year and practically an icon in Ireland where she romped and fought the British for years.

Always proud of her participation in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (which often denied links to her criminal acts), she sought to aid revolutionaries who worked to transfer IRA prisoners.

Adopting a new identify to contrast with that of her wealthy background, she used her largesse like a modern-day Robin Hood to benefit those in need, including criminals who were not adverse to violence when they deemed it necessary to achieve their goals, and she joined right in.

Johannes Vermeer, Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid, 1670-1671, is one of the paintings Rose Dugdale helped steal. It is featured on the cover of The Woman Who Stole Vermeer by Anthony M. Amore/Wikimedia


Her metamorphosis is the thrust of the book, The Woman Who Stole Vermeer: The True* Story of Rose Dugdale and the Russborough House Art Heist by Anthony M. Amore, an interesting biography, especially for art enthusiasts, crime  readers, and scholars of feminist history.

Her attitudes were shaped by the 1960s antiwar movement raging in the U.S., a trip to Cuba, and the growing feminist revolution. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from Oxford University.

Despite her revulsion of and public derision in courtrooms of the wealth and lifestyles of her parents, they never abandoned their daughter, always trying to maintain a relationship, any relationship. Ms. Dugdale took advantage of them, stealing from her own family.

For years she was able to elude police who considered her dangerous and often tried to track her.

She helped drop "bombs" of milk churns on a police station in 1974, the first helicopter bombing attack ever recorded on a police precinct in Ireland. (The bombs failed to detonate.)

In courtrooms, Ms. Dugdale frequently became angry over receiving a lighter sentence than her chums, a reflection, perhaps, of her status.

Her many successful criminal ventures embarrassed the government until she was captured after leaving her driver's license in a stolen getaway car.

She's the only woman to have conducted a major art heist, targeting the Russborough House, reportedly the "longest house" and "one of the finest great houses in Ireland" with one of the finest national private art collections. She knew the place well, better than her comrades who could not identify the priceless works of art, but Ms. Dugdale could. 

The robbers gagged and kidnapped one of the owners who thought he was the target of a homicide. (He wasn't).

Confined for nine years, in prison she gave birth to her only child and, later, after the boy's father, Eddie Gallagher was captured (and sentenced to a longer term), they were married inside the walls, the first recorded marriage of convicts while in prison in Ireland.

For those who follow crime and are continually perplexed by the still missing paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (1990), this is a good read. The author, coincidentally, is director of security for the Gardner.

The National Gallery of Art's retired curator Arthur Wheelock, a Vermeer expert, is quoted several times in the book which lacks an index.

* The publisher's web copy of the cover lacks the word "true" while the copy I have includes it.

patricialesli@gmail.com


Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Halloween treat at Alexandria's 'Wait until Dark'

 

Brendan Chaney (Carlino) and Mel Gumina (Susy) in Wait Until Dark at The Little Theatre of Alexandria//Photo by Matthew Randall

In Susy's world, it's always dark. Susy is blind.

Mel Gumina's portrayal of a blind woman sucked up in a web of crime in Wait Until Dark at the Little Theatre of Alexander is so believable that it wasn't until the end of the show when the cast came out on stage to receive applause that I knew for certain she was not handicapped.

Just call me sucked in by her performance!


For those who have a vague recollection of Audrey Hepburn in the 1967 movie classic of the same name, Ms. Gumina's performance is spot on.

At LTA Susy stumbles from overturned chair to table and back again trying to outwit three con men who have tracked a drug-filled doll to her apartment and have come calling for the goods.
Mel Gumina (Susy) and Julia Stimson (Gloria) in Wait Until Dark at The Little Theatre of Alexandria/Photo by Matthew Randall

The bad guys are able to hoodwink Susy and play coy, but her acute hearing, aided by the ploys of a young teen neighbor, Gloria (who knows a thing or two about dolls) upset the drug dealers. Their game culminates in what seems like an interminable finale (and one labeled by Bravo as one of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments).

Gloria is played alternately by Juliet Strom and Julia Stimson whose soft voice and fastspeak were hard at times to understand. Although little in size compared to the adults, she stands tall against the pack, full of confidence and fearless against the evildoers.

With his heft, Yankee accent, and mannerisms reminiscent of Joe Pesci, Brendan Chaney, one of the bad guys, convincingly brings his nefarious ways to the stage.

Outstanding sound (by Janice Rivera) and a detailed set (Julie Fischer) combine to immediately engage the audience from the get-go.

And when it comes to windows, nobody beats LTA's. In this show, two of them are built high on a wall to let in the lamp lights from the street and more. Gloria will show 'em.

Before the show starts, 1960s music sets the tempo, but appliances say it's the 1940s which may be only a reflection of what Susy and her husband (Ryan Washington) can afford.

The females wear current fashion while costumers Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley dress the males in coats and ties to belie their occupations and appear in total contrast to today's criminals who dress like everyone else. (Seconds and thirds are all right!)

Director Heather Benjamin guides the cast in fast action in this Greenwich Village romp.

Lee Remick was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress when she was Susy on Broadway and Robert Duvall played one of the con men. Others who acted in later productions were Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarantino, but the show is best remembered as the movie which earned Ms. Hepburn an Oscar nomination.

Frederick Knott's play was such a compelling story in 1966, the movie rights were immediately sold to become one of the American Film Institute's 100 most exciting movies, says Wikipedia.

Other LTA cast members are Brendan Quinn and Adam R. Adkins as more bad guys; Bill Gery and Michael Townsend, policemen.

More members of the creative team are Michael J. Fisher, assistant director; Alicia Goodman and Margaret "MEJ" Evans-Joyce, producers; Nick Friedlander and Lauren Markovich, stage managers; Stefan Sittig, fight and intimacy choreographer; Mona Wargo, set painting; Allison Gray-Mendes, set dressing and properties; JK Lighting Design; Margaret Snow, wardrobe; Chanel Lancaster, makeup and hair. 

What: Wait Until Dark

When: Now through November 6, 2021, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.

Where: The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Tickets: $21, weekdays; $24, weekends.

Duration: About 2 hours with one 10 minute intermission.

Adult language
: None, but there is some cigarette smoking.

Masks and vaccine cards
or proof of a negative covid test within 72 hours of show time are required. No exceptions.

Public transportation: Check the Metro and Dash bus websites. (Dash is now free to ride and several routes come within steps of LTA.)

Parking: On the streets and in many garages nearby with free parking during performances at Capital One Bank at Wilkes and Washington streets.

For more information
: Box Office: 703-683-0496; Business: 703-683-5778.
boxoffice@thelittletheatre.com or Asklta@thelittletheatre.com


patricialesli@gmail.com





Saturday, October 23, 2021

Gen. Colin Powell at the Kennedy Center last month


General Colin Powell at the Kennedy Center, Sept. 10, 2021/Photo by Patricia Leslie
General Colin Powell at the Kennedy Center, Sept. 10, 2021/Photo by Patricia Leslie

He was one of the special guests who welcomed the "sold-out" audience to the Kennedy Center in a concert to honor first responders of the September 11 and covid tragedies, the victims and their families. 

If General Powell were sick or ailing then, he covered his illness well. He paid respects to the evening's honorees and  spoke briefly about his upbringing in the Bronx, saying his greatest thrill was having 13 American elementary schools named after him.  That number will most assuredly grow.  

Thank you, General Powell, for your service to the United States and for your stable control and guidance during periods of national tragedy.  

Who can match him now?

See more of the September 10 evening here.

General Colin Powell at the Kennedy Center, Sept. 10, 2021/Photo by Patricia Leslie


The National Symphony Orchestra and "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band performed at the Kennedy Center, Sept. 10, 2021/Photo by Patricia Leslie




patricialesli@gmail.com

Monday, September 20, 2021

Gala's 'Rosita' tarries


Mabel del Pozo is Rosita in Gala Theatre's  Doña Rosita la soltera (Dona Rosita the Spinster)/Photo by Daniel Martinez

The word "spinster" is not heard or read much these days; nor, for that matter, is "bachelor," but to be a "spinster" in
yesteryear (a half century ago and more) was not a good thing.

Today?  

Who cares? 
From left: Luz Nicolas is the Aunt and Mabel del Pozo is Rosita in Gala Theatre's  Doña Rosita la soltera (Dona Rosita the Spinster)/Photo by Daniel Martinez

Weary am I of the sad souls on screen and stage whom I've encountered in the last week.

There was Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane celebrating the 80th anniversary of the "best all-time ever" film, Citizen Kane; there was Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker in a new release about Tammy Faye's Eyes (Jessica Chastain is a shoo-in for Best Actress nominee!) and here comes Doña Rosita, a woman left behind by a man in the age-old story of a woman in plight (when she should be in flight) and she waits.

And waits. On the stage of 
 GALA Hispanic Theatre.

I can't recall any performance where I was as eager to read a script as I was to read Doña Rosita la soltera, a running poem by Federico García Lorca (1898-1936), his last play before he died at the hands of  Francisco Franco's thugs in Spain, García Lorca's remains still undiscovered.

Nando López a Spanish novelist and playwright
who won the 2016 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Play for Lorca's Yerma, has written the world premiere adaptation of Doña Rosita. 

Subtitled The Language of the Flowers, the wonders of Rosita's uncle's garden help flesh out the story.

Doña Rosita (Mabel del Pozo) resides with her uncle (Ariel Texido, in one of several confusing roles) and her domineering aunt (Luz Nicolas).  

With the servant (Laura Aleman), the aunt upstages the pseudo- protagonist Rosita whenever the three women are together, the servant more of a sister than a housekeeper, commanding every scene shared with Rosita who accepts a minor role. 

Rosita becomes a ghost in the background, a nobody (like Emily Dickinson): 
I'm Nobody! Who are you? 

 

Are you – Nobody – too? 

Rosita, kind and gentle, fades like the flowers and her dull apparel (by Silvia de Marta).

Like their namesake, Rosita, the flowers bloom, they mature, they wilt, and die, constant reminders about life's brevity. In their bliss, they wave and speak their glories, like García Lorca's poems in the script. 

Says Rosita: 
The rose it had opened

with the light of morning;

so red with its hot blushes

the dew had burnt away;

so hot there on its stem that

the breeze itself was burning;

so high there! How it glowed!

If you haven't grasped by now, Doña Rosita la soltera (Dona Rosita the Spinster) is not an uplifting play. García Lorca frequently wrote about women who suffer the pangs of unrequited love and his setting here at the turn of the 19th century confines Rosita to a meandering self-doubter who questions her being.

She waits years for her fiancé who promises he'll return.

She believes him.  (Silly girl!) 

The script captures the descent of a hopeful bride-to-be, and life slips away.  She is a "reservation on hold."

"Act!" I wanted to cry out:  "Do not tarry!"
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry

 (Robert Herrick [1591-1674] To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time)


 The housekeeper's cocky personality wants to:
Let the sun shine in the corners! Let us hope for many years of cutting roses!   
 
Says Rosita: 

There is nothing more living than a memory. They can make life impossible. That is why I have a profound understanding of those old drunken women who wander through the streets trying to erase the world, who sit and sing on the benches in the avenue.

The words drift and float, weaving their sad spells in melancholy which engulf Dona Rosita, aimless, coasting through life, accompanied by a humble but magnificent musical background (by David Peralto and Alberto Granados) which increases its intensity at just the right times before it slowly settles into absence.

This is a poetic feast, spoken in Spanish with English translations elevated on two screens stage left and right. (For non-speaking Spanish guests, may I suggest a seat higher up to be able to read English translations and catch most of the stage action.)

Lighting and sound (by 
Jesús Díaz Cortés) never miss an entrance or a beat.

A roving table is a critical prop, the centerpiece of most scenes. The actors wheel it from place to place, covering it, uncovering it as it transitions to a chair, a desk, a bed, a piano, a nun's habit, 
even a table, and more, a metaphor for Rosita!

 Society's pressures!

All is not lost on modern audiences, however, since it takes only a few moments to realize that juxtaposed against then and now, Doña Rosita gives heft to present-day women and our confidences that we won't wait for any man...will we?

 Dear Rosita: Time waits for no woman.
Mother, take me to the country

in the light of morning

to see the flowers open

on their swaying stems.

A thousand flowers are speaking

to a thousand lovers,

and the stream is murmuring

now the nightingale has ceased.
Cast members also include Catherine Nunez and Delbis Cardona.

Other production staff members are the director, José  Luis Arellano, who also won the 2016 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction of Yerma; costume and set assistant, George-Edward Burgtorf;  stage manager, Ilyana Rose-Dávila;  technical director, Devin Mahoney, and production manager, Tony Koehler.

What: Doña Rosita la soltera (Dona Rosita the Spinster)

Masks: Masks and proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID test required for all public performances. Temperatures taken at the entrance.

When: Now through Oct. 3, 2021, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.

Where: Gala Theatre, 3333 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010.

Tickets: $48; $35 for seniors (65+), military, and students; $35, group sales (10 or more); $25 ages 25 and under. To purchase, call (202) 234-7174 or visit www.galatheatre.org.

Handicapped accessible

Duration: About two hours with one intermission

Metro stations: Columbia Heights or McPherson Square. From McPherson Square, take a bus up 14th, or walk two miles and save money and expend calories! Lots of places to eat along the way.

Parking: Discounted at the Giant around the corner and additional parking at Target 
($1.50/hour), both on Park Road, NW. 

For more information: Call (202) 234-7174 and/or email info@galatheatre.org


patricialesli@gmail.com








Saturday, September 11, 2021

A 'concert of remembrance' at the Kennedy Center

 
At the Kennedy Center, the conductor of "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band  led the Star Spangled Banner/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 

It's hard to know where to start since there were so many outstanding pieces at the Concert of Remembrance Friday night at the Kennedy Center, but any program with Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man is a certain draw.  That performance by the National Symphony Orchestra under the tutelage of Maestro Gianandrea Noseda stood no chance of anything but "marvelous," "magnificent," "outstanding," and more since that is what the night brought in remembrance of September 11, its heroes and those of covid and all the victims of whom Dr. Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health (which he called the "National Institutes of Hope") reminded us.

"The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band joined the NSO to open the evening with a thunderous Star Spangled Banner.

The conductor of "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band also led America, the Beautiful at the Kennedy Center/Photo by Patricia Leslie
General Colin Powell at the Kennedy Center's Concert of Remembrance said  having 13 elementary and middle schools named after him gives him immense pleasure/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Dr. Francis Collins from the National Institutes of Health paid tribute to the heroes and victims of September 11 and covid. The Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein introduced Dr. Collins and said the doctor has a rock band, The Affordable Rock 'n' Roll Act/Photo by Patricia Leslie
James Lee III who composed the stunning An Engraved American Mourning which premiered Friday, left the stage at the Kennedy Center before I could take a picture of him from the front. On the right is Maestro Gianandrea Noseda who introduced Mr. Lee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard is congratulated by Maestro Gianandrea Noseda/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard is congratulated by Maestro Gianandrea Noseda/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The National Symphony Orchestra gets ready to play the Concert of Remembrance at the Kennedy Center/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Concertgoers wait for tickets in the Hall of Nations at the Kennedy Center/Photo by Patricia Leslie
In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Kennedy Center has hung historic programs and playbills in the shape of a big "50" from the ceilings of its Hall of Nations and Hall of States/Photo by Patricia Leslie


The mezzo-soprano, Isabel Leonard and the NSO mesmerized the house with four Leonard Bernstein selections, my favorite, Take Care of This House, from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue*, a production of which I was unaware, but the lyrics were entrancing, taking me back to last year and the sad preceding times since 2016 when "this house" was occupied by a recalcitrant.

Although I can't take West Side Story in any shape, form, or fashion anymore (too overdone), Ms. Leonard's rendition of Somewhere struck a chord in my cold heart, causing me to wonder for a few seconds about my objection. Still, I can hear Ms. Leonard. 

Other Bernstein selections were Greeting and Lonely Town.

You had to wonder who was in charge of the evening's program since some choices didn't seem to promote the night's message, likely because I was unfamiliar with Mother and Child by William Grant Still, sweet dullness that it was.

In addition to Copland and This House, my top three included James Lee III's NSO-commissioned An Engraved American Mourning which premiered Friday. Stunning in its absolute accurate portrayal of the wrenching emotions we endured that terrible day beginning with sad horns, the tension and bombastic percussion clashes, strong participation by the xylophonist followed by "sirens" and bells, to close with a harpist's strings on a rainbow of hope on a clear sky.  


The evening featured more bells, at least double the number  of any performance I have attended. It was the time.

Both orchestras joined to splendidly present This Land, God of Our Fathers, and America, the Beautiful to send us out on a high note in search of national unity. (Once Irving Berlin's God Bless America sufficiently separates itself from Kate Smith, or the PC tide rolls differently, that song may rejoin the retinue of national hymns.) 

Also on the program was a poem, Dispatches from Radar Hill by Angela Trudell Vasquez, read by Shirley Riggsbee.



* It's no wonder the title is unfamiliar: According to  Wikipedia, its reputation is chiefly as "a legendary Broadway flop." It lasted only seven shows, and sadly, was Leonard Bernstein's last Broadway score. It played briefly at the Kennedy Center in 1992.  
Take care of this house
 be always on call,
 for this house is the home of us all.

patricialesli@gmail.com

Monday, August 30, 2021

Movie review: 'Lost Leonardo,' highly recommended


Is it or is it not The Lost Leonardo?/Sony Pictures Classics

That The Lost Leonardo received a 100% audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes (and 95% by the critics) on the day I looked at RT tells you it's got to be good, right? * 


It is. Good.

From The Lost Leonardo/Sony Pictures Classics

It's a documentary, sure; my favorite kind, laid out in chronological style beginning with the discovery in a New Orleans art house of the so-called Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci and following its trail to the present owner who is...?

And where is it now?

On a boat, you say?

Before the Lost (the Last?) sold at a public auction at Christie's in 2017 for the most ever paid for a painting ($450.3 million), it was part of a Leonardo exhibition in 2011-12 at London's National Gallery, yet was pulled at the last moment from a Louvre showing in 2019 when, according to rumors, the present owner demanded it be placed adjacent to the Mona Lisa. Also, a Louvre publication about Salvator was removed from its shops and publication, denied.

Huh? What's up?

Find out at the show!

Andreas Koefoed, the director, performs a marvelous feat, bringing it all home in this balanced portrayal. How he and the producers coaxed the consultants, the "experts," the critics, the sleuths, the government officials and more to settle for his camera is a story in itself, but he did, and they are all happy to share their opinions.

Their names and identifications (titles) are listed in the bottom left corner of the screen, an indispensable aid for those of us who do not circulate in their worlds and must profess ignorance of most of them.

Who had an ax to grind?

Is it an original da Vinci?

I must admit I was skeptical going in...and coming away, I was skeptical. But, how about you?

For art lovers, the curious, curators, critics, collectors, dealers, lenders, tycoons, art historians, artists, "sleeper hunters" (?), this is a fast film you cannot miss!

That a world-known criminal is involved is revolting and maybe, that's what his subjects will do...one of these day.

Mr. Koefoed co-wrote the story with Duska Zagorac, Andreas Dalsgaard, Mark Monroe, and Christian Kirk Muff. Hats off to you!  Music by Sveinung Nygaard is excellent.

For more reading, Wikipedia has a lengthy accounting of the painting's provenance.

*Now, the audience gives it 93% and the critics, 95%.


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Friday, August 20, 2021

Come with me to the fair...



The Montgomery County Fair/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Well, maybe next year since the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair has already up and left the premises, but fun it was, and deee-lish!  There's always "next year"!  
A very tall fairy princess in the parade greeted guests at the Montgomery County Fair/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Gaithersburg High School Trojan Marching Band paraded by in the Montgomery County Fair Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Gaithersburg High School Band parading at the Montgomery County Fair/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Can you imagine riding a float and hugging a live goat at the same time?  In a parade?  It happened at the Montgomery County Fair/Photo by Patricia Leslie
These little fellows were "meat goats" which means that, maybe, ....yep.  They marched in the Montgomery County Fair Parade. Maybe, their last walk on the plank before, you know, ..../Photo by Patricia Leslie
This little piggie went to market, this little piggie stayed home, this little piggie ate roast beef, the little piggie had none, and this little piggie rode a truck at the Montgomery County Fair, however, live animals did not accompany humans on this float in the parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie

How would you like to be born under the eyes of total strangers?  It happens often at the Montgomery County Fair when "Lit'l Shiester" was only three hours old when she was pictured here.  What a generous little calf and mom to be so tolerant of the curious!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Mama and three-hour-old baby got no privacy at the Montgomery County Fair/Photo by Patricia Leslie
"Lit'l Shiester" with her mom at the Montgomery County Fair/Photo by Patricia Leslie
These little piggies seem to be luxuriating in each other at the Montgomery County Fair/Photo by Patricia Leslie
And for these  B I G  piggies, it was time for some shut-eye at the Montgomery County Fair/Photo by Patricia Leslie


It was the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair with lots of fun, lots to see, and whole lotta to eat!   

There were piglets and pigs and cows and calves and maybe, 6,000 kinds of rabbits.  (You could buy one rabbit for about $80 and some rabbits had pedigrees!  Rabbits?  Pedigrees? You've seen one rabbit, you've seen them all!)

Time to moo (can't resist) on to the cows and cows and  more cows which were about as numerous as the rabbits, but not so much.  (Sorry, rabbits and rabbit lovers.) 

How would you like a group of strangers watching your birth?  

It must be a medical school training lab!  Nope, it was at the fair where poor "Lit'l Shiester" and her mom had to endure a crowd watching her enter the world.  Take a gander of that!  And humans think they've got it rough when they deliver a ten-pounder.    R i g h t t t t t t .... Lit'l Shiester weighed a whole lot more than ten pounds!

With animals galore, there was alcohol, too (in tents), and whatever you do, never forget the funnel cakes and fried oreos which were plum delish (6 for $8)!  I don't even like oreos but these I had to try and they were wonderful, to melt in my mouth, all that gooey chocolate surrounded by empty air puffs of sugary dough.  I am still flying high from eating them many days ago.

Tickets to the rides were $1.50 multiplied by about 4 ($6) which is about the average cost except for the really big ones which go for more.  The swings were, actually, kind of boring but the pirate's boat was scarier than it looked, so much so that Marie cried to get off, but there was no stopping us when we got up real high, and she just had to cry and bear it. 


Admission - It varied. Next year the price will be different. 

Parking was free at Lakeforest Mall and free school bus shuttles at the mall had wheels to the fairgrounds. No waiting! Plenty of buses; plenty of room. Highly organized.

Restrooms - with attendants and fairly clean (for a fair!).


Come one!  Come all (next year)!  To the greatest DMV fair before fall!  (I had to make it rhyme.)

patricialesli@gmail.com