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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

John Bolton's hilarious 'Room' of their own

You just thought Trump's White House was chaotic. Readers, not only was it chaotic, but John Bolton is here to tell you it was lots more than that!

I may not agree with the author's politics, but I can sure laugh at his anecdotes from his short (17 months) tenure in the Wild House. 
It's nothing short of rockhouse madness.

Bolton must have carried a secret microphone/recorder inside his breast pocket for his recollections of so many fine details of the day-to-day chaos in Trumpland, described in The Room Where It Happened.

I detected no conceit, no self-applause, no boastings in his memoir. When Trump complimented Bolton's "'troika of tyranny'" speech, Bolton reminded him that one of the president's own speechwriters had written it (p. 249). 

Bolton's snide comments ricochet throughout the book; some of the xhighlights:

Bolton writes more than once:  "You couldn't make this up" referring to the daily frenzy engulfing the administration (258). 

His background on Venezuela and the Middle East makes all those WAPO editorials easier to understand. 

"God only knew who he [Trump] was talking to or whether he had just gotten a case of the vapors* because things were still uncertain." 

After an attack in the Gulf of Oman, Trump believed "that if you pretended bad things hadn't happened, perhaps no one else would notice" (392).

("I found these weekly trade meetings so chaotic I largely left them for {Charles} Kupperman to attend, which punishment he didn't deserve, but life is hard" (460).)  Kupperman was the deputy national security advisor. 

At the G20 trade summit in Buenos Aires, no one knew "from one minute to the next" what Trump would say, other than he envied Xi Jinping's lifelong term as Chinese ruler, and he told Xi, "that people" in the U.S. were clamoring for an end to the president's two-term limit. 

Writes Bolton: "I was aware of no such chatter" (297).

Bolton didn't like Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin too much. 

At the G20, Bolton writes Mnuchin spent the day "beavering" with China's #3 man, Liu He (296).  After all, Mnuchin was a "panda hugger"(290).

Munchin got all excited at China's agreement to purchase more soybeans "just as if we were a Third World commodity supplier to the Middle Kingdom."  (297).

During the Venezuelan revolution, Mnuchin worried about the banking sector and the risk to credit card companies. Bolton reminded him that the thousands protesting in the streets, "the poorest people" did not have, nor were they "thinking about Visa and Mastercard!" (269). 

Bolton was only too happy to announce to principals that he thought "Treasury was not entitled to its own foreign policy" like Mnuchin desired (273). 

Mnuchin spent so much time in the White House, on presidential trips and in California ("who for some reason was in California again" (258)*) that they "'hardly recognize him in his building,' said [John] Kelly disdainfully" (241).

Mnuchnin, was "basically a Democrat" who maintained "his campaign for doing nothing" (252).

Bolton was not a big fav of Defense Secretary James Mattis either whom he continually portrays as a cry baby. 

If "his view didn't prevail, which was standard operating procedure for him: stress that timing was urgent, which is what Mattis said when it suited him, and predict doom and gloom if he didn't get his way" (176).  "Mattis obstructionism at work" (190) ....Trump never liked him either: "a Democrat." 

Preparing for the meeting with Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Bolton worried about the "daily explosions everyone became inured to in the Trump White House."

Bolton says another Trump-Kim Jong Um summit looked "depressingly inescapable" for Trump was hot-to-trot and get a deal done with Kim. It was not to be.

With his good buddy, Shinzo Abe of Japan, Trump lamented the fact that Abe's father was unsuccessful as a World War II kamikaze pilot, forgetting that, had his father achieved his goal, there would have been no good buddy Abe, born after the war. "Mere historical details." says Bolton (345).

Remember the columnist, Charles Krauthammer (1950 - 2018)? Not a Trump fan. He told Bolton he'd been wrong to characterize Trump as an 11-year-old: "'I was off by ten years'" (8).

While leaving the White House after his job interview before he was hired, Bolton writes he felt like he was in a college dorm, with people going in and out doors. Wasn't there a crisis underway to try and repeal Obamacare? Bolton didn't recognize the place (18).

At the Trumps' first state ceremony with French President Emmanuel and Mrs. Macron: "Sadly for the press, nothing went wrong" (68). 

"Later, the black-tie state dinner was very nice, if you like eating until 10:30" p.m. With the John Kellys, the Boltons skipped the after-dinner entertainment and went home (70).

At Trump's Turnberry* Scottish golf resort, Greenpeace* breached security by flying an "ungainly contraption," akin to a "a bicycle with wings" hauling a flowing banner which said Trump was "below par." The Secret Service hustled Trump and later, Bolton and Kelly, inside before anyone could look at it too long, although Bolton wanted to prolong his viewing.

On a visit to London and Scotland, Trump called the US and UK relationship, "'the highest level of special,'" which Bolton called "a new category."

Trump repeatedly instructed his staff to avoid criticizing Russia too much publicly (179).

In a "discussion" with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump told the Turkish leader that Christians were "going crazy" about Turkey's incarceration of American pastor, Andrew Brunson, and Erdogan responded that Moslems in Turkey were "going crazy" and Trump interrupted him to say "they were going crazy all over the world."  

Writes Bolton: "If possible, the conversation went downhill thereafter" (184-185).

Not to be forgotten was Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN. The Turks said they didn't understand what she was trying to negotiate and neither did the Trump team (186).

The "Haley Problem" included her belief that the US ambassador to the UN was the Secretary of State. 

From everything Bolton heard "including directly from Trump, she and Tillerson [Rex Tillerson, secretary of state] cordially detested one another (well, maybe not cordially)." She wanted to visit India and visit the Dalai Lama:  "The purpose of this trip was unclear, other than getting a photo op with the Dalai Lama, always good for an aspiring pol" (238).

When Bolton was at the Justice Department, "we called the Southern District [of New York] the 'Sovereign District of New York' because it so often resisted control by 'Main Justice,' let alone the White House" (185-186).   

Discussion about the Korean War and its aftermath involved a continual re-education of the president as Bolton tried to enlighten him about that history.  

Why "were we still there?" Trump complained. "Every few days, someone would inadvertently press a button somewhere, and Trump would be repeating his lines from the same movie soundtrack" (210).

It's easy to understand why Trump did everything he could to stop, to stall, to change the content of this book (491). Like so many tomes, it reveals him to be the Emperor of No Content. 

* Although there are several references to Mnuchin and his trips to California, California is omitted from the otherwise good index, as are other words.

Coming up: I rate the Trump books!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Alexandria's wild ride on a 'Ripcord'


Janice Zucker, left, is Abby and Marsha Rehns  is Marilyn in Ripcord  now on stage at Little Theatre of Alexandria/Photo by Matthew Randall

I loved this show.  It's solid entertainment: You cry, you laugh, listen and wonder:  Is that me?

It was much more than expected: delightful, charming, funny, and with a message or two.

What's a ripcord for anyway?

Janice Zucker is Abby and Matt Baughman is the "masked man" in Ripcord now on stage at Little Theatre of Alexandria/Photo by Matthew Randall

Before the show started, the Little Theatre of Alexandria treated the audience to "air" music which made me happy, hearing John Denver singing Leaving on a Jet Plane and Frank Sinatra, Come Fly with Me .  

The whimsical music between scenes perfectly fit the content.

It's a production which grows on you, building  while the dialogue develops, rather like a skydiver whose speed and momentum climb while falling.  What appears at the beginning to be a slow, easy-going  play ends up much more than what this  theatergoer expected, and it's unpredictable!  One of the best features.  

Two little old ladies are roommates at a "senior living facility"; one, "Abby" (Janice Zucker), meaner than a rattlesnake you might surprise on the desert, and the other, "Marilyn" (Marsha Rehns), as sweet as strawberry pie which matches the colors she wears.  (Costumers Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley realistically dress the two in colors to match their personalities, with one later experiencing a color  transformation.)

It doesn't take long for this duo of mismatched to engage in banner and wits to see who can win a bet:  To make one roommate angry, and the other, afraid. 

 Shall we say, they go to extremes to win the bet? 

The acting is whiz-bang.  If you think this will be as motionless as life in the slow lane  (like that boring film of old people portrayed in this year's Mole Agent ), you ain't seen nuthin' yet!  

Daughter "Colleen" (Kathy Ohlhaber has dual roles) is shrieking dynamic, accompanied by two  (Adam Ressa and  Matt Baughman, both in multiple roles) who help her with "tricks." Let's fly away and have fun while we're doing it!

Rounding out the cast is "Scotty" (Cameron McBride), the nurse who leads the roommates on life at their "home."

Although the program calls him a "masked man," Mr. Baughman appeared to me to be a man wearing a rabbit's head, and just thinking about this scene, even before a word was spoken from the stage, made me laugh out loud. 

Other scenes are right out funny, too.  A hanging got my goat, but good.  The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire must have had some experience with nursing homes. 

The bedroom's set is realistic (by Jim Hutzler and

Jocelyn Steiner), efficiently covered several times by a dropdown sheet of excellent artistry  to convey a new scene, like a bench at a park, a skyride, or parachuting from an airplane. 

Simple enough, yes?

Abby receives a "ripcord" for life.  While I watched, I thought:  "Oh, please, Lord, don't let it be me! There but for the grace of God go I" for I know two little old ladies who are almost the same and could use a "ripcord" prescription and maybe, more than one.  (They probably think I could stand one, too!) 

Applause to the sound and projection designer (Jon Roberts assisted by Brook Easterly) who handles multiple tasks, adding much enjoyment to the show. 

I must agree with Director Jessie Roberts who writes in program notes that playwright Lindsay-Abaire is underappreciated.  I can't wait to see his Rabbit Hole

Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for a wild, hilarious ride in Alexandria.

Family matters.

Other production team members for the show are Lynn O'Connell and Alan Wray, producers; Robert Kraus, assistant producer; Brittany  Huffman and Donna Reynolds, stage managers; Stacey Becker, set painter;Jeff Auerbach and Kimberly Crago, lighting designers; Kadira Coley, hair and makeup; Jamie Blake and Julie Naughton, wardrobe

Thank you, LTA, for the printed program!

What:  Ripcord  by David Lindsay-Abaire

When: Now through June 26, 2021, Wednesday through Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.

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

Tickets: $24 + $$3.09 handling fee.  Wednesday and Thursday performances are discounted $3 with code WEDTHUR.

Duration: About 2 hours with one 10-minute pause stretch.

Adult language:  Yes

Masks: Required.  No exceptions.

Public transportation: Check the Metro and Dash bus websites.

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.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

GALA's 'Tango' is out-of-this-world

Rosalía Gasso and Alejandro Barrientos/Their photo

There's no need for dance lovers to travel to Tokyo this summer since GALA Hispanic Theatre brings the Olympics of dance to Washington with astonishing  performances by professional tangoists, musicians and the costumer, Jeanette Christensen. 

Who needs a script when music, dazzling dance, and dress carry you to fantasyland? Like the swirling dancers, the music and costumes combine in Ella es tango to present an electrifying tango show.
Marcos Pereira and Florencia Borgnia/ Photo, Daniel Martinez

GALA's founding producing artistic director, Hugo Medrano, has written an original musical revue (that he directs) about some of last century's female composers/vocalists/tangoists who competed in the male-dominated world to make themselves seen and heard so they could advance in their chosen profession, even disguising themselves as men (not the first - nor the last - time this has been attempted).

Mariana Quinteros and Patricia Torres are the duo of  top vocalists in the show whose best melodies are their duets. 
Marcos Pereira and Florencia Borgnia/Photo, Daniel Martinez

The featured ladies are portrayed by GALA company members, Lorena Sabogal as Libertad Lamarque (1908-2000), Krystal Pou as Camila Quiroga (a fictional character); Patricia Suarez is Tita Merello (1904-2002), Cecilia Esquivel is Azucena Maizani (1902-1970), and the brief biography of another tango artist, Mercedes Simon (1904-1990), is included. 

In song and dance they tell us their sad stories to present what we came to see and to hear.
Rosalía Gasso and Alejandro Barrientos/Photo, Daniel Martinez

The dancing is what brought us to the spectacle and it, combined with music by members of the Pan American Symphony Orchestra, perform in tandem with the script to captivate the magic and allure of the night to star. 

World acclaimed choreographers and teachers, Alejandro and Rosalía Barrientos are the dancers accompanied at times by Marcos Pereira and Florencia Borgnia, world tango championship finalists, who have many of their own solos.

Swirling tails, dresses, legs, and arms flash by, leaving astonished theatregoers in their wake, happy to witness magnificence.

The numerous shimmering, glittering costumes alone make the price of admission well worth the cost, and it's not just the females who come dressed to kill: The men's costumes are equally as outstanding in their glimmering jackets and ballroom tuxedo whites.

Musical direction and orchestration are by Sergio Busjle of the PASO; conducting is Argentine composer Ariel Pirotti; choreography is by the Barrientoses; and texts are by Argentine playwright, Patricia Suárez Cohen. 

Claudio Gustavo Aprile, the assistant director, appears in various male roles.

Other creative team members are Clifton Chadick and Exquista Agonía, scenic design;  Christopher Annas-Lee, lighting; Dylan Uremovich, projections; Nicolas Onischuk, additional media; David Crandall, sound; P. Vanessa Losada, stage manager; and Tony Koehler, production manager.

Ella es tango is presented in Spanish with English subtitles. 

WhatElla es tango (She is tango)

Masks:  Required.  Temperatures taken at the entrance.

When: Now through June 20, 2021, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. with open milonga dancing after the show on Wednesday, June 16.

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

 $45; $30 for seniors (65+), military, and students; $30, group sales (10 or more). To purchase, call 
(202) 234-7174 or visit

Handicapped accessible

Duration: About two hours with one intermission

Metro stations: Columbia Heights or McPherson Square and take a bus or the Circulator from McPherson Square 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, both on Park Road, NW.

For more information: Call (202) 234-7174 and/or email

The production was made possible with support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Huge hit! 'Riders of Justice' via 'Fargo'

Rough day? From left: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brygmann and Mads Mikkelsen in Riders of Justice

It must be my starvation for action which drove me to Riders of Justice and captured me from the start.

I liked Wrath of Man, too, but Riders has a far better script, better acting and credibility which spells solid entertainment.  

A joy ride through slash and burn hell, but with purpose. Just my kind of film.

Riders is a fantastic thriller, a dark, subtle comedy (of sorts) accompanied by terrific music (by Jeppe Kaas) to complement the austere Danish landscapes of horizontal lines and muted tones where the sun doesn't shine, nobody smiles,  and color (save blood and Christmas sweaters) is absent. 

Anders Thomas Jensen, the director/writer, presents a striking film, sure to excite even the sleeping.  (Wake up, Christine!)

The star (Mads Mikkelsen), is angry, very angry, a man whose rage is palpable, perceived by an audience on edge (we know this is not going to be easy), so close to a man of steel, we are, without patience.

Markus's wife has died in a train accident which injured his teen daughter, now forced to live with her unreasonable, estranged father. 

Was it an accident?  New friends arrive to paint a different picture, and away we go!

The cast includes a nerdy statistician,  
Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas); a comedic hacker, Lennart (Lars Brygmann), and the fellow who reminded me of Newman from Seinfeld, Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), a tech pro and subtle humorist. 

These guys look like your colleagues, everyday persons you see on the street, with whom you might mingle in a tech warehouse, certainly not the artificial breeds from GQApplause to casting director, Djamila Hansen

I found only one scene which needed more editing, and that was when the "psychologist" counsels Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg). The "lineup" at the end was a bit too contrived, too.

The irony of this film is its supposed setting, Denmark, ranked by Global Peace Index as the fifth most peaceful country in the world in 2020. (Iceland was #1 and - surprise! - the U.S. doesn't show up in 21 countries listed.) 

Denmark has a low rate of gun deaths, too, as detailed by From 1998 to 2011, Denmark's rate of death by gun was fewer than two people killed for every 100,000 Danish citizens, and by comparison, the United States' rate was just over 10 gun deaths per every 100,000 citizens in 2013. (It might be about double that by now.)

Riders is a great movie for those who are immune to movie violence, like I find myself becoming. 

And Carla, I think Thor will like Riders and if you liked Pulp Fiction and Fargo, you may like it, too, but you've been warned. Adult language, for certain, with English subtitles.

This is the only time I can recall when the critics at Rotten Tomatoes beat the audience (94% to 91%) and got it right.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Picasso sells out at the Frist

The Frist Art Museum, Nashville/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Inside the galleries at the Frist/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The Barefoot Girl,  1895. La Coruna. Loaned by Musée national Picasso-Paris
Picasso was only 13 when he painted this amazing working-class girl which shows his empathy for the subject, according to the label.  It's among the first of many seated women he painted such as the one below he made 37 years later.  Someone said they were birds in a cage.  (Picasso's cage.) 
Reading Woman, 1932. Boisgeloup. Musée national Picasso-Paris. 
This is of Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso's lover at the time and featured below in The Sculptor.  Marie was only 17 and almost 30 years younger than Picasso who was married when they met.  A standard line:  "You have an interesting face.  I would love to do a portrait of you," (according to Frist lecturers, Terri Cohen and Peg Werts, who gave one of many fine online sessions the Frist offered at no charge.  Dr. Werts paraphrased Picasso:  "I paint people as I think them, not as I see them.")

Picasso featured Marie-Thérèse Walter in many works, and in 1935, their daughter, Maya, was born.  Four years after Picasso died, Marie committed suicide.

Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937. Paris. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Picasso took up with Dora Maar in 1936 at the time of the outbreak of Spanish Civil War when he was still involved with Marie-Thérèse Walter and married to Olga Khokhlova. Ms. Maar, a photographer, was instrumental in Picasso's development of Guernica.* She challenged him intellectuallyaccording to the Frist online talk given by Ms. Cohen and Ms. Werts.  

Picasso often pictured Ms. Maar crying, easy enough to understand after he shoved aside women when another, more desirable woman crossed his way, such as Francoise Gilot, a Picasso relationship which led to Ms. Maar's breakdown and reclusiveness.

She split with him in 1943, regained strength and began to paint. Right on, sister!

This work was featured on the cover of the booklet at the Frist show. 

At the exhibition, my son, William, asked me how Picasso was able to attract so many women:  "It was not looks!" I exclaimed. Women are attracted to fame, power, and money, all Picasso possessions, I told him, which explains why ugly men have beautiful wives. For a while, anyway.
Man with a Guitar, 1911-1913. Paris. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris
Can you find the man's moustache, the wall molding, and the rosette on the mandolin?  Good!  You may become an art historian!  The label said this "is characteristic of analytical cubism, which aimed to restore the three-dimensionality of a subject on a single surface by translating it into geometric facets." (?)  Translate that and you may become an author, too!

Both online sessions at the Frist which I attended featured this work.  Despite its connection to surrealism, the painter denied he was a surrealist.
Mother and Child, 1907, Paris. Musée national Picasso-Paris
The label said this rendering reflects the artist's fascination with Iberian, African, and Oceanian sculpture and was probably inspired by a Romanesque Virgin and Child Picasso would have seen in Gosol where he stayed in 1906.
Inside the galleries at the Frist, visitors watch a film of Picasso in motion/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Woman with a Ruffle, 1926. Juan-les-Pins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
The Sculptor, 1931. Paris. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
The label noted the artist's early 1930s were marked by sculpture. Here a bearded man meditates at a statue of Picasso's lover at the time, Marie- Thérèse Walter. Mingling figures characterized much of  Picasso's 1920s output, which carried over into the next decade.
The Bathers, 1918. Biarritz. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris
Picasso painted this while honeymooning with the Russian ballerina, Olga Khokhlova, whom he had met the previous year and to whom he was married, despite many affairs, until she died in 1955, according to the online presentation at the Frist by Teri Cohen and Peg Werts.  (In an earlier online Frist talk, Amy Von Lintel and Leonard Folgarait also featured this work.)

The Bathers is modeled after Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres' Turkish Bath.  Dr. Folgarait noted that although the figures are touching themselves, they look away from the viewer.
Head of a Bearded Man, 1938. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Man with a Straw Hat and Ice Cream Cone, 1938. Mougins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Child with Doves, 1943.  
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Although labeled a "degenerate artist" by the Nazis, Picasso remained in Paris during the war years of Nazi occupation, 1940 to 1944 when he painted this large, malformed child holding a rattle, with two doves nearby, all enclosed in a somber setting, perhaps underground, perhaps inside a tomb.

Picasso, his art and his public, 1968. Mougins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Woman Reading, 1935, Paris. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris.

The Kiss, 1931. Musee national Picasso-Paris. Made in Paris, loaned by Paris, It must be a French kiss...oooohhhhh. The better to bite you, Madam.  This man resembles a cow and the mark of Zorro connects the two in the sheets. Note how the man's eyes are open; the woman's, closed.  Remember what I said about ugly men?  Who would want to see this monstrosity anyway and she is kissing him! Yeech!
In the Picasso galleries at the Frist/
Photo by Patricia Leslie
Woman with a Baby Carriage, 1950, bronze. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Picasso began recycling objects he found on the street long before collecting discarded objects for art became popular. 

Using abandoned objects he found in Vallauris, France where he was living, the sculptor combined them with a baby carriage, a frying pan, and plaster molds he made into the woman's arms and head/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Sunday, 1971. Mougins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Musician, 1972. Mougins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
The Family, 1970, Mougins.  
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
The label copy noted this was characteristic of the artist's "final period" with its "deceptively naive handling of the figures," suggesting the influences of the 17th century (?).
At the back of the Frist Art Museum/
Photo by Patricia Leslie
If you missed Picasso Figures at the Frist Art Museum, here are many of the most intriguing works I found at the only venue for this exhibition in the U.S.

Several of these were featured by guest lecturers speaking at free online sessions hosted by the Frist whom I heard before I saw the show.

The 75 or so pieces on display included paintings, sculptures, works on paper, including a film of him at work, loaned to the Frist by the
 Musée national Picasso-Paris,  the beneficiary of donations by his family who battled each other for years over his estate.  He left no will but just about 45,000 works, not only his own, but paintings by other notable artists.

The Picasso-Paris claims to hold the largest collection of Picassos in the world.

The value of his estate today is estimated between $530 million and $1.3 billion.

Before Picasso Figures moved on to Quebec, the Frist extended it for a week, until Mother's Day. The timed-entry tickets quickly sold out.

It was a large presentation, spread over several galleries, almost encompassing the Frist's entire first floor of exhibition space. Although the number of viewers attending was enormous, there was plenty of elbow room in the large rooms, and overcrowding was never a problem.

(When I spy an empty space in front of any work at a popular show, I rush up to it, to have it all to myself, at least for a few seconds, until someone else joins me and enters my space. At least, I've "had it" all by myself for a few moments and eventually, I get to the most popular works where solitary looking is seldom experienced.)

I was lucky to be able to attend two of the museum's online sessions about the show, excellent in every respect. (Contract stipulations prohibited recordings of these events.) 

I wondered if Picasso's misogyny would be mentioned, and Terri Cohen and Peg Werts did not disappoint, especially in this time of "Me Too," Ms. Cohen said.  

"He was cruel and abusive to women throughout his life.  His behavior cannot be excused." She said some Frist members were unhappy the museum presented the show, and I wonder if his maltreatment of women played a role in other museums in the U.S. shunning the show, if they did. Was the fact that the show was only presented at one museum in the U.S. venue related to covid-19 or funding? 

What was the reason?

Can it be that after a while, the renderings became rather boring and repetitive? The crazy, disjointed, ugly figures? Maybe with the attention to women's rights and the increasing acceptance of us as equals, Picasso will fall from favor or perhaps the descent has already begun. One can hope!

When in Nashville, visit the Frist, housed on Broadway in the former home of Nashville's main U.S. Post Office building, an art deco gorgeous structure, with or without art on display.

*Guernica was not part of this show, Ms. Cohen and Ms. Werts said. B
eginning in 1937,  it was kept on and off at the Museum of Modern Art for safekeeping, to tour the world before MOMA returned it reluctantly to Spain in 1981. 
It is one of the most recognizable pieces of art in the world.


Monday, May 10, 2021

'Wrath of Man' explodes on the screen

Dear Carla,

A movie for Thor! But, maybe not for you.

Sigh: It's hard to please everyone all of the time.

Because the Wrath of Man had a Rotten Tomatoes audience rating of 91% and a critics' rating of 67%, I knew it was likely to be good since the critics get them wrong about 98% of the time.

It was either this or Billy Crystal's new film, Here Today (audience rating, 93%; critics, 46%) which looked so predictable (old man meets younger woman, you know the score, ho hum, yawn) so I opted for Wrath and I am glad I did!
Jason Statham (left) and Josh Hartnett in Guy Ritchie's Wrath of Man

Yowsers, Christine!  (You won't like it; stay home)

When I entered the theatre, I wondered if I would have to leave midway through the show since the future is not known, I'm not a big fan of violence, but I do like the motion more than what you get from rocking chairs, especially after wasting time and money on the dull and lifeless (no puns intended) No Man's Land and Holy Moly.

I was the only woman in the moviehouse.  Which turned out to be OK. 

Ladies, this is not for the squeamish. This is a guy flick; not chick lit.

From the get-go, it was heave ho! And away we go. No time to catch a breath or doze a spell (see above). It was great to see a 21st century flick, guns ablazing, without... (hold your breath)female nudity. 

Thank you, producers and director!

And no sex (to speak of). Not, the porno kind.  Which just goes to show you, gratuitous sex is unnecessary for a really good show!

Plenty of bad words though, not sprinkled in the show, but flooding throughout, natch, which I was able to quickly ignore once I set my gears on "speed."

A "taut thriller" whose rage is transferred to the moviegoer.  You can almost feel the walls vibrate with his anger.  Something's up. 

It takes eight minutes for the SWAT team to arrive?

The time sequences go back and forth a bit too much, out of order, but that doesn't slow things down. Who needs time when your heart is beating nonstop?

The music by Christopher Benstead was initially terrific before it quickly became monotonous, the same repetitive sequences with the boom! boom! boom of the bass and drums. (No need to take your hearing aids. Matter of fact, you may need some after the show.)

The Washington Post reviewer suggested Ritchie and the star, Jason Statham
(shades of Bruce Willis) were a mite too old, almost "has-beens," to be bringing all this mad action to the screen, to which I retort: Bring it on, fellows! I'll have some more of that (this).

Although the acting by most of the cast was not as sharp as I think it could have been, who cares when the story line was far better than most of the ones I've seen this year?

You don't need a description, do you? Let's just say, I'll never glance at money trucks the same way again.

This was my first Ritchie/Statham  film, and should I be embarrassed that I liked it? Violence and all? Moviegoers, it is solid entertainment! That's all we want at the movie house, right?

Now, who is the bad guy(s)? Give 'em H!
Some of the guys in Guy Ritchie's Wrath of Man

Thursday, April 29, 2021

'Emily Dickinson' stars in Alexandria

Karen Jadloss Shotts is Emily Dickinson in Little Theatre of Alexandria's The Belle of Amherst/Photo by Matthew Liptak

It's a delight to sing the tune without the words and celebrate National Poetry Month with Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), her life and poems which the Little Theatre of Alexandria does in its new production, The Belle of Amherst.

Karen Jadlos Shotts is an energetic Emily in this one-actor, two-act autobiographical sketch by William Luce, directed by Frank D. Shutts, II. who is the LTA president and director of more than 70 shows, 27 at LTA.

Before I even got to the theatre, I liked what I expected to hear and see, Emily Dickinson's poetry in person, on a stage by a character in dress!

I was not disappointed.

Ms. Shotts is much more animated than I would have imagined the reclusive Ms. Dickinson to be. She enlivens the poet's life realistically with imaginary conversations with the scholar, "Mr. Higginson," with family members and with others.

Karen Jadloss Shotts is Emily Dickinson in Little Theatre of Alexandria's The Belle of Amherst/Photo by Matthew Liptak

She glides across the stage almost non-stop from one side to the other, flowing like her words, and stopping sometimes to extend her hands and stretch her arms high overhead like a cat yawning. She removes her long white apron and then puts it on again, all the while delivering Emily Dickinson's best-known works and describing her life.

I tie my Hat—
I crease my Shawl— 
Life's little duties do—
As the very least Were infinite—to me—

A silver tea set becomes useful when Emily has a cup or two with her imaginary guests in the family's Victorian house in Amherst, Massachusetts where Emily spent the majority of her adult life.

She speaks negatively of her nosy neighbors 
I'm Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one's name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog! 

and speaks glowingly of her father, and only after his death does her ill mother make an "appearance."

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes – 
I wonder if It weighs like Mine – 
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long – 
Or did it just begin – 
I could not tell the Date of Mine – 
It feels so old a pain – 

I wonder if it hurts to live – 
And if They have to try – 
And whether – could They choose between – 
It would not be – to die – 

The play follows Emily's life until death, always accompanied by her poetry and much-welcome splices of humor.  Was she humorous?

I could not conceive that LTA's Emily would stay cooped up in a house for years as Emily Dickinson chose to live. But, the director begs the actor's animation and energy to keep the production moving, necessary to sustain attention in today's world, much better than watching the poet sit at a desk and mouth the words.

This is my letter to the World

That never wrote to Me —

The simple News that Nature told

With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed

To Hands I cannot see —

For love of Her — Sweet — countrymen

Judge tenderly — of Me 

Myke Taister has created a nicely filled, almost overcrowded set of Emily's bedroom and. a few steps below, the family parlor with lots to see and distract from poetry: framed photographs, paintings, lamps, windows on either side of the stage and curtains rustling with the wind.

Sound by Janice Rivera and Donna Hauprich is excellent, just the right amount and volume, as horses and carriages come and go outside Emily's windows, and music and church bells can be heard at other times.

In her room 

I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of air – am I –
And Debauchee of Dew –
Reeling – thro' endless summer days –
From inns of molten Blue –

And she

I never saw a Moor —
I never saw the Sea —
Yet know I how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be.

I never spoke with God
Nor visited in Heaven —
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the Checks were given —

Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley have fashioned under Emily's apron a dull candlelight long dress which fits Ms. Shotts like a large potato sack from neck to floor. Arms covered, of course, and all in a shade of white which is what Emily Dickinson always wore:  An angel of poetry?

In program notes Director Shutts hopes that LTA's illumination of Ms. Dickinson will provide guests with "a greater appreciation" of the poet and "how her phosphorescence now shines brighter than her contemporaries!"

It does!
My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me – 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – 
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring – 
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – 
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us – 
The Dews drew quivering and chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity – 

Emily Dickinson fans will want to rush and get tickets to see and hear the poet speak her songs.
Several of the shows are sold out.

LTA is seating about 25 percent of its capacity, strictly following covid-guidelines for masks and social distancing,

Other Belle of Amherst production members include Russell M. Wyland, producer; Melanie "Mim" Blower and Marg Soroos, stage managers; Jeff Auerbach and Kimberly Crago, lighting; Helen Bard-Sobola and Bobbie Herbst, properties; Chanel Lancaster, make-up; Robin Maline, hair.What: The Belle of Amherst by William Luce

When: Now through May 15, 2021, Wednesday through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

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

Tickets: Start at $24. Several shows are sold out.

Duration: About 90 minutes with one 10-minute pause.

Public transportation: Check the Metro and Dash bus websites.

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

For more information
: Box Office: 703-683-0496; Business: 703-683-5778.