Category Archives: theatre

Scholar Signs: Visible Language, reviewed. PLUS: The Keller-Bell letters, parsed!

Miranda Medugno and Sarah Anne Sillers (C. Stanley Photography)

Miranda Medugno and Sarah Anne Sillers (C. Stanley Photography)

My review of Visible Language, an ambitious original musical in English and American Sign Language being performed at Gallaudet University, is in today’s Washington City Paper. One of the play’s concerns is Alexander Graham Bell‘s relationship with Helen Keller, whom he met as his student, but who became a close friend of Bell and his wife, Mabel.

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, undated photo.

Helen Keller & Anne Sullivan, undated

I’ll say. While researching this review I found several pieces of correspondence spanning a 25-year period between Bell and Keller in the Library of Congress. I haven’t made anything approaching a serious attempt at scholarship here, but I read the letters I found and I was moved and amused by the story they tell, or at least suggest.

In chronological order, to the extent possible:

This one, which Keller wrote to Bell on George Peabody College for Teachers letterhead, is dated only with a month and day. It’s purely cordial. She talks about addressing the German Scientific Society of New York in English and German, and telling them “every deaf child should have a chance to learn to speak.” Which was Bell’s belief, too, according to the musical. His rival, Edward Miner Gallaudet, believed that sign language, rather than speech, should be the primary method of teaching the deaf to communicate. That’s the conflict that drives Visible Language. Continue reading

Hey, Read This: “Sex Parts,” My Best Friend’s Washington Post Magazine Essay About Stage Boinking

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I was an admirer of Rachel Manteuffel’s writing for years before I got to know her, so kindly disregard that she’s my best gal when I say unto you that it is imperative you read her essay in today’s Washington Post Magazine entitled “Sex Parts.” (Not her title, by the way.) It’s about her decision to take a role in a play last summer that required her to perform a pair of sex scenes as explicit as I can ever recall seeing on stage–and I’ve been getting paid to review plays for six or seven years now.

The play was The Campsite Rule, a wicked-smart sex comedy by Washington Post humor columnist Alexandra Petri. Not enough people saw it. There was no WaPo review, for numerous, complicated, and infuriating reasons, though my Washington City Paper colleague Trey Graham gave it an admiring notice, as did most of the theatre websites in town. I badgered my friends to go. I made sure I had my tickets to return on closing night before I plugged the show on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hourso confident was I that the local DC contingent of the million people who download that podcast each week would instantly snap up all remaining seats once I told them about this smart, funny, sexy play written by and directed by and starring smart, funny, sexy women. I didn’t even mention the explicit sex!

Shows what I know. Continue reading

The Good Books: Sex with Strangers and Elmer Gantry, reviewed.

This is my last pair of Washington City Paper theatre reviews to be edited by departing managing editor Jonathan L. Fischer, who as I mentioned last week is moving on to become a senior editor at Slate. I’ll miss having him edit me every week but I know he’ll do great things there. Godspeed, Jon.

Bringing Out the DC Dead

Collage on brown package paper affixed to interior window at Fort Fringe, Oct. 5, 2014The flood of new words from me posting today and tomorrow includes this Washington City Paper feature on DC Dead, Rex Daugherty and Vaughn Irving’s “zombie survival experience” set in the former Fort Fringe at 607 New York Ave. NW, and likely, if not certain, to be that storied old wreck’s final show now that the Capital Fringe Festival has officially moved a mile and change east, to the H Street NE corridor.

The photo (click to enlarge it) is of something I saw taped up to the inside of one of the windows in the second-floor room where they used to assemble the festival’s schedule using sticky-notes on the Sunday I visited to report the story. The City Paper photographed CapFringe founder Julianne Brienza there for my cover story about the festival in 2010, and they’ve reused those pictures many times in the years since.

Notes on Champ: Fetch Clay, Make Man and ABSOLUTELY! {perhaps}, reviewed.

Roscoe Orman and Eddie Ray Jackson as Stehin Fetchit and Muhammad Ali in "Fetch Clay, Make Man."

Roscoe Orman and Eddie Ray Jackson as Stephin Fetchit and Muhammad Ali in Fetch Clay, Make Man. (Round House Theatre)

My review of Round House Theatre‘s strong production of Will Power‘s Fetch Clay, Make Man, a play about the unlikely friendship of Muhammad Ali and Stephin Fetchit, is in today’s Washington City Paper. I also review Constellation Theatre‘s update of a century-old Luigi Pirandello play, ABSOLUTELY! {perhaps}. Continue reading

Where the Wild Things Are: Synetic’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, reviewed.

The inhabitants of Synetic Theater's "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (Johnny Shryock)

This acrobatic Moreau is a rich sensual experience, one that deflates at the end but not before it has vividly dramatized Wells’s big question: Is physical suffering at best irrelevant and at worst necessary? Can we evolve by teaching ourselves to ignore it? By way of demonstrating his answer, Moreau takes a glinting blade and slices a red trail through his own forearm, ignoring the pain like he’s Peter O’Toole playing Lawrence of Arabia, or Gordon Liddy playing himself, or Gary Busey playing Mr. Joshua. (In Lethal Weapon, duh. Read a book, why don’t you.) We always hurt the ones we’re forcibly trying to improve.

My review of Synetic Theater’s new adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau is in today’s Washington City Paper, available wherever finer alt-weeklies are given away for free.

Continue reading

Wig Time: Marie Antoinette, reviewed.

My review of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company‘s production of David Adjmi‘s Marie Antoinette, starring the great Kimberly Gilbert, is in today’s Washington City Paper, available wherever finer alt-weeklies are given away for free.