Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Little St. Nick Lowe, or (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Boughs of Holly?

ImageMy interest in Christmas music could not be described as casual, and I’ve long admired the songwriting of Nick Lowe, the onetime Jesus of Cool.

So his first — and probably last, but who can say? — holiday album, Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family, is pitched squarely at me. I talked to him about it for Sunday’s Washington Post.

Been a while since my byline showed up there. Nice to be back.

I Still Wish I Were Blind: The Often Terrible Album Covers of Bruce Springsteen, revisited.

HIGH-HOPES

That’s The Boss’s imminent album up there, all right. Over at NPR Monkey See this morning, I ask why it — like pretty much every album Springsteen has made in the last 30 years (except for The Ghost of Tom Joad) — must have such a terrible, awful, no good, inexpressive and irreducibly goddamn fugly cover.

I wrote a similar, much longer piece examining the covers of Springsteen’s entire official catalog five years ago, after the horrific cover of Working on a Dream leaked. Continue reading

More Plays About Gatherings and Food: (Half of) The Apple Family Plays, reviewed.

Ted van Griethuysen, Elizabeth Pierotti, Sarah Marshall, Kimberly Schraf, and Rick Foucheux inThat Hopey Changey Thing. (Photo: Teddy Wolff)

Ted van Griethuysen, Elizabeth Pierotti, Sarah Marshall, Kimberly Schraf, and Rick Foucheux in “That Hopey Changey Thing.” (Photo: Teddy Wolff)

The Studio Theatre is staging two of Richard Nelson‘s four Apple Family Plays, the last of which had its world premiere at the Public Theater in New York only last Friday, in repertory. The pair at Studio are That Hopey Change Thing and Sweet and Sad. My review of both is on Arts Desk now, and will show up in print in next week’s City Paper. Happy Thanksgiving.

(Invasion) Hit Parade: Elvis Costello at Lisner Auditorium, annotated.

Elvis Costello at Linser Auditorium, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. Photo; Francis Chung.

Elvis Costello at Linser Auditorium, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. Photo; Francis Chung.

Has it really been more than two years since I last saw Elvis Costello play and felt compelled to write footnotes, basically, on all the curiosities in the set? The calendar does not lie. I’ve seen Costello perform probably 20 times since 1999, but I’d never seen him do a headlining solo set, as he did Friday night at Lisner Auditorium.

Because no one demanded it, I posted some notes over at DCist, where it’s been so long that I don’t even have my own login anymore. The post features great photos by Francis Chung, who took the one above. For an overview of the concert, the great and good Dave McKenna captured it well in his Washington Post review.

Darkness on the Edge of Town: The Woman in Black, reviewed.

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I quite liked Keegan Theatre‘s production of Susan Hill and Stephen Mallatratt‘s ghost story The Woman in Black. No arts section in this week’s City Paper, so my review is web-only.

Kinky Reboots: Mies Julie and Bondage, reviewed.

Hilda Cronje and Bongile Mantsai in "Mies Julie."(Rodger Bosch)

Hilda Cronje and Bongile Mantsai in “Mies Julie.”(Rodger Bosch)

My reviews of Mies Julie, a South African August Strindberg update, and David Henry Hwang’s Bondage, from locals Pinky Swear Productions, are in today’s Washington City Paper.

It’s About Time Somebody Called Richard Curtis on This Shit

Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson in About Time. After holding this expression for three grueling months of shooting, both actors had to have their faces amputated.

Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson in “About Time.” After holding this expression for three grueling months of shooting, both actors had to have their faces amputated.

That’s disingenuous. Plenty of critics have called Richard Curtis on the way his new movie About Time cheats already. My take, which you can read on Monkey See now, is somewhat unique, I hope.

Backstory: I saw About Time on vacation in London Leicester Square about two months ago, several weeks before it opened here in the States. (Fancy!) With the exchange rate being what it is, two tickets cost me the equivalent of $50 — double the freight of a first-run movie here in Washington, DC. I would’ve been steamed to spend that much on a film I disliked. As I suspected I would, I enjoyed the film unabashedly, but I felt even guiltier for liking it than I’d felt for liking Curtis’s other sappy movies, but especially Love, Actually, which was particularly egregious. About Time‘s handling of its time-travel conceit was just so lazy and… unfair.

Continue reading

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Appropriates His Past

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Darrow Montgomery/Washington City Paper)

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Darrow Montgomery/Washington City Paper)

My profile of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whose play Appropriate opens at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company tomorrow night, is in today’s Washington City Paper. He says he’s rewritten it since I saw its premiere at the Humana Festival of New American Plays last April, so I’m curious to see what’s changed.

Read all about it.

The Scarlet A(s): Inventing Van Gogh and The Argument, reviewed.

Lawrence Redmond & Ryan Tumulty in "Inventing Van Gogh." (C. Stanley Photography/Washington Stage Guild)

Lawrence Redmond & Ryan Tumulty in “Inventing Van Gogh.” (C. Stanley Photography/Washington Stage Guild)

In today’s Washington City Paper, I review two shows I mostly liked: Washington Stage Guild‘s Inventing Van Gogh and Theater J‘s The Argument.

You are alerted.

Spoilers on the Radio

Star Wars Darth Vader

Baby daddy.

The New Hampshire Public Radio Word of Mouth show talked to me earlier this week for a short segment on my Four Types of Spoilers essay for The Village Voice. You can listen to that here and read the essay here.

Radio, the Final Frontier, or To Go With Some Reasonable Measure of Boldness Where I Myself Have Not Personally Managed, Entirely, to Go Before

My first radio story will be broadcast today. You can listen to it here right now. The process of assembling and editing it was not all that much different from making these. Although in this case I had expert help — WAMU managing producer Tara Boyle — to make the piece sound better. The story is about the starship Enterprise. That is, the impressively large, now-49-year-old model that appeared in every episode of Star Trek, 30 years before computer graphics became Hollywood’s defacto visual effects methodology.

I haven’t spent enough time with the various spinoff series to get much of a read on them, but original-flavor Kirk-Spock-McCoy Star Trek is a thing I love.I initially imagined this segment as a Daily Show-style news package wherein I would feign indignation that an artifact as significant as the civilization-seeking, boldly-going Enterprise ​rates a spot only in the basement of the National Air & Space Museum. (Apparently they also have some spacecraft there that have actually flown in space.) That approach proved to a be little ambitious for my first time out of the gate. There were a couple of jokes and a couple of clips it pained me to lose, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

My favorite formal thing about the story is that I managed to use, chronologically, music from three eras of Trek: Alexander Courage‘s 1966 theme for TV series, two snippets of James Horner‘s score for The Wrath of Khan from 1982, and finally, Michael Giacchino‘s theme from the 2009 Trek reboot directed by J.J. Abrams. Continue reading