Monthly Archives: December 2013

Wilder Thing: Our Suburb, reviewed.

OUR-SUBURB-photo-by-Stan-Barouh

Some kind of technical problem prevented a chunk of this week’s Washington City Paper from being posted online. My review of Darrah Cloud’s play Our Suburb at Theater J was among that chunk, so I’m posting the full text of the review here.

Writer Darrah Cloud’s Internet Movie Database page indicates she was once a prolific imagineer of made-for-TV movies: A Christmas Romance, A Holiday for Love, A Holiday Romance, The Sons of Mistletoe, and — shades of intrigue! — Undercover Christmas. I haven’t seen those films, but the titles imply the sort of cornball mawkishness that some people — specifically, people who are very wrong — associate with Thornton Wilder’s oft-revived, Pulitzer-winning 1938 play, Our Town.

Our Suburb is Cloud’s riff on Wilder’s classic in the way that Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird was a reworking of Anton Chekhov’The Seagull, only she isn’t debating her source material the way Posner’s thrilling play did. She’s moved the action — well, “action;” she’s kept Wilder’s sense of life as a sequence of mostly prosaic moments that we are tragically incapable of appreciating   —  from the fictitious hamlet of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire in the early years of the 20th century to her native Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, about 75 years later. There we follow three households, alike in rigorously striving dignity: The white Majors, and black Minors, and the Jewish Edelmans.

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I loves you, Porgy & Bess. Or The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess. Whatever.

Alicia Hall Moran & Nathaniel Stampley as Bess and Porgy in "The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess."

Alicia Hall Moran & Nathaniel Stampley and Bess and Porgy in “The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess.”

Yes, it’s clearly an insult to DuBose Heyward, who wrote the novel Porgy, and to his wife Dorothy Heyward, with whom he collaborated on the script for a play derived from the novel, that the latest (2011) Broadway version is called The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess, as if the Heywards had nothing to do with the creation of an American classic. But I was still moved past the point of articulate expression by the show when its touring version stopped in Washington Christmas week, as my tongue-tied Washington City Paper review demonstrates.

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Let’s Do the Numbers! Talkin’ Yuletunes on Marketplace

My face betrays the intense concentration required to form sentences in real time.

My face betrays the intense concentration required to form sentences in real time.

I’m not allowed to post the video of my Dec. 10 appearance on CNN‘s The Lead with Jake Tapper, (here’s its blog accompaniment) and I don’t have a photo from my appearance on Marketplace yesterday. So here’s a screen cap from the CNN bit and a link to the Marketplace segment, wherein host Kai Ryssdal asks me a question for which I am completely unprepared.

Is there hope for a new classic Christmas song? | Marketplace.org. Continue reading

Our Pottymouthed Year: 2013 on the DC Stage, Assessed.

Drew Cortese and Quentin Maré in Studio's "The Motherfucker with the Hat," a 2013 highlight. (Teddy Wolff)

Drew Cortese and Quentin Maré in Studio’s “The Motherfucker with the Hat,” a 2013 highlight. (Teddy Wolff)

We’re wrapping up a highly rewarding and admirably trend-resistant year on DC’s stages, as I aver in this week’s Washington City Paper.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: More Hobbits and Christmas Music

In "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Sarah Connor gets militarized.

In “Terminator 2,” onetime victim Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) gets militarized.

Thanks to Pop Culture Happy Hour full-timers Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, and host Linda Holmes for inviting me back on the podcast this week to talk about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and a subject closer to my heart than that one, Christmas music. Have I mentioned that I’m very interested in Christmas music?

Our dissection of that enervating Hobbit movie feeds into a discussion of second installments, and some of the ones that really work. If you haven’t seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day in a while, there’s no time like the present, Christmas T-minus five. Continue reading

Talkin’ Yulejams on Word of Mouth

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Thanks to Virgina Prescott and Word of Mouth for having me back on yesterday to talk about the dearth of new Christmas songs and make a few recommendations of less-familiar old ones. They were awfully nice about it when the battery in the borrowed phone I was using died mid-interview.

You can listen to the segment here.

Mourning Edition: Edgar and Annabel, reviewed.

Maboud Ebrahimzadeh and Emily Kester. (Igor Dmitry)

Maboud Ebrahimzadeh and Emily Kester. (Igor Dmitry)

The short version of my Washington City Paper review of Sam Holcroft‘s Edgar and Annabel, now getting its U.S. premiere in a Studio Theatre production directed by the great actor Holly Twyford, is that you have to see it. It synthesizes about a half dozen well-chosen curated cinematic influences while remaining resolutely its own thing.