Well, guys. I am not entirely sure what happened in this episode, except that the show has gotten very creative with camera angles around Kerry Washington and everyone said “Publius” a lot. Perhaps the biggest development is that Harrison’s storyline finally has something to do with the main action, so hopefully he’ll have more to do than button his shirts and make phone calls with a serious face. Let’s figure this out together, shall we?
Olivia and El Prez are doing some post-coital fighting in a hotel room as our favorite Secret Service agent, Tom, and Ballard wait outside. El Prez acts like a jealous teenager about Olivia’s fake relationship with Ballard, and she spits back that she had to do it so she could stop being his “public whore.” There’s talk about hens and state fairs, and they both sound a bit insane. El Prez tries to talk to her about “someday,” but the bloom is off that particular rose for Olivia. This was an incredibly awkward scene, for all involved.
The big political maneuvering this week is that El Prez’s campaign needs money, and Andrew Nichols has been tasked with charming donors into giving up their money. But there’s a problem: A reporter named Carla Steele digs up a story about Nichols getting oxycodone delivered to the governor’s mansion back when El Prez was El Gov. But from a flashback we find out it wasn’t Nichols ordering from the Papa John’s of pharmaceuticals—it was Mellie, whose guilt and shame over being raped by her father-in-law drove her to a suicide attempt. Nichols finds her passed out on the floor, sticks his fingers down her throat, then sits up all night with her to make sure she doesn’t die. It’s not your typical love story, perhaps, but he is way nicer to her than her husband, who rather than wondering why his wife can’t stand to be touched by him just yells, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Olivia thinks her dad is the source behind the pill story, so she asks him to dinner and tells him she’s worried he’s plotting against the President without any of his B613 power or protection. Papa Pope calls her manipulative and she storms out, where she sees Quinn spying on her from her car. Olivia tells Quinn to come home, but Quinn is still upset that Huck licked her face “like a piece of meat.” Then she threatens to shoot Olivia if she doesn’t get out of the car. So Olivia goes home, and when Ballard shows up she yells at him for assigning Quinn to tail her father. He’s all, I did not do that and also please put something in your kitchen besides wine and popcorn, because if I’m going to be your beard I at least want to be a well-fed one. Then he takes off his shirt and says he’s going to shower before they have pretend sex, and even Il Papa is not immune to the sight of Shirtless Scott Foley.
Ira Glass Lite is freaking out about Cyrus finding out that he’s Publius. David tells him to send Vanessa the tape of Sally’s phone call to Cyrus, and Vanessa immediately wants to set up a meeting. David agrees to go in IGL’s place, but Cyrus is tracking someone’s phone—Vanessa’s? Publius’s?—and sends Charlie to intercept them. Luckily for David, he’s dating a member of the Dream Team; Abby got suspicious of him and had Huck hack into his e-mail, so they are able to find him, stuff him into the trunk of a car, and drive away before Charlie has a chance to kill him.
Through March 21, Washington Project for the Arts presents its annual Art Auction Exhibition at Artisphere. The showcase of local artists features work by Holly Bass, Meaghan Carpenter, Frank Hallam Day, Victoria F. Gaitan, Patrick McDonough, and others.
“Garry Winogrand,” at the National Gallery of Art through June 8, features 160 photographs making up a retrospective of the American street photographer’s career, from images taken at the Bronx Zoo in the 1960s to pictures of John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, and more.
Through July 31, the Kreeger Museum celebrates its 20th anniversary with “K@20,” an exhibition of work by 14 area artists, each of whom has exhibited at the museum over its two-decade history. The show features work by Gene Davis, Ledelle Moe, Jann Rosen-Queralt, and more.
“Made in the USA: American Masters From the Phillips Collection, 1850-1970” is at the Phillips through August 31, celebrating the return home of some 200-plus of the museum’s most compelling works of American art. Among the 120 artists included are Milton Avery, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Edward Hopper.
“Directions: Jeremy Deller” continues through July 31 at the Hirshhorn, featuring “English Magic,” a 14-minute video by the British conceptual artist.
“Cool and Collected: Recent Acquisitions,” at the National Building Museum from March 8 through May 2015, allows the museum to show off additions to its collection, including a “kaleidoscope dollhouse” by Laurie Simmons (a.k.a. the mother of Girls creator Lena Dunham) and Peter Wheelwright, as well as work by local sculptor Raymond Kaskey.
“Pop Art Prints,” on display March 21 through August 31 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, offers a rare look at 39 prints from its collection, including work by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, and Jasper Johns.
Opening at the Corcoran March 22 are “Rineke Djikstra: The Crazyhouse,” a video installation of young adults dancing and singing for the artist at a nightclub in Liverpool, and “Jenny Steinkamp and Jimmy Johnson: Loop,” an immersive video-and-sound installation originally commissioned by the museum in 2000.
Bad news, Phillip—or Clark, I guess. The follow-up to last week’s Alexandria massacre of the other spy family opens with Martha in hair rollers obsessing over the bloody scene. But the real shock for Phillip is that Martha may have job ambitions outside the FBI’s counterintelligence division. Could it be that instead of marrying a well-placed secretary for Mother Russia, Phillip has pointlessly shacked up with a typical career bureaucrat trying to climb the GS scale?
Actually, that’s not the biggest shock Phillip gets this week. That honor goes to, well, an actual electric shock he gets while snooping around the Chesapeake, Virginia, home of Fred, the premiere’s brush-passer, played by John Carroll Lynch. Phillip makes his side trip to the Hampton Roads in full disguise—this time playing a hirsute handyman. (Is it just me, or does Phillip’s getup look a lot like the 2012 incarnation of True Detective’s Rust Cohle?)
We’ll get back to Fred and Rust-ish Phillip in a bit. In the meantime, the murder of alt-spy family Emmett and Leanne and daughter Amelia last week drives many people to new extremes. Elizabeth can’t walk ten feet without looking over her shoulder—maybe it comes with the profession, but she seems jumpier than usual. Phillip comes back from his business trip to see Elizabeth, not Martha, and apologizes for exposing Henry during the handoff with Fred, who can’t shake the image he saw in the newspaper of the dead bodies.
And then there’s Martha. She’s getting a gun! And if the slightly off-kilter sham wife of the male lead says she’s buying a gun in the second episode, well, you know the deal.
Thursday, March 6
BEER: DC Brau has a new beer, and DC United players are going to help launch it at Penn Social. Meet the team—and try Tradition Golden Ale with them—before they kick off their season this weekend. As always, Penn Social will have a whole bunch of games and TVs going; maybe you can beat a player at foosball or something. Free. 6 PM.
MUSIC: U.S. Royalty are releasing their sophomore album, Blue Sunshine, on vinyl, and they want to do something super-fancy to celebrate. They’ll be on the rooftop of P.O.V. at the W, where you can taste another brand new DC Brau beer. Free. 9 PM.
BOOKS: NPR hosts Word, a “book club of extraordinary women, wine, and music.” The best part is, you can ignore the “book” part for the moment— it just means Susan Minot will be selling and signing copies of her new novel, Thirty Girls. It’s worth a read, but there won’t be a quiz or anything if you want to buy it and read it later. Admission includes a glass of wine and music from blues musician Maritri Garrett. Tickets ($20) are available at the door. 7 PM.
Friday, March 7
FILM: DC Shorts hosts another Rewind night, where you can check out ten of the festival’s best films in 100 minutes—one film from each year. If you really like sitting in one place for more than three hours at a time, you can catch 20 films by checking out both shows. Tickets ($15) are available online. 7:30 and 9:30 PM.
TALK SHOW: DC’s live talk show “You, Me, Them, Everybody” heads to Wonderland Ballroom with a host of comedians, musicians, and other people of note, including you! If you go, that is. It’s free, it’s fun, and the whole place turns into a dance party afterward. Free. 7:30 PM.
DANCE: Black Cat hosts the Moon Bounce Dancing Affair, which does not actually have a moon bounce but does have plenty of dancing, which is an okay alternative, I guess. The night features hip-hop, house, and pop classics from the ’90s, so you already probably know things get a bit out of control. $7. 10 PM.
Didn’t get enough Bill Murray at the Oscars this year? Never fear: The incomparable actor and all-around exemplar of awesome is the subject of a film series at the Angelika Mosaic this month. Every Friday and Saturday night at 11:45, the Fairfax cinema screens classic Murray movies: Stripes March 7 and 8, Groundhog Day March 14 and 15, Lost in Translation March 21 and 22, and Caddyshack March 28 and 29.
By chance (the series has been planned for months, according to the theater) three out of the four pictures also offer a chance to appreciate the work of the recently departed and greatly missed Harold Ramis, who appears in each of the films except Lost in Translation. Tickets ($7) and more information are available through the Angelika’s website.
OPENING THIS MONTH
March 4 through 9, Broadway and London smash Mamma Mia! returns to the National Theatre, incorporating the Swedish pop group Abba’s hits with a flimsy but warm-hearted story about a girl who doesn’t know who her father is.
March 5 through April 13, Studio Theatre stages Water by the Spoonful, Quiara Alegría Hudes’s 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner about an Iraq War veteran struggling with life back home in Philadelphia. “For a drama peopled by characters who have traveled a long way in the dark, Water by the Spoonful gives off a shimmering, sustaining warmth,” said the New York Times.
March 10 through 30, the Kennedy Center presents the theater festival World Stages, an impressive showcase of performances by theater companies from around the world. Among the events: Peter Brook’s Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord presents The Suit, Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet Company (of War Horse fame) perform Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the National Theatre of China presents Green Snake.
March 12 through 30, Ambassador Theater takes up residence in the Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint to stage Happily Ever After, a world premiere play by Cristina Colmena exploring the longevity of relationships.
March 13 at Strathmore, Olympia Dukakis performs in a “concert reading” of Rose, the play by Martin Sherman about a Holocaust survivor living in Florida. Dukakis originated the title role at the world premiere at London’s National Theatre in 1999 and has been performing it sporadically ever since.
March 13 through April 6, Arlington’s Synetic revisits Hamlet, the first play it staged in its Silent Shakespeare series. Paata Tsikurishvili directs; Irina Tsikurishvili choreographs and plays Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude.
March 14 through May 17, Ford’s Theatre stages The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Rebecca Feldman, Rachel Sheinkin, and William Finn’s musical comedy about a group of awkward tweens competing in a spelling bee was nominated for six Tony Awards in 2005 and won for Best Book of a Musical.
March 15 through April 12, Keegan Theatre presents Hair, the groovetastic 1967 musical about peace, free love, and counterculture.
March 18 through May 11, Signature Theatre presents the local premiere of Tender Napalm, Philip Ridley’s dramatic pas de deux about a man and woman revising their feelings for each other. London’s Guardian called the play “a frighteningly clear-eyed, viciously funny, and deeply sensual examination of the way love shipwrecks us on a desert island from which there can be no rescue.”
March 20 through April 5, the DC playwriting collective the Welders presents the world premiere of The Carolina Layaway Grail by Allyson Currin. At the Atlas Performing Arts Center.
March 20 through April 6 at Theater J, Sinai Peter directs The Admission, Motti Lerner’s Israeli homage to Arthur Miller’s drama All My Sons. The play is coproduced by the Cameri Theatre and the Arab-Hebrew Theatre of Jaffa.
March 21 through May 4 at Arena Stage, Molly Smith directs the world premiere of Camp David, New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright’s play about the Camp David Accords.
March 25 through June 7, Michael Kahn directs a repertory presentation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II. Stacy Keach—who played King Lear to acclaim at Shakespeare in 2009—stars as Falstaff, Prince Hal’s drunken companion.
The Kennedy Center announced its 2014-15 season this morning. Here are the highlights:
The touring production of Evita stops by in October 2014.
The KenCen premieres its new production of Little Dancer, with direction and choreography by Susan Stroman, also in October.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is your holiday musical, arriving December 16.
Signature Theatre’s Eric Schaeffer directs a new revival of Lerner and Loewe’s Gigi before it heads to New York, opening January 17.
Tony-winning musical Once arrives for a six-week engagement in July 2015.
Smash hit Book of Mormon (which, you may remember, crashed the Kennedy Center’s website last summer when tickets went on sale), is returning for two months in the summer of 2015.
The KenCen presents Martha Clarke’s Cheri in October.
Beijing Dance Theater stops by in October.
Ballet West provides this year’s Nutcracker from December 1 through 14.
The Mariinsky Ballet performs a mixed-repertory program in January.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns in February.
American Ballet Theatre returns in March with one unnamed full-length work and a mixed-repertory program.
The New York City Ballet brings two mixed programs to the KenCen in April.
The Scottish Ballet performs A Streetcar Named Desire in May.
England’s the Royal Ballet performs Don Quixote and a mixed program in June.
Joshua Bell performs in the Season Opening Ball Concert September 21.
The Washington National Opera presents Florencia in the Amazon in September.
David Zinman conducts pianist Angela Hewitt in October.
John Mauceri conducts Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton in October.
Christoph Eschenbach conducts Midori October 30 through November 1.
Steven Reineke conducts an evening with Sutton Foster in November.
The WNO stages Puccini’s La Bohème in November.
The WNO Family Opera in December is Rachel Portman’s adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.
Pianist Tzimon Barto returns in January.
Organist Cameron Carpenter performs February 4.
Emanuel Ax also stops by in February.
The WNO presents Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites in February and March.
Jason Moran performs In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959 in March.
The WNO revives Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in March.
Dianne Reeves returns in April.
Violinist Leonidas Kavakos performs in May.
The Kennedy Center also announced a festival dedicated to performing arts from Spain and Portugal. Iberian Suite: Arts Remix Across Continents will take place from March 2 through 24, and will feature theater, music, dance, and more.
Iris Rainer Dart is no stranger to lachrymosity. Countless tears have been shed since she bestowed her 1985 paean to female friendship, Beaches, upon the world (forever enshrined in the hearts of several generations of women thanks to the 1988 movie adaptation with Bette Midler)—and countless more can be expected thanks to the world premiere musical adaptation of Beaches at Signature Theatre, for which Dart contributed book (with Thom Thomas) and lyrics.
It’s not startling to find the audience in need of a hanky throughout much of Beaches’ two-and-a-half-hour running time—but what is surprising is how charming and genuinely moving the show is. All too frequently, productions pitched at predominantly female audiences descend into cliché-spewing mawkishness where everything is pink and sparkly and crafted out of shoes. With the exception of a memorable disco scene, director Eric Schaeffer is positively restrained here, focusing primarily on the genuine love affair between the brash, Bronx-born singer Cee Cee (played as an adult by Alysha Umphress) and the elegant, waspy Bertie (Mara Davi).
Fans of the film will find most everything to be different, even the names (in the movie Bertie became Hillary, played by Barbara Hershey, while Bertie’s daughter, Nina, was renamed Victoria). Dart’s faithfulness to the plot of her original novel allows for more theatricality in the scenes in which Cee Cee and Bertie work for a low-budget theater owned by John (Matthew Scott), as well as later, when down-on-her-luck Cee Cee finds herself performing disco anthems in a painfully unflattering sequined jumpsuit in Miami Beach. But the focus on the redemptive power of female friendship is no less heartfelt, even if the rift between the two opposite souls is glossed over for expediency’s sake.
From the minute young Cee Cee (Presley Ryan) yells at young Bertie (Brooklyn Shuck) for interrupting her nap between shows on an Atlantic City beach, the two seem perfectly at ease with each other. Cee Cee wows the sheltered little girl with her Shirley Temple-cloying (and awkwardly inappropriate) dance routine, while Bertie’s generous sincerity appeals to Cee Cee, whose stage mother (Donna Migliaccio) is an oppressive presence. Schaeffer quickly crafts the foundation for the friendship by showing both girls growing up in “The Letters (You’re Out There),” in which six actresses play the characters writing to each other at different ages. At times, the lyrics hint at some of the confused ardor of hormonal teenagers (“I kiss the mailman when he brings your letters,” sings teenage Bertie (Mayla Brettell), but Dart is clever enough to show how each girl draws something from the other that she lacks at home, making their friendship feel genuine.
The action unfolds in front of a spectacular set by Derek McLane in which hundreds of pieces of beach-bleached furniture hang on the wall around a small proscenium. It’s unclear what the furniture means, exactly, beyond offering top notes of antiquing trips and Restoration Hardware, but visually it’s both interesting and unobtrusive, and allows for other backdrops to be wheeled in to create a dazzling disco scene or the view from Cee Cee’s off-Broadway debut.
Dart and Thomas’s book is propped up by the remarkably polished music by Austin, a relative newbie whose songs are among the best Signature has presented in its new musicals. “The View From Up Here,” Cee Cee’s wistful number about being on the verge of success, is self-assured and powerful, and Umphress belts it out with gusto. But the most engaging numbers are the duets between the two friends, particularly “Normal People,” a funny song in which Bertie and Cee Cee persuade themselves they can live happily together in dream-killing domesticity, and “My Perfect Wedding,” which brings all six actresses back to sweetly depict the girls imagining their futures. Davi has fewer occasions than Umphress to showcase her superb voice, but her performance is arresting and just restrained enough to contrast with her costar’s necessarily over-the-top style.
Purists will be relieved to hear that “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” the song that spawned a thousand Midler-impersonating drag queens (and even a revival of sorts at the Oscars last night) makes it into the show, in a fitting additional scene in which Cee Cee flees her life with Bertie to record her debut album, but sings it clearly to her, with Davi present onstage, in the shadows. The lone clunker is “This is the Life,” supposedly an ode to the dysfunction of being a performer, which ends up feeling more twee than a Brady Bunch musical. And although “God Gave You Me” is thrillingly jaunty, its upbeat tone feels jarringly discordant towards the end of the show, when tissues are already wrung through. Hopefully no spoiler alert is needed when it comes to the weepiness engrained within Beaches’ finale; nevertheless it’s hard not to leave thinking that the show, like the friendship, was worth all these tears and more.
Beaches is at Signature Theatre through March 30. Running time is about two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission. Tickets ($56 to $89) are available via Signature Theatre’s website.
Monday, March 3
FOOD: Most of Monday’s events have been canceled, thanks to the fact that it just won’t stop snowing and get warmer. Tentatively, you can check out Graffiato’s Industry Takeover Night, where (if you’re one of the first 20 people there) you’ll get a free signed copy of Eat Ink, a book about chefs and their tattoos. Chefs from Vermillion, the Partisan, and Beuchert’s Saloon take over Mike Isabella’s kitchen, and Rachel Sergi, barkeep at Lincoln, serves up specialty cocktails. As always, drinks are cheap and snacks are free. If it snows some more, check to make sure it’s still going on. $10. 10 PM.
Tuesday, March 4
PING PONG: DC is a city that loves puns, and as far as those go, “Paddlestar Galactica” for a Ping-Pong tournament is one of the better ones. Every Monday in March (except this Monday, because of the snow), Comet Ping Pong hosts practices for its tournament, at U Street Music Hall on March 30. Tonight is the kickoff event—you can sign up, take official photos, and learn more about 826DC, the Dave Eggers-owned charity that this whole thing benefits. $10. 6 PM.
MARDI GRAS: DC is a long way from the Big Easy, but you can still celebrate Fat Tuesday at Penn Social. The bar’s Mardi Gras night features specials on Abita, New Orleans’ favorite brew, plus live music, games, raffles, and dancing. Bring your own beads. Free. 7 PM. For more Mardi Gras fun, check out our roundup on Best Bites Blog.
Wednesday, March 5
DRINK: Artini is coming ever closer, with only five feature nights left before the big event later this month. Check out Farmers Fishers Bakers for cocktails stirred up by Jon Arroyo based on Jerome Myers’s painting “Life on the East Side.” Free. 6:30 PM.
Thursday, March 6
ART: The American Art Museum’s Luce Foundation Center hosts the DIY Handi-Hour, at which you can learn to make things while you drink beer. This time features beers hand-picked by Greg Engert of ChurchKey and music from the Danny Burns Band, and you’ll get all the materials and instruction needed to make some sort of still-to-be-determined craft. Admission includes two drinks, snacks, and all materials. Tickets ($20) are available online. 5:30 PM.
Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find him on Twitter.
The 21st century is about the only recent time period the title character of Orlando doesn’t venture into during his (and her) multi-century romp through the years. Despite this, there’s a certain modern freshness to this take on Virginia Woolf’s story of a man who wakes up halfway through his life to find he’s now a woman.
Sharply adapted for the stage by playwright Sarah Ruhl and performed by WSC Avant Bard, this version of the tale injects more humor and a certain lightheartedness into the proceedings. While two formidable performers have been cast in the meaty roles of Orlando and Sasha, his/her first true love, the rest of the parts are handled by a facile Greek chorus (Andrew Ferlo, Jay Hardee, and Mario Baldessari). This means it isn’t just Orlando who gets to play around with ideas of gender, as the three men make quick, and often amusing, transitions from servants to countesses to suitors.
Director Amber Jackson spikes these moments with rapid costume changes and interesting lighting tricks (the scene of Orlando’s transition from man to woman is captured nicely and dramatically behind a shadowy sheet). Starting in the 1500s and ending in the 20th century, Orlando has a lot of ground to cover. But the production moves swiftly—so much so that it can race past some intriguing plot points; a riot here, some gypsies there. It keeps up with Orlando as he seduces the royal court and ice-skates with Russian royalty (and then as a woman confronts domesticity and embraces poetry).
Speaking of Russian princesses, Amanda Forstrom is a lively and alluring presence as Sasha, Orlando’s companion on his early adventures. But the show belongs to Sara Barker in the title role. Barker has an effortless way of communicating the idea that despite her character’s major changes, Orlando is the same person deep down. The immersive performance is nuanced, convincing, and just fun to watch.
Orlando’s thoughtful musings on the challenges and limitations of womanhood may not have quite the pertinence they did when the play was written nearly a hundred years ago. It’s easy to be sympathetic to the initial boredom and general helplessness Orlando feels in her early days of womanhood (especially when thinking of the autobiographical ties to Woolf herself), even if it might not be quite relatable. But the idea of taking a certain ownership of one’s gender remains interesting and relevant, especially during a time when society is able to more directly confront ideas of gender fluidity.
Orlando is at Theater on the Run through March 23. Running time is about 90 minutes, with one intermission. Tickets ($25 to $45) are available via WSC Avant Bard’s website.