Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Review of "The Sandstorm" by Mark Gruenberg of Footlights
By Mark Gruenberg
"War is hell," General Sherman once said, and nobody can describe that hell better than the "grunts," the front-line troops that go through it. That's what the Marines portrayed in The Sandstorm do.
I attended the press preview Saturday night of the play, which opened at MetroStage, 1201 N Royal St, at the far northern end of Alexandria's Old Town (actually, it's a residential neighborhood that far up). The play is a series of stories, woven through by a narrating sergeant, of Marines who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom--the quick strike that took Baghdad--and what they saw and felt.
With one exception, according to playwright Sean Huze, whom I talked with after the performance, the stories are those he actually gathered from the men of his Marine unit. The exception is where he had to try to figure out what one PFC was thinking as he held up a separated foot of a victim. The play is powerful, if uneven, because the stories themselves are uneven. BTW, Huze says 16 of the 60 men in his unit have not come back from Iraq.
The stories range from everything from hazing to killing civilians, by accident and with the remorse afterwards, or sometimes without compunction. The Marines go without water, their mail gets left behind and they have appropriate comments for the armchair soldiers who sent them to war. Particularly moving was the Marine who looked down at one victim and realized he was a 5-year-old child.
I would recommend seeing the play, regardless of your views on the war. That's because it is an attempt to show you what it's like for the people fighting it. It has a point of view, implied, and that's good. It should prompt you to ask questions. It's not for kids--especially with all the language, which is appropriate for Marines (unlike for David Mamet)--but it is for people who, unfortunately, will never see it, like W and Cheney.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Theodore Bikel at Theater J in "The Disputation"
I have long admired Bikel's outspokenness on many issues, as well as his easy acceptance of being a "Jewish" something (actor, singer, activist), rather than fighting the label and pretending to be just a guy who happens to be Jewish.
That said, I await "The Disputation" with a bit of fear and trembling. As I recall the plot (description below), it involves a Jew trying to defend his community against the Christians. We studied it in Hebrew school. I hope the play is not a self-righteous show where the Jew is clever and great and without any character flaw, but oppressed and victimized by evil prejudiced people who stepped out of some cartoon caricature.
The last show I saw like that was "Nathan the Wise," which, as its title suggests, did not seem to present actual human beings, but boring stereotypes: The Christian Crusader, The Exotic Muslim, the Wise Jew. I know these shows are popular, particularly in the Jewish community, and "Nathan the Wise" was later broadcast on public television, so what do I know? I just know that I'm rooting for this show--I want to like it--but dread encountering sanctimonious characters. I go, as usual, out of blind loyalty to Theater J. I feel like a parent going to see a high school production featuring kids I know. Please let it be a good show. And please, God, at least let there be humor. End of prayer.
AUGUST 31 -OCTOBER 2
By HYAM MACCOBY
Directed by NICK OLCOTT featuring Theodore Bikel, Edward Gero, Naomi Jacobson, John Lescault, Andrew Long, with Field Blauvelt, Tymberlee Chanel,Rahaleh Nassri, Matthew Gottlieb and John-Michael MacDonald.
A reconstruction of one of the most fascinating encounters between Jews and Christians in history. A philandering King James of Aragon is ordered by thePope to convert the Jews of Spain. Defending his people is Rabbi Moses Ben Nachman, played by Broadway legend Theodore Bikel. But the more the great Nachmanides succeeds in standing up to the church and the crown, the more he riles up a resentful populace.
PAY-WHAT-YOU-CAN-PREVIEWS August 31, September 1 & 6 at 7:30 pm
SPECIAL $25 WEEKEND PREVIEW PRICE Sept 3 at 8 pm, Sept 4 at 3:00 pm & 7:30 pm
For tickets please call 800.494.TIXS or visit www.boxofficetickets.com
Saturday, August 20, 2005
PWYC: "Sandstorm" on Sunday, 8/21
Sun 21 Aug 2005@07:00 PM, Special: Pay What You Can - Go to Box Office 30 min
prior to show
The Sand Storm
The East Coast premiere of a remarkable new play
written by actor/playwright/Iraqi vet Sean Huze
In performance at MetroStage
Aug. 17-Sept. 25
Wed-Fri at 8, Sat at 7 & 9, Sun at 2 & 7
°ßshocking force and awesome honesty°®
°ßa searing exploration of what happens to those who become our warriors°®
For more information or directions go to www.metrostage.org or call
Or come directly to the box office Sunday eve one half hour before the show.
1201 N Royal St
Alexandria VA 22314
United States of America
main: (703) 548-9044
1 hours 10 minutes
Produced by Charlie Company Inc.
The Sand Storm recently concluded its debut production at the Elephant Asylum
Theatre in Los Angeles, where it garnered rave reviews, and was extended
The Sand Storm: Stories from the Front is based on the war as experienced by
playwright Sean Huze, a corporal in the U.S. Marines with 2nd Light Armored
Reconnaissance Battalion (2D LAR). 2D LAR fought through Nasirya, Al Kut,
Baghdad, Tikrit and many places in between.
Huze has captured his experiences, and those of his comrades, in ten chilling
monologues which expose the rage, honor, courage, commitment, doubt, fear,
and remorse shared by our men at war. Amidst all of the controversy surrounding
the war and occupation in Iraq, their stories have been lost in the storm.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Jenny Chow Rocks, Intelligently
Met a friend upstairs at the Studio's Milton Theater, on their comfy sofas. I like the Studio's new renovations--it is easy to congregate and talk with people, none of whom knew much about the show. ("The play sounds odd--we know one of the actors from the Washington Ethical Society." Apparently David Rothman, who plays the father, has his own following.)
The play grabbed me from the first scene, where Jennifer Marcus, magnificently and believably played by Eunice Wong, is banging out her life, her needs and her desperate search for her creation, a robot named Jenny, to a bounty hunter on the Web. The themes of the play resonated deeply with me: a child seeking her mother, scared to grow up, and then seeking her own "daughter," the robot that fearlessly faces the world; parents trying to connect to their children; all of us using machines to find each other. Like this blog.
It's almost a one-woman show, since I almost forgot that the "robot," Jenny Chow, is not a robot, but an actress, Mia Whang. I kept hoping she would return, as parents always await their children. James Flanagan, who plays Todd the pizza guy yearning to be an archeologist, was a delightful presence, and Cameron McNary, who played five roles (four of them visible--the computerized translator was unseen, but a real presence, as technology was throughout the play) was just dazzling. I think I knew Dr. Yakunin, not at Yale, but at Oberlin--good thing he has a sense of humor.
Charlotte Akin, who plays the mother, was so alternatively frightening as the business woman and poignant as the mother trying to organize her home that another play could have been written about her.
Frankly, the play is not for everyone. The friend I was with, an engineer, was rather puzzled by the plot--to him, the play didn't end in a satisfactory way. Of course life doesn't end either--it goes on, unpredictably, and we either do or don't make it out the door every day.
I can be prudish about language, but I thought the obscenities here fit the characters well, and they were so articulate and interesting in other ways that I was liberated from feeling offended. Free at last.
I felt very lucky to have been able to just walk downtown and see a show of that caliber and novelty for 25 bucks. Do go see it before it closes next week.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Gross Indecency, Oh Joy!
The play, which I saw in New York several years ago, examines many aspects of Oscar Wilde's trials that many plays about Wilde's life must ignore in favor of showing many other aspects of this wonderfully complicated man: an Irishman in England; a Catholic in a Protestant country; a wit poking fun at the people who feed him and whose approval he desperately craves. The play concentrates on Wilde in the witness box, and on the legal decisions he made that kept him there for THREE trials, the first of which he brought himself.
As I recall, much of the play consists of Wilde's testimony, which is fascinating--boy, he could knit words together like no one else, and skewer people while getting them to laugh. He discovered his homosexuality late in life, and I think he felt he had been accepted by English society by then, which was a fatal error. Below is the schedule.
GROSS INDECENCY: THE THREE TRIALS of OSCAR WILDE
by Moises Kaufman
directed by Jeremy Skidmore
August 18 - September 18, 2005
"If you think you've seen this play before, you haven't." [Wendy: Hmmm--I liked the play the first time I saw it. Well, what is theater but the same words and actions presented in different ways?]
"If you'venever seen this play before, now is the time." [Wendy: It is true that homophobia is very much with us, alas, and not only thanks to the religious right, but because many ordinary people do not challenge the religious right and its place in High Society effectively].
...The father of a revolution, the center of three trials that changed the world forever, & the rock star of his generation. Featuring Kevin Boggs, Chance Carroll, Cooper D'Ambrose, Chris Davenport, Jason Lott, Eric Messner, Scott McCormick,Andrew Pastides, Alexander Strain, Dan Via, and GradyWeatherford
Pay-What You-Can performances: Thurs 18 @ 8pm, Fri 19 @ 8pm, and Sun 21 @ 2pm, August 2005
Regular Performance Schedule:Thurs & Fri, 8:00 pmSat, 2:00 pm & 8:00 pmSun, 2:00 pmno matinee 8/20 Tickets: $25 For regular tickets call 1-800-494-8497 or order on-line athttp://www.theateralliance.com/
All performances at theH Street Playhouse1365 H Street NEDC Info call: 396-0050E-mail: email@example.com
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Take Me Out for FREE, thanks to CulturalDC
FREE tickets to Take Me Out (FINAL WEEK! close on Sunday)
By Richard Greenberg; Directed by Kirk Jackson
August 9, 2005
The Studio Theatre
14th and P Streets, NW
*Seating on a first-come, first-served basis. Subject to availability.Please call The Studio Theatre box office at 202-332-3300 and mention CDC.
Take Me OutNote: This production contains male nudity.
Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out, the 2003 Tony Award winner for Best Play, throws a curveball at America's favorite pastime. Darren Lemming, a young, iconic baseball star, is at the top of his game both personally and professionally. When he calls a press conference that results in a shocking admission to the media, Lemming sends a ripple of effects through the team, the fans and the nation. Both hilarious and hard-hitting, Take Me Out strips baseball bare, exploring issues of celebrity, homophobia and friendship. Ben Brantley of The New York Times proclaimed, "Take Me Out is an unconditional, all-American epiphany that, in these days of fretful ambivalence, is something to cherish." For more info: The Studio TheatreThe Studio Theatre Box Office1333 P Street, NWWashington, DC t: 202.332.3300 or www.studiotheatre.org
Monday, August 08, 2005
New DC Theatre Reviews Site
There is currently a thread starting about the best play or musical you've seen this year. Must get there to mention, "I am My Own Wife," or we'll be drowned in whatever good shows people have seen recently, because those are fresh in their minds, rather than the best. I also loved, "The Syringa Tree," and can't we go back just one year and mention Craig Wright's "Melissa Arctic" at the Folger? I think one year is so arbitrary a time frame....ah, if only I ran the circus, as they say.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Arts review site for music, drama reviews
This site looks like a welcome, sophisticated addition to our DC arts cyberscene. Here's what I want to glean from sites like this:
--a good knowledge of what's happening, even if I don't choose to go, much like reading the NY Times Book Review instead of reading the book;
--to be educated culturally, not in a snooty way, but in a way that will enrich my life and thoughts beyond the dirty dishes in my sink and the dirty politicians and lobbyists on the Hill; and
--if I do choose to go to a performance, to know what to expect, and
--finally--for extra credit--I'd like to like the reviewers. Their humor, their work, their writing, their caring for the city and our culture and our cultural aspirations. If they have friends among the cast or crew, tell me. Don't just boost the show. If you think it's a lousy show but you enjoyed it anyway, tell me.
That's not too much to ask from a Web site, is it? Of course not.
Here are the folks behind AllArtsReview4U.com:
Bob Anthony was arts critic for Jazz 90 radio for ten years and freelance for five years.
Celia Sharpe has many years of reviewing for a pass out journal "The Review"
Nancy McCord has worked the arts pages for the Financial Times.
Special musical reviews by Beverly Cosham known to all for her fine cabaret musical performances.
The Greeks Are Here, and they're cheap!
Bard-37: Our Canon Cabaret reading of
Directed by Cam Magee
Sound effects by Clay Tunis
Hear one of the Bard's great comedies read by an outstanding cast!
Featuring Jonathan Watkins as Pericles
and a surprise guest star!!!
August 7, 2005 @ 7:30 pm
@ WSC's Clark Street Playhouse
601 S. Clark Street
Alexandria (Crystal City), VA 22202
Make plans to see "The Myth Project: Greek," an evening of four original
short contemporary plays based on myths from the Greek tradition, presented by The
Myth Project, a new theatrical producing company based in Washington.
There was an ideaˇ a gift from the godsˇ that the rich source material of
the mythological canon called out for a new exploration. The universality of the
themes in these plays; love, lust, anger, sorrow and destiny are the stuff
which great drama has always been built upon. "The Myth Project: Greek" is the
first production of a planned series of new plays based on myths from the
The Myth Project presents: "The Myth Project: Greek"
Performances featuring Joe Angel Babb, Kimberly Braswell, Jennifer Cooper,
Jeff Davis, Paul McLane, Ann deMichele and Dan VanHoozer.
Directed by H. Lee Gable, Dan VanHoozer and Genevieve Williams.
Plays written by Karen Currie, Jack Robertson and Dan VanHoozer.
Where: Clark Street Playhouse, 601 S. Clark St., Arlington/Crystal City
When: Aug. 3, 7-10 & 14-17, all shows 8 pm (The show runs about 1-1/4 hours.)
Information: Call 202-397-8255 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, August 04, 2005
The Clean House--Love, Laughter for Everyone But Me
As to the play, well, if you like jokes told in Portugese, untranslated, it's really funny. If you are looking for a play about sisters who come together while cleaning a house, and then make a home together, which is what I expected, see "Three Sistahs," a lovely musical that played a few years ago at MetroStage.
If you want a play that STARTS OUT being about sisters and a Brazilian maid, but ends up being about a woman whose husband falls in love with someone else and then leaves for Alaska to find a yew tree to cure a fatal illness, then this magical realist drama is for you. I felt hijacked after the second act began. Where was the play about the Clean House? Had Woolly made me sit through untranslated material this time---a new low for Woolly and me?
There are two theories for audience members: to read up on the play before you go, or to go cold. I went cold to this one, comfortable with the word of mouth this play received. (It was an Ushers pick, and Potomac Stages posted its usual informed review, at http://www.potomacstages.com/Woolly.htm#clean). And I was still caught off guard. The best thing was that the people I was with liked it, or pretended to--they liked the Yiddish allusions to finding one's beshert, or destined beloved, which came out of the blue--and we picked up a copy of the script of "I Am My Own Wife," which is the last great play I've seen. Wouldn't mind seeing that again.
I'm determined to see Jenny Chow at Studio. Friends whose taste I do not share said they couldn't relate to, or much like, the main character. People who rave about things raved about this. I am grateful to live in a city where the major newspaper's drama reviews are irrelevant. We're on our own, making our own mess, in our own cluttered houses.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Ken Cen plaza postponed, Page to Stage Festival coming
I do wish the Kennedy Center would have a blurb about the issue on its Web site. Yes, Michael Kaiser spoke to the Post, and perhaps it's diplomatic to say little, only that this is a mere postponement, etc. But a Web site is there to be used. Give your side of the story! What are the next steps? A little bit more than a quote to the press...
In happier news, the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival is coming Labor Day weekend. Last year I thought it was weak. I particularly remember one horrible piece of political propaganda, vilifying the French and mocking Bush, that was not worthy of a junior high school reading, let alone the Kennedy Center (and I am an anglophile and a passionate Democrat). This year, may all the plays be as strong as the plays of local playwright, Ernie Joselovitz.
Page to Stage Details:
Saturday-Monday, September 3-5 from 3-10 p.m.Various venues throughout the Kennedy Center
FREE! [Free] Tickets may be required for some events.
During this three-day event, the Kennedy Center welcomes more than 25 theaters from the D.C. metropolitan area with the goal of producing and supporting the success of new plays and musicals. Featuring free readings, special events, and panel discussions, the festival lets you catch a glimpse of upcoming Washington premieres in the 2005-2006 theater season. This year will include new works by Ken Ludwig, Stephen Massicotte, Horton Foote, Qian Yi, and many more. Further details at: