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STAYCATION: Treasures from the stage

Susan Lynskey and James Konicek in ‘THE BFG’ at Imagination Stage. (Photo by Margot Schulman)

Susan Lynskey and James Konicek in ‘THE BFG’ at Imagination Stage. (Photo by Margot Schulman)

No one ever said a staycation has to be without adventure, so why not include some theater in your plans? Theater is transporting, delivering you to far off places and unfamiliar situations. And the trip is easy. You can be at home sleeping in your own bed by 11 — even earlier if you attend a matinee. This summer’s selection is huge. Here are a few choices.

Studio 2ndStage is presenting “Carrie The Musical” (through Aug. 3) based on the Stephen King novel about a high school outcast who unleashes her telekinetic powers on the student body. They’re not going to laugh at her anymore. The best-selling book was adapted to the screen in ’76 as the hit horror flick starring Sissy Spacek in the title role. The musical opened on Broadway in 1988 to dismal reviews, but the 2012 off-Broadway revival was a stunning success. Its score by Dean Pitchford (lyrics) and Michael Gore (music) includes nicely named tunes like “And Eve Was Weak” and “The Destruction.”

2ndStage’s production co-directed by Keith Alan Baker and Jacob Janssen features Emily Zickler as Carrie White and Broadway’s Barbara Walsh as Carrie’s possessive, religious fanatic mother. Walsh was terrific as Little Edie in Studio Theatre’s production of “Grey Gardens” in 2008.

With well over a hundred shows in about a dozen local venues, Capital Fringe Festival 2014 (July 10-27) will definitely add variety to your D.C. summer staycation. On stage options (theater, music, dance, puppetry, etc.) run the gamut from inspiringly risky to not so great. The fun lies in ferreting out the gems.

Offerings include works of special interest to LGBT theatergoers including “A Lesbian Belle Tells!” written and presented by out performer Elizabeth McCain. In her solo show, McCain gives her take on eccentric southern relatives and coming out both in D.C. and at a family funeral.

In Larry E. Blossom’s “As We Are” presented by Out-Side the Box Theatre, three siblings confront memories about a gay bashing incident that has haunted them for years. Christopher Henley and his husband Jay Hardee co-direct “Dracula. A Love Story,” a contemporary retelling of the vampire story. And in Patrick DiBattista and Elizabeth Laffoon’s comedy “Love Song to Miss Kitty,” a strapping villain tries to steal a gay country western bar from an old lesbian couple so he can turn it into a dance boutique.

Looking for highbrow entertainment at no cost? For its annual Free For All, the Shakespeare Theatre Company is presenting a remount of Rebecca Taichman’s production of Shakespeare’s late romantic saga, “The Winter’s Tale” (August 19-31). A Washington tradition for 22 years, Free For All offers free tickets to the general public to experience Shakespeare in the sticky late summer. Performances once took place under the stars (weather permitting) at Carter Barron Amphitheater, but in recent years they’ve mercifully been moved indoors to the comfort of STC’s Sidney Harman Hall.

Spending your staycation with wee ones? Try the musical “Pinkalicious,” (thru Aug. 31) at the Adventure Theatre Musical Theater Center in Glen Echo Park. Siblings Pinkalicious and Peter Pinkerton (played by Carolyn Agan and John Sygar) love all things pink. Sadly Peter is denied pink outfits and toys because their father thinks it’s too girly. But Pinkalicious has no such restrictions. After binging on pink cupcakes she comes down with a case of pinkitis turning her skin — what else? — bright pink. The cure is to eat greens. Adventure Theater’s leafy Glen Echo location makes a nice staycation destination. After the show, you and the kids can enjoy ice cream and a ride on the park’s historic carousel.

Bethesda’s Imagination Stage is presenting “The BFG” (through Aug. 10). Based on the book by Roald Dahl, it’s the England-set tale of a little orphan girl who befriends a big friendly giant. The production uses outsized stage puppets, masks and imaginative projections and animation.

The Lion King” is parked at the Kennedy Center Opera House though Aug. 17. It’s the national tour of Julie Taymor’s celebrated Broadway production featuring an excellent cast, magnificent puppetry and uplifting score by Elton John and Tim Rice. Tickets aren’t cheap, but it’s a memorable theater experience for the family.

During staycation why not add music to your life? Through July 26, Shirlington’s Signature Theatre  presents its annual “Sizzlin’ Summer Nights Series.” (Sizzlin’ describes the performers, not Signature’s well air-conditioned venue). The series is two-and-a-half weeks of 17 one-night cabarets performed by an exciting and eclectic mix of D.C. and New York faces.

Many of those featured are out performers including leading man Will Gartshore; Broadway’s “Tarzan” Nicholas Rodriguez; Jeffrey Johnson as his leggy, space age alter ego “Galactica,” singer-songwriter Tom Goss (“Lover,” “Bears” and “Make Believe,”); Helen Hayes Award-winner Bobby Smith; and Stephen Gregory Smith who’s slated to perform a fun salute to TV theme songs.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington will perform “Like a Virgin,” sharing first-time experiences (ranging from funny to poignant) through story and song.

The series ends with “Revenge of the Understudies.” It’s time for those would be stars in the wings — Signature understudies from this year’s season — to step into the spotlight and sing their hearts out.

 

11
Jul
2014

‘Carrie’s’ revenge?

Carrie, gay news, Washington Blade

Emily Zickler as Carrie White in ‘Carrie: the Musical.’ (Photo by Igor Dmitry; courtesy Studio Theatre)

‘Carrie: The Musical’

 

Studio 2ndStage

 

Through Aug. 4

 

Studio Theatre

 

1501 14th St., N.W.

 

$40-45

 

202-332-3300

“Carrie: The Musical” hits a nerve. After years of torment, a high school outcast bashes back with a nasty vengeance. It’s the ultimate school yard cautionary tale.

Like the best selling Stephen King novel and the classic 1976 horror flick on which it’s based, the musical looks at bullying and strives to take it to scary heights. But unlike cases ripped from today’s inuring news cycle, beleaguered Carrie White doesn’t wreak havoc with an automatic assault weapon — she uses special powers to wipe out her tormentors.

A notorious flop when it premiered on Broadway in 1988, “Carrie: The Musical” later succeeded as a reworked 2012 off-Broadway revival. Both adaptations come from the creative team of original screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohn, and lyricist Dean Pitchford and composer Michael Gore. It’s this second version that Studio’s 2ndStage is currently presenting with Emily Zickler as the titular telekinetic teen. Broadway’s talented Barbara Walsh plays Carrie’s fanatically religious single mother Margaret.

The musical is told as flashback. Here, Carrie’s popular classmate Sue Snell’s memory is jogged by unseen detectives. Her face brightly spot lit, a shell-shocked Sue (the likable Maria Rizzo in a subpar wig) ploddingly explains how she unintentionally set off a prom night massacre.

The plot kicks off when Carrie gets her period showering after gym class and has no idea what’s happening to her. Skulking around in her unfashionable baggy sweater and long loose skirt, shy Carrie already makes the perfect victim. The shower episode adds one more arrow to the quiver of insults regularly aimed by the mean girls led by relentless Chris Hargenson (Eben K. Logan) and her dim deputy Norma (Dani Stoller); it also marks Carrie’s discovery of her ability to move things via mind control.

Sue, the story’s conscience, realizes the bullying has gone too far. And young gym teacher Miss Gardner (Jamie Eacker), sympathetic to Carrie’s plight, drives the point home. But it’s too late. On prom night Carrie is subjected to a particularly cruel, and bloody, humiliation. Telekinetic vengeance ensues.

Set in the high school gym and the White’s place (ably designed by Luciana Stecconi), it feels like two different shows. There’s the student body stomping around singing loud numbers reminiscent of the angst ridden kids in “Spring Awakening,” and Margaret and Carrie alone together working out their odd but changing relationship in songs like “And Eve Was Weak” and “When There’s No One.”

Walsh’s portrayal of Carrie’s dowdy, man-hating mother is more self-contained than her celluloid counterpart Piper Laurie’s over-the-top messianic turn as Margaret. Similar to the original film, warnings of “They’re going to laugh at you” echo throughout the White’s modest home. Sadly, my favorite mother/daughter pre-prom exchange with regard to Carrie’s uncharacteristically low cut party dress didn’t make the cut. (Margaret: “I can see your dirty pillows. Everyone will.” Carrie: “Breasts, Mama. They’re called breasts and every woman has them.”)

While the score is uneven and the book thin, the non-Equity production’s cast (co-directed by Keith Alan Baker and Jacob Janssen) is good. But the show’s telekinetic effects are a little cheesy and the Grand Guignol climax is more messy than horrific. What works on the big screen doesn’t always make for great musical theater.

 

17
Jul
2014

‘Velocity’ of D.C. theater

Sarah Marshall, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Sarah Marshall in ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane,’ one of several crackling family dramas produced in the Washington area this year. (Photo courtesy Round House)

The year in theater has been an intriguing blend of old and new.

Many works contained gay content or were written by gay playwrights and most productions benefited from the efforts of gay actors, directors and designers.

It’s also been a good year for the stirring family drama. The crop of memorable plays exploring dysfunctional relationships between parents and adult children was bigger and better than usual.

In the spring, Arena Stage presented the area premiere of gay playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities,” a well-made play about an aging Republican power couple dealing with their liberal daughter’s soon-to-be-released tell-all autobiography. The production was compelling but uneven — the cast didn’t quite ring true as family.

Not the case with Arena’s “The Velocity of Autumn,” Eric Coble’s two-hander staged by Arena’s Molly Smith and beautifully acted by the enduringly vital Estelle Parsons as an elderly woman on the edge and Broadway vet Stephen Spinella as her estranged gay son who comes home to Brooklyn and saves the day. “Velocity” opens on Broadway in 2014 with Smith slated to direct the New York production (the local theater legend’s Broadway debut).

Round House Theatre explored family too with Bill Cain’s powerfully autobiographical “How to Write a New Book for the Bible.” In the touching drama, the playwright recounts many of the details of his 82-year-old mother’s death from liver cancer while also celebrating his life spent as the younger son in a mostly functional family. Out actor MaryBeth Wise gave a wonderfully nuanced performance as the practical and independent mother. The role called for her to age 40 years and she pulled it off brilliantly.

Round House’s family riff continued with Martin McDonagh’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” the dark tale of an isolated old Irish woman and her adult daughter who engage in an ongoing game of control with disastrous consequences. Sarah Marshall, who is gay, gave an admirably layered performance as the mostly immobile, but fiendishly domineering mother. The reliably terrific Kimberly Gilbert played the emotionally dependent daughter. The company’s most recent offering was “The Lyons,” gay playwright Nicky Silvers’ evisceration of a middle class family. Marcus Kyd played the damaged gay son.

In 2013, Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Michael Kahn shared his skills with the competition, directing “Torch Song Trilogy” at Studio Theatre, and “Pride in the Falls of Autry Mill” at Signature Theatre in Shirlington. Both shows are family dramedies rife with gay content. In “Torch Song,” New York-based actor Brandon Uranowitz triumphed as Arnold, the sharp-tongued, big hearted drag queen hell-bent on creating a happy family. “Pride” (penned by Paul Downs Colaizzo) featured a terrific cast including Christine Lahti as an unhappy suburban perfectionist and Anthony Bowden as her angry college-age gay son. Both shows boasted finely drawn performances.

At Signature last winter, Joe Calarco staged a production of “Shakespeare’s R&J,” an acclaimed all-male prep school-set take on “Romeo and Juliet” that he wrote and premiered in New York in the late ‘90s. Signature’s four man cast included talented out actors Alex Mills and Jefferson Farber.

In August, Slovenia’s Mladinsko Theatre performed its production of out playwright Norman Allen’s solo drama “Nijinsky’s Last Dance” at Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint. Allen’s play about the tortured ballet dancer premiered in D.C. in the late ‘90s.

And 15 years after Matthew Shepard’s death, Ford’s Theatre presented an anniversary production of gay playwright Moisés Kaufman’s “The Laramie Project,” an affecting ensemble piece that gives insight into the community’s response to the 1998 brutal murder of Shepard, a young gay man living in Laramie, Wyo. The production (directed by Matthew Gardiner, who is gay) received roundly positive notices despite being plagued with venue issues due to the government shutdown (Ford’s Theatre is operated through a public-private partnership between Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service).

Memorable 2013 musicals included a cracking national tour of gay composer Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” starring triple threat Rachel York at the Kennedy Center; “Fela,” a tour of the energized musical bio of legendary Nigerian pop star and political activist Fela Kuti staged by gay choreographer and director Bill Cunningham at Shakespeare Theatre Company; a tight reworking of “Miss Saigon” at Signature; and Studio 2nd Stage’s “The Rocky Horror Show” with Mitchell Jarvis as Dr. Frank’N’Furter. Also of note was the Broadway-bound “If/Then,” an engaging production that revitalized the National Theatre with its buzz and star power (Idina Menzel, LaChanze and Anthony Rapp).

In 2013, some openly gay actors dug deep for accents. As the aforementioned scary old woman in “Beauty Queen,” Sarah Marshall successfully tried on a very thick Irish brogue. Out actor Will Gartshore adopted a sexy French accent to play a worldly doctor unwittingly entangled in the drama of a group of romantically challenged Americans in “This” at Roundhouse. And Rick Hammerly went British with a charming performance as jovial Fezziwig in Ford’s “A Christmas Carol,” a sterling production of the Dickens’ December standard. Jeffrey Johnson reprised the tones of old school New York society for the revival of his cabaret act “Edie Beale Live at Reno Sweeney” at the intimate Café L’Enfant in Adams Morgan.

Holly Twyford kicked off the year playing the boss from hell in Studio’s superb production of Mark Bartlett’s “Contractions.” A celebrated local actor, Twyford (who is gay) finishes 2013 back at Studio directing British playwright Sam Holcroft’s “Edgar and Annabel.”  Studio describes the play as “a dark and cheeky look at what the future might hold, featuring undercover agents, surveillance algorithms and explosive karaoke.” Not a bad way to close the year.

01
Jan
2014

Side effects

Yaz Ortiz, Elliot Ortiz, Water by the Spoonful, Studio Theatre, theater, gay news, Washington Blade, side effects

Yaz Ortiz, left, as Gisela, and Elliot Ortiz as Arturo in Studio’s production of ‘Water by the Spoonful.’ (Photo by Teddy Wolff; courtesy Studio)

‘Water by the Spoonful’

Through April 13

Studio Theatre

1501 14th St., N.W.

$39-75

202-332-3300

Studiotheatre.org

Young Iraq war veteran Elliot Ortiz, the complicated protagonist in Quiara Alegría Hudes’ “Water by the Spoonful” is a character of many contradictions.

An aspiring actor with a national toothpaste commercial under his belt, he works unhappily at a Subway sandwich shop in Philadelphia. He loves his large, extended Puerto Rican family, yet harbors an intense resentment against his biological mother. And while he’s mostly recovered from a serious physical war injury, he suffers from serious PTSD. But despite this uneasy existence, Elliot soldiers on; he’s a survivor.

Now making its regional premier at Studio Theatre, Hudes’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is the second part of a trilogy centered on Elliot’s coming of age and transition into adulthood. It casts a broad net, tackling all the big themes — family, relationships, addiction and death — but the most meaningful aspect of the play is the exploration of the relationship between understandably unforgiving Elliiot (Arturo Soria) and his recovering crack addict mother Odessa (Gabriela Fernandez Coffey) who neglected her children when using (the play’s title is a reference to Odessa’s most egregious offense). While past behavior has rendered her a failed mother with her son, Odessa is a beloved maternal presence among her online family — she moderates a recovery chat room under the screen name Haikumom.

The offstage death of Elliot’s surrogate mother (and Odessa’s sister) serves to spike the tension between mother and son. Elliot savages his mother, comparing her unfavorably to her sainted community activist sister. He admits to intentionally pushing to put his mother’s sobriety at risk.

The play’s busy subplots involve members of Haikumom’s recovery chat room. The first follows the relationship between Orangutan (Amy Kim Waschke), a feisty young Asian woman, and the older African-American Chutes&Ladders (Vincent J. Brown), as it develops from virtual to in-person. She longs for human contact and real life experiences while he’d be happy to maintain a predictable distance. The second follows the struggle of a wealthy white addict screen named Fountainhead (Tim Getman), and how his unlikely friendship with low income clean domestic worker Odessa allows him to move forward in recovery.

There’s a lot happening in this play. It can be predictable and occasionally trite. But its moments of searing personal revelation along with its humor, humanity and compassion help make up for the script’s shortcomings.

Arturo Soria’s Elliot is ostensibly upbeat but there’s anger simmering just below the surface. Though often clowning, he proves ultimately introspective. It’s a memorable performance. In 2012, the Chicago-based actor created the part of streetwise gay Latino Tano in the world premiere of the Stonewall riots-themed work, Hit the Wall” at the Steppenwolf Garage Theatre.

The production is strikingly designed by a team of Studio regulars led by director KJ Sanchez. Dan Conway’s battered deconstructed set, with its rough stairway to nowhere, is populated by a clawed-foot tub, an old Formica kitchen table and randomly placed mismatched chairs. It’s a distressed but flexible tableau and the actors, with the help of Michael Giannitti’s lighting design, transport the action to many places, such as a train station in Japan and a perch high in the Puerto Rican rainforest.

Throughout his turbulent journey, Elliot is moored to calm by his supportive cousin Yazmin (Gisel Chípe), an adjunct music professor who was the first in the family to go to college. Her expectations are high. It’s Yazmin who asks Elliot to forgive his mother for the things she did while using, reminding him of Odessa’s essential goodness. Whether he can do this is uncertain.

20
Mar
2014

Calendar: April 4-10

calendar, gay news, Washington Blade

Director Tom Story, center, with actors David Nate Goldman and Allie Villareal in ‘Moth’ at Studio Theatre. (Photo by Igor Dmitry; courtesy Studio)

D.C.-area LGBT events calendar for the week ahead.

Friday, April 4

The Sugarloaf Crafts Festival begins at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds (16 Chestnut St., Gaithersburg, Md.) today from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through Sunday.  Purchase jewelry, home décor, fine arts and much more made from American craftsmen. A few craftsmen will also be doing live demonstrations in jewelry making, hand carving and furniture making. Admission is $8 online and $10 at the door. For more details, visit sugarloafcrafts.com.

Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) hosts Bear Happy Hour tonight from 6-11 p.m. There is no cover charge and admission is limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit towndc.com.

Charm City Fetish Fair begins today at Doubletree Hilton BWI (890 Elkridge Landing Rd., Linthicum Heights, Md.) at 5 p.m. and goes through Sunday. There will be a meet and greet, parties and workshops led by experts on the fetish lifestyle. For more information, visit charmcityfetishfair.com.

Bishop Allyson Abrams and Empowerment Liberation Cathedral launch an affirming fellowship service at Church of the Ascension (633 Sligo Ave., Silver Spring, Md.) tonight from 7-8:30 p.m. All are welcome. For more details, visit empowermentliberationcathedral.org.

Saturday, April 5

D.C. MeetMarket, an outdoor community market, begins on the corner of 15th and P St. N.W. today from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Over 40 local vendors will be selling goods including Baked and Wired, Twisted Aristocrat and more. The market’s goal is to help support the city’s small businesses and creative community. There will be live music by American Hearts, Light Arms and DJ Vanniety Kills. There will also be an interactive photo booth and free raffle.

Lesbian singer Lisa Moscatiello and singer Chris Noyes perform together for “We are Takoma Park,” a concert at the Takoma Park Municipal Building (7500 Maple Ave., Takoma Park, Md.) tonight at 7:30 p.m. The performance includes Celtic ballads, contemporary folk, country and more. For more information, email arts@takomaparkmd.gov or call 301-891-7266.

Code Redux presents “CODE All Colors,” a BDSM party, at the Crucible (16 M St., N.E.) from 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Fetish dress code required. This is a membership-only event. Walk-ins will not be accepted. Online membership is available. For more information and to join, visit the-crucible.com

Sunday, April 6

Queer for Christ, a Christian LGBT group, attends “Evensong/Evensocial,” a 20s/30s meet up group, at National Cathedral (3101 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) today at 4 p.m. For more information, visit nationalcathedral.org.

Guitarist Charles Mokotoff performs Latin American melodies at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church (9601 Cedar Ln., Bethesda, Md.) today at 4 p.m.  For more details, visit cedarlane.org.

Perry’s (1811 Columbia Rd., N.W.) hosts its weekly “Sunday Drag Brunch” today from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost is $24.95 for an all-you-can-eat buffet. For more details, visit perrysadamsmorgan.com.

Victory Fund holds is “National Champagne Brunch” today from11 a.m.-2 p.m. Special guests include Maine gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud, Massachusetts attorney general candidate Maura Healey and Washington D.C. City Councilmember David Catania. Tickets are $250. For more details, visit victoryfund.org.

Monday, April 7

Opera on Tap D.C. Metro perform at Vendetta Bocce Bar and Tavern (1212 H St., N.E.) tonight from 7-9:30 p.m. Local opera singers Colin Michael Brush, Melissa Chavez, Aaron Halevy and more will be performing. There will be $1 sliders all night long with a 2 drink minimum. There will also be $4 Prosecco and Peroni and $5 house wine. There is a $5 suggested cover. For more information, visit operaontap.org/dcmetro.

The D.C. Center (1318 U St., N.W.) hosts coffee drop-in hours this morning from 10 a.m.-noon for the senior LGBT community. Older LGBT adults can come and enjoy complimentary coffee and conversation with other community members. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.

Us Helping Us  (3636 Georgia Ave., N.W.) holds a support group for gay black men to discuss topics that affect them, share perspectives and have meaningful conversations. For details, visit uhupil.org.

Nellie’s Sports Bar (900 U St., N.W.) hosts poker night tonight at 8 p.m. Win prizes. Free to play. For more information, visit nelliessportsbar.com.

Tuesday, April 8

GLOV hosts a happy hour reception at MOVA Lounge (2204 14th St., N.W.) tonight from 5:30-8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and supports GLOV, which aims to reduce violence against LGBT individuals and to assist victims of anti-LGBT violence. For more details, visit thedccenter.org.

JQ Baltimore, a Jewish LGBT outreach and support group, hosts Seder at Waxter Center (1000 Cathedral St., Mt. Vernon, Md.) tonight at 6:30 p.m. The Seder will be conducted by Rabbi Gila Ruskin and a kosher dairy dinner with traditional Passover foods will be served. Tickets are $12. For more details, email jqbaltimore@gmail.com or call 443.300.8996.

Wednesday, April 9

The Lambda Bridge Club hosts duplicate bridge at the Dignity Center (721 8th St., S.E.) at 7:30 p.m. tonight. No reservations needed and new comers welcome. If you need a partner, call 703-407-6540.

Big Gay Book Group meets at 1155 F St., N.W. Suite 200 tonight at 7 p.m. to discuss “The Towers of Trebizond” by Roe Macaulay. This comedy tells the story of what it means to be a Christian in the modern world with a wacky group of characters including spies a Greek sorcerer and a deranged camel. For more information email biggaybookgroup@hotmail.com.

“Moth” begins its run at the Studio Theatre (1501 14th St., N.W.) tonight at 8 p.m. “Moth” tells the story of an anime-obsessed boy and his emo-Wiccan friend whose friendship is changed forever when Sebastian is forced on an apocalyptic mission after a horrific event at his high school. Tickets are $30.The play runs through May 4. For more details, visit studiotheatre.org.

Thursday, April 10

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, volunteers for Food and Friends (219 Riggs Rd., N.E.) tonight from 6-8 p.m. Volunteers will chop vegetables and pack groceries. To volunteer, email jonathan@burgundycrescent.org. For more details, visit burgundycrescent.org.

Rude Boi Entertainment hosts “Tempted 2 Touch,” a ladies dance party, at the Fab Lounge (2022 Florida Ave., N.W.) Doors open at 10 p.m. Drink specials $5 and vodka shots $3 all night. No cover charge. Admission limited to guests 21 and over. For more details, visit rudeboientertainment.wordpress.com.

 

03
Apr
2014

‘Moth’ to the flame

David Nate Goldman, Allie Villarreal, Moth, Studio Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

David Nate Goldman and Allie Villarreal in ‘Moth’ at Studio 2ndStage. (Photo by Igor Dmitry; courtesy Studio)

‘Moth’

Through May 4

Studio 2ndStage

1501 14th St., N.W.

$30-35

202-332-3300

Studiotheatre.org

In conceiving “Moth,” gay Australian playwright Declan Greene knew his upsetting but darkly funny drama’s characters would be a pair of unlikable “über nerds.” Plot details would come later.

His memorable creations are Sebastian and Claryssa, each other’s only friend and the outcasts of their sophomore class. He’s hygienically challenged and anime-obsessed; she’s overweight and an emo-Wiccan. Not sure-fire ingredients for suburban teen popularity. Yet, despite holding a special place in rigid high school hierarchy, they aren’t kids you hear much about — at least not until after something bad happens.

That something bad does happen. It takes place at night on a flood light-lit playing field. What’s more, the assault is recorded by the pair’s tormentors and posted on social media. Sebastian and Claryssa react to the traumatic episode in different ways: she falls into a deep depression that she likens to hiding in a cave; whereas he flips out and very publicly becomes a wild-eyed, apocalyptic messenger. Increasingly, things go from bad to worse.

“Moth” is currently making its U.S. premiere at Studio 2ndstage. This perfectly paced, ably executed production also marks the directorial debut of out actor Tom Story. David Nate Goldman and Allie Villarreal play Sebastian and Claryssa.

Before a bank of beige lockers, the friends tell their story, divvying up the parts of their loathsome classmates, silly teachers and irritating parents. Sebastian and Claryssa’s relationship is based on trading insults. That and each one’s need to cling to someone in a world where neither fit. He’s stinky, picks his nose and enjoys tracing cartoon characters. Claryssa is tough, scathingly articulate and willing to fight with words and fists. To the notion that high school is the best years of her life, she responds, “Bullshit.”

In the face of the ultimate bully embodied in white trash classmate Clinton, Sebastian laughs off the smacks and insults while Claryssa tries to protect her friend. But when things get particularly intense, each sells the other out as self-preservation trumps all.

With its many locations and shifts in time, “Moth” is tricky to direct effectively, but Story with the help of a top-notch design team succeeds admirably. Colin K. Bills’ lighting, Mimi d’Autremont’s projection and James Bigbee Garver’s sound create atmospheres from the mundane to the fantastic. Brandee Mathies’ costumes are spot on high school.

A longtime D.C. actor, Story has played myriad classical and contemporary parts including terrific turns as effete artist Andy Warhol in 2ndStage’s “Pop!” and as an alleged child killer in Studio’s production of “The Pillowman.” He elicits compelling performances from his talented young actors Goldman and Villarreal. They come across as if they’ve been friends forever. Their baldly critical exchanges that lead into punches and playful wrestling feel entirely true life.

Some two-person plays leave you wishing for another character to enter, but not this one. It’s strongly character driven and never boring. Still in his 20s, playwright Greene brilliantly forms his characters’ oddly insulated world. His unfiltered dialogue (fat, faggot, retard, and that is but a mild sampling) never sounds stilted. And when Sebastian clings insanely to a moth in a jar or wishes for a field force, it seems perfectly reasonable. Of course, with the obstacles he’s facing, its’ no wonder.

“Moth” takes us into the world and minds of these misfit adolescents whose otherness leads them into dangerous places. It’s a fascinating and sometimes scary place.

16
Apr
2014

‘Cock’ explores murky love triangle

 

Cock, triangle, theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Cast of ‘Cock‘ (Photo courtesy of Studio Theatre)

Studio Theatre (1501 14th St., N.W.) opens its new production “Cock,” a love triangle between two men and a woman, Wednesday at 8 p.m. The show runs through June 22.

“Cock” tells the story of John who falls in love with a woman after breaking up with his long-term boyfriend. Later John and his boyfriend get back together but a dramatic love triangle between John, the boyfriend and the woman ensues. The play stars Ben Cole, Bruce Dow, Scott Parkinson and Liesel Allen Yeager.

Tickets range from $20-59. For details and to purchase tickets, visit studiotheatre.org.

08
May
2014

Carrying the ‘Torch’

Torch Song Trilogy, Gordana Roshovich, Todd Lawson, Ashleigh King, Brandon Uranowitz, Harvey Fierstein, Sarah Grace Wilson, Michael Lee Brown, Alex Mills, Studio Theatre, theater

The cast of Studio’s ‘Torch Song Trilogy.’ From left are Gordana Roshovich, Todd Lawson, Ashleigh King, Brandon Uranowitz, Sarah Grace Wilson, Michael Lee Brown and Alex Mills. (Photo by Igor Dmitry; courtesy Studio)

By MARIAH COOPER

The Studio Theatre’s (1501 14th St., N.W.) production of legendary gay piece “Torch Song Trilogy” opened this week and runs through Oct. 13. Local gay theater legend Michael Kahn directs.

Written by Harvey Fierstein (“Kinky Boots,” “Newsies”), the story follows Arnold Beckoff on his journey away from the New York gay bar scene and through his relationships with men and his own mother as he strives to create a family of his own.

Tickets range from $39-$85. Performances are every Tuesday-Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinee showings Saturday and Sunday. For details, visit studiotheatre.org.

05
Sep
2013

Drag und drang

Brandon Uranowitz, Arnold, Torch Song Trilogy, Harvey Firestein, gay news, Washington Blade

Brandon Uranowitz as Arnold in ‘Torch Song Trilogy.’ (Photo by Teddy Wolff; courtesy Studio Theatre)

‘Torch Song Trilogy’

Studio Theatre

1501 14th Street, N.W.

$39-$85

202-332-3200

studiotheatre.org

It’s a notion to which many gay men can relate.

“He’s a bitchy queen — totally jaded, yet also a wide-eyed romantic. And above, he’s a survivor.”

That’s how Brandon Uranowitz describes Arnold Beckoff, the indomitable drag queen he plays in Studio Theatre’s current production of “Torch Song Trilogy.” Penned by raspy-voiced gay icon Harvey Fierstein, the bittersweet comedy chronicles Arnold’s intrepid search for love in New York City’s gay bars and determination to create family of own making despite the odds.

“One morning my agent called and asked if I knew the play,” says Uranowitz, 27. “Of course, I had. Most every gay actor has read ‘Torch Song.’ And once they have, it really resonates. Then my agent said he was submitting me for the lead, Arnold. I was thrilled.”

“Going in, my attitude was even if I don’t book the job, being able to work on the material even for a short time with director Michael Kahn [Shakespeare Theatre Company’s gay artistic director on loan to Studio] is a gift in itself. So that night I re-read the play alone in my apartment in New York City, laughing and sobbing — all very Arnold. I just needed to be eating a pint of ice cream to perfect the scenario.”

But Uranowitz almost didn’t get the audition much less the job. The show’s casting agent thought his head shot looked much too young. Arnold isn’t old, but he’s a character with gravitas, and apparently Uranowitz’s strong presence and acting chops weren’t coming through in the photo. Undeterred, his agent persevered and Uranowitz was finally permitted to show his stuff.

“The audition went well — really well,” he says. “Michael [Kahn] gave me a call back. At the call back he gave me the part. That’s a very unusual and wonderful thing, and may never happen again.”

“Torch Song” is comprised of three very different mini-plays in which Arnold’s skin thickens as he grows from needy, back room-cruising single to determined gay parent. Along the way he loses his heart to a mixed-up bisexual, settles down with a younger guy and battles his disapproving Jewish mother all while making  a living doing drag in downtown Manhattan.

For the tough scenes between Arnold and Ma (played here by Gordana Rashovich), Uranowitz says he taps into the misgivings that most gay people experience when they’re contemplating coming out.

“My own coming out process was pretty smooth,” he says. “My parents have always been supportive, but even in the optimum circumstances it’s never an easy thing.”

“What is easy,” he quickly adds, “is working with Michael [Kahn]. To be in the room with someone who is so smart and who personally relates to the play has been an astounding, magical experience.”

At 6 years old, Uranowitz started after-school acting classes. Growing up in New Jersey just outside of New York City, he saw a lot of Broadway. His favorites were “Tommy,” “Crazy for You” and Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” After graduating from NYU’s acting program, Uranowitz rapidly began his professional career. He’s best known for his work in the Broadway musical “Baby It’s You!” and for playing Mark in the national touring company of “Rent.”

“Torch Song” is the New York-based actor’s first time playing a gay character.

“I feel on some level I’m making a difference. They’re feeling something. When this show opened on Broadway in the early ‘80s, it was a little shocking in its frank portrayal of gay life. Now it’s not. People can concentrate on the universality of the relationships.”

It’s also Uranowitz’s first foray into drag (Arnold’s style is a heavily painted Joan Crawford circa “Mildred Pierce”), and he’s liking it: “I’m a huge fan of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and I’m really thrilled to dress up like a woman.

“And for now I’m riding the wave of the show,” says Uranowitz. “It’s all wonderfully surreal. Of course, I’ll be completely depressed when it’s over and I have no new jobs lined up. But that’s the wonderful life of an actor.”

19
Sep
2013

Best of Gay D.C. 2013: Community

Foundry United Methodist Church, Best of Gay D.C., Best Place of Worship, gay news, Washington Blade

Foundry United Methodist Church (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best house of worship:

Foundry United Methodist Church

1500 16th St., N.W.

202-332-4010

foundryumc.org

Runner-up: Bet Mishpachah

 

Miss Pixies, Best of Gay D.C., Best Home Furnishings, gay news, Washington Blade

Miss Pixie’s (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best home furnishings:

Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot

1629 14th St., N.W.

202-232-8171

misspixies.com

Runner-up: Room & Board

 

Best property management:

Coldwell Banker Mid-Atlantic

6031 University Blvd. Suite 140

Ellicott City, MD

coldwellbanker.com

Runner-up: Bozzuto Group

 

Best hotel:

The W

515 15th St., N.W.

202-661-2400

whotels.com

Runner-up: Carlyle Suites Hotel

 

Best of Gay D.C., Best Art Gallery, Corcoran Gallery of Art, gay news, Washington Blade

Corcoran Gallery of Art (Photo by Kmf164; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Best art gallery:

Corcoran Gallery of Art

500 17th St., N.W.

202-639-1700

Corcoran.org

Runner-up: The Phillips Collection

 

Whitman-Walker Health, Don Blanchon, Best of Gay D.C., Best Non-Profit, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker Health (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best non-profit:

Whitman-Walker Health

1701 14th St., N.W.

202-745-7000

wwc.org

Runner-up: SMYAL

 

Logan 14 Aveda (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Logan 14 Aveda (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best salon/spa:

Logan 14 Salon Spa — Aveda Hair & Body

1314 14th St., N.W.

202-506-6868

logan14salonspa.com

Runner-up: Aura Spa/Bang Salon

 

Universal Gear, Best of Gay D.C., Best Men's Clothing, gay news, Washington Blade

Universal Gear (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best men’s clothing:

Universal Gear

1529 14th St., N.W.

202-319-0136

universalgear.com

Runner-up: H&M

 

Best women’s clothing:

Proud Threads

Proudthreads.com

Runner-up: Buffalo Exchange

 

VIDA Fitness (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

VIDA Fitness (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best gym:

Vida Fitness

Multiple locations

Vidafitness.com

Runner-up: Results

 

Kennedy Center (Photo by Steve; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Kennedy Center (Photo by Steve; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Best theater:

Kennedy Center

2700 F St., N.W.

202-416-8000

kennedy-center.org

Runner-up: Studio Theatre

 

Rocky Horror, theater, Studio Theatre, Best of Gay D.C., Best Theater Production, gay news, Washington Blade

Rocky Horror (Photo by Igor Dmitri; courtesy of Studio Theatre)

Best theater production:

“Rocky Horror” at Studio Theatre

Runner-up: “Book of Mormon” at Kennedy Center

 

Stonewall Kickball's 21 Amendments (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Stonewall Kickball’s 21 Amendments (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best LGBT sports team:

Stonewall Kickball’s 21st Amendments

Stonewallsports.org

Runner-up: D.C. Front Runners

 

Flowers on Fourteenth, Best of Gay D.C., Best LGBT-Owned Business, gay news, Washington Blade

Flowers on Fourteenth (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best LGBT-owned business:

Flowers on 14th

1718a 14th St., N.W.

flowerson14th.com

Runner-up: Grassroots Gourmet

 

Best comedy club:

D.C. Improv Comedy Club

1140 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

202-296-7008

dcimprov.com

Runner-up: Washington Improv Theater

 

Dos Locos, Rehoboth, Delaware, Best of Gay D.C., Best Rehoboth Business, gay news, Washington Blade

Dos Locos (Photo courtesy of Dos Locos)

Best Rehoboth business:

Dos Locos

208 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

302-227-3353

doslocos.com

Runner-up: Blue Moon

 

Best LGBT social group:

Burgundy Crescent Volunteers

Burgundycrescent.org

Runner-up: Nice Jewish Boys

24
Oct
2013