Monday, October 31, 2016

A View Of The End

...Or the beginning?

So this weekend pasts theatrical outing was to see "Sense & Sensibility" at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre.  The theater itself is house in the complex that is home to the much larger Folger Shakespeare Library and also houses an exhibition space.  As theater's go, it's a rather small one.  Previously, I had only attended poetry readings there: Linda Pastan, Maryland Oliver and Stanley Kunitz.  Ironically, my first play here would not be one written by Shakespeare!  Which naturally is the theatre's mainstay, and comports well with the fact that though small the interior of the theater is embellished to evoke Shakespeare's own famous The Globe theatre from Elizabethan London.

My visit to see the show was on what should have been it's next to last performance this afternoon, and it was in a word--"FUN!!!" Oh my, such Fun! Everything in the production is built upon wheels and it never stops rolling! You cannot keep from getting caught up in the excitement.  The choreography of acting, dialogue, and sets wrapped in lighting and sound effects is a little bit like accepting a ride on a roller coaster. From the first moment the cast starts moving, you strap in and hang on.

The script takes you through what is a rather endearing and complex early 19th century romp--most beloved by so many--in a fashion that honors the story, but also creates something sufficiently new as to be it's own special thing. The actors in this production coalesce with a fine syncopation that reminds me of the best versions of other plays were a set cast embodies multiple roles. Because they are all so wonderful, it's really difficult and easy to site-specific instances of standout moments. Jamie Smithson's electric and audience engaging portrayal of the rakish Robert Ferrars was a tour de force moment of energetic embodiment of the essence of a single character. Lisa Birnbaum had a similarly stealing moment when she portrayed the Dowager Ferrars.

Even the most amazing ensemble needs glue to hold it together and this production was bound by the brilliant performances of Maggie McDowell (Elinor) and Erin Weaver (Marianne) as the Dashwood sisters.
Unfamiliar, but thinking that due to its size there were no "bad" seats, I purchased one on the front row! My view of the stage was rather intimate to say the least...
Mr. Dashwood (James Patrick Nelson) the beginning setting the whole cavalcade of events into motion!

Eating is central to the lives of the characters and here we see the entire company of actors (save one) from left to right names (roles): Michael Glenn (Servant, Horse, Sir John Middleton), Kathryn Tkel (Fanny Dashwood, Lucy Steele), Jamie Smithson (Edward Ferrars, Robert Ferrars), Nicole Kang (Margaret Dashwood), Maggie McDowell (Elinor Dashwood), Erin Weaver (Marianne Dashwood), Lisa Birnbaum (Mrs. Dashwood, Anne Steele, Lady Ferrars), Jacob Fishel (John Dashwood, John Willoughby) and James Patrick Nelson (Mr. Dashwood, servant, Colonel Brandon).

Another full ensemble moment.  The actor in the middle who was present in the previous image was also not present at the performance I attended and her understudy filled in.

Such creative staging!  Here Mr. Willoughby and Miss Marianne Dashwood are out for the ride in the country as other cast members play the carriage, the horses, the forest and the wind!

Lucy Steele confides in Elinor Dashwood spilling the beans about their shared love, and as the conversation rises and falls so to the movement of the chairs in which they sit conveying the intimacy and estrangement of the moment as well as they dizzying confusion and tempestuous betrayal.

In a quieter moment Edward and Elinor come to terms with their complicated lives and destiny.

Folger's Shakespeare Library and Theater

Another aspect of this venerable institution is the art that adorns its deceptively austere facade.

 The Puck Fountain on the west side of the Library.
 The Shakespeare reliefs that line the north exposure celebrating 9 of the Bard's plays by John Gregory.

 Gregory's signature is only found carved in the final work.
 And you also have to love the Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired Art Deco grillwork over the windows.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Views From Sligo Creek

Main Course Green Bean Casserole

 Green Beans with lots of fresh Baby Portobello Mushrooms, a small diced Onion, and Smokey Sausage (cut into medallions and browned)
 Then mixed with cream of mushroom soup and topped with fried onion crisps.
It's a main course all unto itself and so delicious, too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Favorite Children's Book

From time to time I have shared excerpts from a favorite children's book with you. Here is one by possibly my favorite illustrator Trina Schart Hyman (1939-2004). While one of the most beloved and classic tales of childhood, in her hands "Little Red Riding Hood" becomes both the quintessential retelling and a beautifully layered and carefully crafted story rich with psychological complexity to delight both children and adults alike. Her attention to the most minute details of setting fascinate. And her tender and insightful portrayal of the character's countenances bring a level depth to the story that imprints it upon your thoughts in a nearly haunting way. So intriguing are the images and so cohesive, they not only stand alone as impressive works of art, she also uses them to tell a sub-plot all her own. Hint: watch the cats!
 The first main illustration shows our heroine sitting on a bench and reading a copy of this book!--delightful joke. And here you see the cats. Which one's the Tom? Bet you can guess!

 The commission to go to grandma's and not dawdle. What is she thinking? A little child alone in the woods...a nervous pinky?

 Hey, who's that watching out for Little Red Riding Hood?

 Look at this!--Dogtooth Lily, Pink Trillium, Wood Phlox, and Queen Anne's Lace--no wonder the wolf could convince her to pick a bouquet!

 From the shelf fungus to the ground squirrel--a feast for the eyes!

 Isn't the wolf magnificently depicted amid such an array of flowers?

 The hot water bottle! such details!

 Who's the "other" hero?

 After being in the wolf's stomach (and I'm only sharing about half of the full-page illustrations and none of the smaller ones) notice Red's expression--like the lyric from "Into The Woods"

Once his teeth were bared,
Though, I really got scared-
Well, excited and scared-
But he drew me close
And he swallowed me down,
Down a dark slimy path
Where lie secrets that I never want to know
And when everything familiar seems to disappear forever
At the end of the path was granny once again
As we lie in the dark till you came and set us free
And you brought us to the light

And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn't known before:
Do not put your faith
In a cape and a hood,
They will not protect you
The way that they should.
And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.

~ Stephen Sondheim

All's well that ends well...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Little Gold Down At Sligo Creek

Quesadilla Breakfast

Egg and Sausage Quesadillas with salsa

"The Little Foxes" @ Arena Stage

 First off, going to Arena Stage is always an amazing experience in that you are in one of the premiere regional theaters in the nation with a reputation and an active program to rival any other. The very building that houses 3 separate and unique stages is a wonder all on its own. I always love being there.

 "The Little Foxes" by Lillian Hellman is one of two of her plays that Arena is producing this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth. It's a tale of a high society-wannabe southern family whose sudden opportunity to acquire the wealth they've always longed for becomes the catalyst of one betrayal after another like dominoes falling until the last and greatest betrayer of the clan is herself stabbed in a moment not unlike that of Caesar's before the imperial senate. It's a delightful play. And in the hands of Arena, a most excellent production.

The set, which is the first thing you see, naturally was beautifully designed to represent the foyer, drawing room, dining room and grand staircase of Regina Giddens' (ne Hubbard) home. Contrasted by a faded background of leafless forest bespeaking a mansion with walls made of glass.

The actors were to a person compelling and well anchored by Marg Helgenberger (of "CSI" and "China Beach" fame).  She sunk her teeth into this juicy role and shook it for all it was worth! Honorable mentions to Kim James Bey (Addie) and Isabel Keating (Birdie Hubbard), but seriously the entire cast was wonderful. The role of Benjamin Hubbard was performed by one of DC's most highly acclaimed local actor, Edward Gero (5 Helen Hayes awards). Top to bottom excellent credentials.
Marg Helgenberger as Regina Giddens
The whole family of "foxes," Elder brother Benjamin Hubbard (Edward Gero), younger brother Oscar Hubbard (Gregory Linington), his wife Birdie (Isabel Keating), and their sister, Regina.
Birdie and Regina dreaming about their promised wealth.
Regina and Horace's daughter, Alexandra (Megan Graves) with the house servant, Addie (Kim James Bey).
Horace Giddens (Jack Willis) being welcomed home by Birdie and Regina glares on.