Arts Desk

Photos: The El Reys at MLK Library


The El Reys at MLK Library, May 22nd.  © 2015 Matt Dunn

Read more Photos: The El Reys at MLK Library

What Your Summer Outdoor Film Series Says About Your Neighborhood

golden triangle

Forget Screen on the Green. You don’t have to brave the National Mall to take in a movie outside this summer—these days, outdoor film screenings are so popular that every neighborhood has its own. (Hell, even NoMa, to which the term “neighborhood” barely applies, has several.)

D.C.’s parks and pop-ups might compete with Netflix for your summer entertainment queue, but the curation quality varies. Here’s a rundown of what each outdoor film series says about its neighborhood and the movies it should really be running instead.

Golden Triangle
Golden Cinema” kicks off today with a screening of Empire Records in Farragut Park. This film series may be the city’s very best, if only because it includes Nine to Five (above), which features Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton kicking their pigheaded boss’s ass. And isn’t that the dream of many of the people who commute to Golden Triangle every day? Kudos to the planners for picking The Devil Wears Prada, another film about wishing the worst on your boss, but they missed an obvious entry in this genre: Office Space.

navy yard

Navy Yard
The Capitol Riverfront movie series is one of the city’s most ambitious. From the beginning of June through early September, the neighborhood is hosting 14 films, from classics like Back to the Future and The Goonies to new blockbusters like Selma and Guardians of the Galaxy. But “Capitol Riverfront”? Why can’t this neighborhood accept that everyone else in the city calls it Navy Yard? Capitol Riverfront should add A Few Good Men (above) to its lineup if only to hear Jack Nicholson snarl, “You can’t handle the truth!”

dupont circle

Dupont Circle
So far, Dupont Festival has announced only one screening. This event is sure to be massively popular—you may have noticed that people like to congregate in Dupont Circle—so there’s a lot riding on it. Fortunately, Dupont Circle nailed its film choice. Starring Rosie O’Donnell, Geena Davis, and Madonna, A League of Their Own (above) captures the team-sports vibe and aging gayborhood status of the area. Crying? There’s no crying in Dupont!

Read more What Your Summer Outdoor Film Series Says About Your Neighborhood

To Do This Weekend: Mobb Deep, Matt & Ben, and Insect Surfers

Mobb Deep UMG

The Infamous is an apposite title for hip-hop duo Mobb Deep’s landmark album. Released 20 years ago last month, it mixed both members’ strengths—Prodigy’s focused aggression; Havoc’s haunting, nuanced production—to create one of the definitive albums of the ’90s. Two decades later, that dynamic hasn’t changed much: Prodigy and Havoc still produce battle cries that electrify fans. Read more >>> Mobb Deep performs at 8 p.m. at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. $25–$45. (202) 803-2899. (Julian Kimble)


Nauti Foods is back on the Potomac River this weekend—with beer. D.C.’s first and only food boat will serve two local beers, cold-brew coffee, and lemonade from Mike Isabella’s G. All the drinks are served in cups with straws and lids to avoid spillage. Kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders can also have snacks on the water with Nauti’s hot dogs, ice cream treats, and even Bullfrog Bagels. You can find the 24-foot pontoon boat near the Key Bridge in Georgetown. Follow Nauti Food’s schedule at @nautifoods, and read more on Young & Hungry. (Jessica Sidman)


Friday: Insect Surfers, the Los Angeles-based surf-rock band that formed in D.C. in 1979, reunites for its first local show in more than 20 years at Arlington's Iota. Superswank and Atomic Mosquitos also perform. 8:30 p.m. at 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington$12.

Friday: Head to the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Luce Foundation Center for a music showcase co-presented by Washington City Paper featuring performances by local electro-pop duo Pleasure Curses and art-rock act Young Rapids. 6 p.m. at 8th and F streets NW. Free. Read more To Do This Weekend: Mobb Deep, Matt & Ben, and Insect Surfers

In It Together Fest Announces Its Main Showcase Lineup


Following its successful debut last summer, In It Together Fest will return to D.C. on the weekend of July 31 to celebrate the city’s diverse array of DIY musicians, artists, and activists. The four-day festival, organized by members of area DIY venues like the Dougout and Hole in the Sky, featured nearly 50 local and touring bands last year.

Yesterday, organizers announced the festival’s main showcase, which will take place on August 1 at St. Stephen’s in Columbia Heights. The showcase lineup features D.C. acts like indie-punk quartet Makeshift Shelters, the noisy rockers of Jail Solidarity, and the hardcore descendants of Two Inch Astronaut, who appeared at the inaugural In It Together Fest. Touring bands on the bill include Thou, Cayetana (above), and Rozwell Kid.

Read more In It Together Fest Announces Its Main Showcase Lineup

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Folger Theatre, Reviewed


The doomed courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern together rate fewer than 80 lines in Hamlet, a play that when (rarely) performed in its entirety runs to more than four thousand. Tom Stoppard was only 29 when his existential reframing of Shakespeare’s most complex tragedy from the perspective of two of its least-heard characters announced the arrival of a major playwright, one whose influence has only grown since. His latest, The Hard Problem, debuted in London just months ago. Somewhere in the middle, he found a place for emotion in that glistening, nimble brain of his, writing plays that eclipse Rosencrantz: 1993’s Arcadia for one, which Aaron Posner directed at the Folger six years ago, in a production I’m tired of hearing myself say is the best thing I’ve ever seen there, and yet. Posner has said that when directing that show, he tried merely to put the play on the stage as simply as possible, sans filigree or interpretation.

His gloss on Rosencrantz is more active and less revelatory. The script is the work of a young genius violently asserting his talent before the world, and as a result it gets a little trying, though its brilliance hasn’t faded. Posner has brought the run-time down to a manageable two hours (plus intermission) by speeding through, so it seemed to me, the Hamlet scenes, wherein our baffled protagonists interact with Claudius (Craig Wallace) and Gertrude (Kimberly Schraf) and Ophelia (Brynn Tucker) and the Melancholy Dane himself (Biko Eisen-Martin, who faintly resembles Bruno Mars). I’d love to see that cast do Hamlet in full. And I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of Romell Witherspoon and Adam Wesley Brown, the pair of Folger newcomers who bring the oft-mistaken-for-one-another title characters amiably to life.

Taking in this Rosencrantz is pleasurable, in the way that watching a pinball successfully navigate an ingeniously engineered Rube Goldberg contraption is pleasurable. But it’s not an emotional experience.

Scenic designer Paige Hathaway has dismissed the script’s specification of “a place without any visible character,” constructing instead an attic crammed with props and ephemera from Hamlets past: Skulls, a gramophone, a piano, a model ship, and musty old tomes of—according to dramaturg Michele Osherow—50 different editions of Hamlet, though I couldn’t tell that from where I was sitting. Those can’t-get-around-’em Folger stage columns each support a hangman’s scaffold, and a noose. A sloping ceiling decorated with inverted lampshades reminds us that, well, down is up, and Helen Q. Huang’s capes and cloaks and tunics are all similarly asymmetrical.

The show offers earthier rewards in the form of Ian Merrill Peakes’ swaggering, cocksure Player—leader of the band of wandering (and silent) “Tragedians” (and prostitutes) Prince Hamlet hires to prick at his uncle’s bloody conscience with their production of The Murder of Gonzago. As long as they’ve got some kind of audience for their folio of bloody dramas, they keep encroaching self-awareness at bay.

“Do you know what happens to old actors,” Peakes demands. “Nothing! They’re still acting!” Old playwrights, too.

The play runs to June 21 at Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. $30–$75. (202) 544-7077.

Handout photo by Teresa Wood.

Arts Roundup: Go-Go Historian Edition

Kato Hammond of TMOTTGoGo, go-go's de facto historian, remembers his roots—and go-go's, too. [Arts Desk]

The big two-day music festival coming to D.C. this fall opened a lottery for 1,000 free tickets. [Arts Desk]

Scenes from four U.S. productions of Stupid Fucking Bird, D.C. director-playwright Aaron Posner's irreverent take on Anton Chekhov's The Seagull [Live Design]

Watch the mesmerizing new video for Furniteur's "Secret Plans." [BYT]

Two D.C. sisters who were separated at birth appeared on VH1 reality show "Swab Stories" Wednesday. [Post]

Photos from the new exhibition of celebrity portraits at the National Portrait Gallery [Washingtonian]

Jumpers for Goalposts at Studio Theatre, Reviewed


“There’s no shame in losing to the lesbians, Viv,” says an amateur footballer to his beleaguered coach in Jumpers for Goalposts, the first play from Brit wunderkind Tom Wells to be produced in the United States. Set entirely in the locker room of a public soccer pitch in Hull, a port city on the northeast coast of England, Wells’ tart-but-tender romantic comedy tracks a season in the lives of Barely Athletic, one of the least-feared competitors in their LGBT sports league. (Debra Booth’s dingy set is persuasive, down to the green U.K.-style running-silhouette exit sign.) They’re routinely trounced by the likes of Tranny United and the Lesbian Rovers, possibly because they’re beset on all sides by personal troubles: Joe, the team’s “Token Straight” (per his jersey), is a recent widower. Beardy refuses to stop sleeping with the enemy, or to remove the juvenile stocking cap, replete with googly eyes and tassels, that he has taken to wearing even on the field. Danny is nursing a crush on his teammate Luke, a bashful virgin naive enough to label his diary D-I-A-R-Y and who, as Beardy observes, “struggles with doorknobs.” And their leader, Viv, is in mourning for her sister, Joe’s late wife. Fortunately for us, her main outlet for her grief is to upbraid her players’ C-minus effort with A-plus ardor.

Viv is played by the great Kimberly Gilbert. Though Jumpers marks her Studio Theatre debut, she’s been a treasure of D.C. stages for a decade-plus: The Helen Hayes Award she picked up last month for her performance in Woolly Mammoth’s 2014 Marie Antoinette (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play, Hayes production, if you wanna be a stickler about it) was somehow her first. In shows as different as Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, which had an early production at Woolly five years ago on its way to winning a Pulitzer Prize, and Round House’s Uncle Vanya from just this year, she’s proven many times over that she can do anything. And yet Combative Comedy Kimberly Gilbert is the one most delightful to witness. Even at her most acidic and eye-rolling, she’s never too cool for school: She wants us all to work harder, do more, not stand on the sidelines with a bored smirk and folded arms.

She’s matched here by the four dudes: Michael Glenn, Zdenko Martin, and Liam Forde (who looks uncannily like a pupa-stage version of Studio Artistic Director David Muse) as Joe, Danny, and Luke, respectively, while the Falstaffian Jonathan Judge-Russo embodies Beardy, the busker with the hot pink guitar. The version of The Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” that he picks out is surprising in its vulnerability, if less funny than his ability to deliver a recognizable rendition of “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” while gargling. By the time it falls to Beardy to sing the show’s concluding song, Wells has taken a few steps off the sentimental ledge. The final number is arguably enough of a spoiler that I won’t name it, except to say that Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Cash, and Bono have all sung it, and has a long association with the Liverpool Football Program (so says the program). Alas, the song doesn’t sit as comfortably within Judge-Russo’s range as the earlier, less martial ones did.

Jumpers for Goalposts would be even stronger if it ended 10 minutes earlier than it does, but Forde and Martin are so good in the maudlin late scene that I’m inclined to forgive the playwright for not trusting himself, or maybe us, enough to omit it.

The play continues through June 21 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. $20–$88. (202) 332-3300. 

Handout photo by Igor Dmitry

In Marie’s Story, an Uneven Take on the Astounding Story of a Deaf-Blind French Girl

maries story

Poltergeist isn’t the only remake opening this week—or at least it seems that way. Marie’s Story, directed and co-written by Jean-Pierre Améris, tells the tale of a deaf and blind girl born in the late 19th century. Her disabilities render her nearly feral; because her parents don’t know how to control or educate her, they seek help from nuns who run a school for deaf girls.

While on campus, Marie starts struggling against and hitting anyone who tries to restrain her, then climbs a tree. The school’s Mother Superior (Brigitte Catillon) tells her parents that the institution is unequipped to handle their daughter.

But one tenacious young woman is determined to bring Marie out of her isolated world.

Anybody heard of The Miracle Worker?

Sure, there are differences between Marie (Ariana Rivoire, who is deaf) and Helen Keller. Marie is French, and has been unable to see or hear from birth. Keller was American, and lost those senses after falling ill when she was 19 months old.

And Marie’s teacher isn’t a layperson but Sister Marguerite (Isabelle Carré), a nun who can speak and hear but knows sign language. Also, she’s terminally ill, and regards Marie as a way to be of service before her short life ends. But, you know, in an unselfish way.

Otherwise, Marie’s Story proceeds as Keller’d. (Philippe Blasband, who wrote 2007’s Marianne Faithfull-starring Irina Palm, penned the script with Améris.) Marguerite is persistent, and first needs to earn her student's trust. Once she gets Marie to stop resisting her company, the sister dives into drawing signs on Marie’s palm while having her feel the objects she’s naming; for good measure, Marguerite says the words aloud, too.

Read more In Marie’s Story, an Uneven Take on the Astounding Story of a Deaf-Blind French Girl

To Do Today: BETTY, Kurt Metzger, and Kamyar Arsani

cl-thursday-20Some fans of the binge-watching, couch-potato variety know the band BETTY for its catchy theme song for The L Word and its regular appearances on the Showtime series. Highbrow fans might also know of the group’s appointment as arts envoys for the U.S. Department of State, and activists are familiar with the extensive work its members have done for the LGBTQ community and for women’s empowerment worldwide. Beyond those accolades, however, BETTY is a fun-loving group of gals that seriously rock. At the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, get to know them in a completely different way: as part of Darren Waterson’s new installation, “Filthy Lucre.” The band will contribute live music to create a multi-sensory experience. Read more >>> BETTY performs at 5:30 p.m. at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Free. (202) 633-4880. (Diana Metzger)


Still need breakfast? Y&H has plotted out 10 egg and cheese sandwiches—from Five Guys’ bacon, egg, and cheese to Bullfrog Bagels’ corned beef or pastrami, egg, and cheese—from high-brow to low-brow, cheap to pricey. Find the perfect sandwich for your preferences and price point here. (Jessica Sidman)


Comedian Kurt Metzger, who's written for Inside Amy Schumer and appeared frequently on VH1's Best Week Ever, performs at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage as part of the center's comedy series. 6 p.m. at 2700 F St. NW. Free.

Read more To Do Today: BETTY, Kurt Metzger, and Kamyar Arsani

Enter Landmark Music Festival’s Lottery for Free Tickets


This morning, the Landmark Music Festival opened a lottery that will give away 1,000 free tickets to the two-day music festival coming to West Potomac Park, near the FDR Memorial, this fall. The festival also announced that TV on the Radio will join its lineup, which also includes Drake, the Strokes, CHVRCHES, and a slew of local acts like Ex Hex and Ace Cosgrove.

Until 5 p.m. next Wednesday, May 27, you can enter to win one of 500 pairs of passes to the September 26-27 event, which will raise money for the Trust for the National Mall, a nonprofit that supports the care and keeping of America's Big Patch of Grass, currently America's Big Patch of Construction Equipment.

Already bought tickets, and pissed that you dropped a hundred or two on a show you could have seen for free? You're likely in good company. The Landmark Music Festival has been promoted for the past month without any mention of a free ticket lottery (or the free festival areas where non-ticketholders can watch the concerts on a Jumbotron) beyond a brief allusion in a press release.

Incidentally, Arts Desk recently posted a very scientific study of the gender breakdowns of four D.C.-area music festivals' lineups—a study whose methodology necessitated, among other things, the Googling of 90 metal bands. See how Landmark matched up against Sweetlife, Maryland Deathfest, and Capital Jazz Fest.