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Henry IV – Shakespeare Theatre Company

Jordan Wright
April 18, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times 

Matthew Amendt as Prince Hal and Edward Gero as King Henry IV  production of Henry IV, Part 2. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Matthew Amendt as Prince Hal and Edward Gero as King Henry IV production of Henry IV, Part 2. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Right after the gloom and doom set up in Act 1 when we learn that King Henry IV is the target of Wales’ and Scotland’s revenge for his crime of treason, the play begins to open up to comedic relief when Falstaff and Henry’s son, Hal, enter together.  And that’s a good thing because, notwithstanding the haunting opening set design by Alexander Dodge in which a giant silhouetted map of the territories is displayed, the play gets off to a complicated enough start with a blast of lightening quick repartee between the King, John of Lancaster and the Earl of Westmoreland.  It’s enough to rock any unprepared playgoer back on their heels who might not know the lay of the land, so to speak.  And remember, it’s all about the land, the King’s tormented conscience for stealing Mortimer’s rightful throne and his crusade to make things right, that goes horribly wrong.  “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Even Prince Hal has that figured out.

Stacy Keach returns to the Shakespeare Theatre Company as the grandiloquent Falstaff, cohort and amigo-in-arms to the King’s son, Henry the Prince of Wales aka Hal and/or Harry.  Falstaff, one of the most enduring and sympathetic characters in all of Shakespeare, is as lovable a scallywag and epitome of a crusty ne’er-do-well as has ever existed in theatredom.  And Keach plays him to the hilt, embracing every line, morphing into the character, and flat out owning the role.  The man is marvelous.  (In one irreverent scene at Henry’s London apartment, he finds a pair of ladies underwear in Hal’s bed and uses them to dab his lips after a meal. You get the picture.)  Alas, poor Falstaff, ever the underdog, is repeatedly called every colorful name in describing his ungainly figure, “That huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox,” Hal affectionately calls him.

Stacy Keach as Falstaff and Maggie Kettering as Doll Tearsheet -  production of Henry IV, Part 2. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Stacy Keach as Falstaff and Maggie Kettering as Doll Tearsheet – production of Henry IV, Part 2. Photo by Scott Suchman.

There is much to praise about Shakespeare Theatre Company’s engaging two-night presentation, the exquisite costumes of silk, fur, leather and chainmail by Ann Hould-Ward, the sword fighting direction by Rick Sordelet and Christian Kelly-Sordelet, original period-inspired music composed by Michael Roth, including a tender Welsh ballad sung by Lady Mortimer (Vanessa Sterling), and especially the remarkably magnetic Matthew Arendt who plays Prince Hal.  Arendt brims with irresistible charm keeping the energy level, as well as the cast, in high gear.

Stacy Keach as Falstaff, Ted van Griethuysen as Justice Shallow, Brad Bellamy as Bardolph, and Bev Appleton as Justice Silence in production of Henry IV, Part 2. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Stacy Keach as Falstaff, Ted van Griethuysen as Justice Shallow, Brad Bellamy as Bardolph, and Bev Appleton as Justice Silence in production of Henry IV, Part 2. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Other standouts are Craig Wallace, who gives an elegant portrait of the swaggering Earl of Westmoreland, John Keabler as the sexiest Hotspur alive, Kelley Curran as his wife, Lady Percy, as alluring a liberated woman as ever there was, and of course, Edward Gero in the powerhouse role of Henry IV.  Look for scene-stealer Ted van Griethuysen who simply kills it as Justice Shallow in Part 2.

Highly recommended.

Through June 8th at Sidney Harmon Hall, 610 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20003. For tickets and information contact the Box Office at 202 547-1122 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.

Matthew Amendt as Prince Hal, Patrick Vaill as Lancaster, and Nathan Winkelstein as Gloucester in production of Henry IV, Part 2. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Matthew Amendt as Prince Hal, Patrick Vaill as Lancaster, and Nathan Winkelstein as Gloucester in production of Henry IV, Part 2. Photo by Scott Suchman.

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Under the Lintel – MetroStage

Jordan Wright
April 22, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times 

Paul Morella as The Librarian in Underneath the Lintel - Photo credit: Chris Banks

Paul Morella as The Librarian in Underneath the Lintel – Photo credit: Chris Banks

What is the impetus that drives us forward each day?  Is it hope?  How do we decide what holds meaning for us?  Is it faith, or just curiosity?  For a Dutch librarian, trapped in a humdrum job checking in books from the overnight repository and sending overdue notices to scofflaws, it is to confront the man who checked out a Baedeker Travel Guide some 113 years ago.  Outraged by the audacity of the borrower who waited so long to return the book, he determines to track him down. Apart from the borrower’s baffling initial, “A.”, and his confounding address, a small village in China, he has but one clue to go on.  Tucked between the yellowed pages is a receipt for a pair of trousers from a laundry in London.  This small clue becomes the catalyst to unlock the mysteries of life and to release him from a colorless life devoid of purpose.

Paul Morella as The Librarian in Underneath the Lintel - Photo credit: Chris Banks

Paul Morella as The Librarian in Underneath the Lintel – Photo credit: Chris Banks

James Kronzer’s set is a masterpiece of evocative scenic design that evokes the university quarters of Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark, a jumble of objects gathered by a man prospecting for answers.  Worn briefcases and suitcases and papers are strewn about.  Easel blackboards, an old globe and a long wooden table displaying a skull, surround him.  His quest will take him around the world on an emotional and metaphysical journey to find “A.” – - or is it his own enlightenment he seeks.

Dressed in a three-piece tweed suit the pedantic librarian is delivering a lecture on his travels.  His handmade sign reads, ‘Impressive Presentation of Lovely Evidences’.  “I have only one night for this, due to the extortionary rates of this auditorium,” he declares using historical slides from a carousel projector to aid in the telling.

Paul Morella - Photo credit: Chris Banks

Paul Morella – Photo credit: Chris Banks

Paul Morella stars in this one-man play that uses the parable of The Wandering Jew, a man cursed to wander the earth until the Second Coming.  Playwright Glen Berger has co-opted the myth to explore the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany.  When the librarian finds a second clue leading him to Bonn and the discovery of an incident report of a “dirty Jew” thrown off a train, he sets out on a seemingly endless trail of conundrums, discovering an unrequited romance and a series of iconic moments in history.  Obscure arcana hidden in the clues reveal the librarian’s encyclopedic knowledge and inform his feverish expedition.  Parables from Aesculus, modern day graffiti and Hobson’s ultimatum theory all hint at the subject.  “The act of believing and the act of accepting are two very different things,” he posits to us.

Morella gives a riveting and commanding performance seamlessly reflecting the intensity of the character against the theme’s comedic irony.  Director John Vreeke succeeds mightily in orchestrating this fascinating and complex production.

Through May 25th at MetroStage 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, 22314.  For tickets and information call 703 548-9044 or visit www.metrostage.org.

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Nibbles and Sips Around Town – April 15, 2014

Jordan Wright
April 15, 2014
all photo credit to Jordan Wright
Special to DC Metro Theater ArtsBroadway Stars, and LocalKicks 
 

In Which We Visit Union Market, Bidwell, the Launchology Series and Sample Nibbles and Sips From Zaytinya’s Upcoming Greek Easter Festival 

Union Market DC

Union Market DC

The Craveable Union Market

The greengrocer's stall at Union Market

The greengrocer’s stall at Union Market

There are many things to lure the foodie to Union Market, the 140-year old recently renovated food hall that has been luring the food adventurer with its interesting jumble of cute stalls, that house a bespoke butcher, a juicery, bakers, kitchenware, a pickle maker and eclectic eateries.

Harvey's Market

Harvey’s Market

As a chef I have often been stymied by our area’s lack of good butchers and fishmongers.  Where does the home cook go to find the ingredients necessary to replicate the sort of dishes they’ve had while dining out.  For instance, where can you buy pork belly, guanciale, high quality calf’s liver and freshly cut veal shanks for home use?  Try George Lesznar’s Harvey’s Market, a family owned business since 1931.

Buffalo & Bergen at Union Market

Buffalo & Bergen at Union Market

Who sells knishes fresh made bagels and New York style egg creams? Buffalo & Bergen’s throwback diner by Gina Chersevani is right here with a selection of fine crafted cocktails by the self-appointed ‘mixtress’.

Got a hankering for clams, oysters, shrimp or oyster chowder made with Benton’s bacon?  Pull up a stool at the Rappahannock Oyster Bar for some of Travis and Ryan Croxton’s locally raised oysters and seafood specialties.

Porketta sandwich at Red Apron

“Porkstrami” sandwich at Red Apron

Craving charcuterie or home made corned beef?  Stroll over to Nathan Anda’s Red Apron stall for a “porkstrami” sandwich or a stacked muffaletta and a pint of locally brewed suds.

Wondering who is fermenting their own pickles?  Snag some kosher style pickles and kraut at Number 1 Sons who prepare kale kimchi, caraway studded sauerkraut and an assortment of fabulous pickles.

Toki Underground chef James Wozniuk at Union Market

Toki Underground chef James Wozniuk at Union Market

Can’t wait for Erik Bruner-Yang’s H Street market to open?  Stop in at Toki Underground’s pop-up where Chef James Wozniuk has a few sit-down booths for dishes like ba vong and Khmer lemongrass grilled chicken with rice vermicelli.

On June 14th the market kicks off its third annual ‘Sunday Supper’ series featuring a star-studded lineup of the country’s finest chefs and mixologists including Jose Garces, Spike Gjerde, Emily Luchetti, Nick Stefanelli, John Mooney, Aggie Chin, Jeremiah Langhorne, Rob Duncan, Santosh Tiptur, and Derek Brown.  For tickets and info contact Evelyn Hawkins at 301 347-3298 ehawkins@edens.com.

Bidwell at Union Market

The marble bar at Bidwell

The marble bar at Bidwell

Bidwell is the Union Market’s 120-seat anchor restaurant and high hopes were for it to reflect the market’s philosophy for locally grown produce and in-house made ingredients prepared by a locally known chef – - and that it does.

Known to DC diners from his days at Red Sage and Raku, chef/owner John Mooney signed on early to the project, securing the building’s vast rooftop to grow herbs, fruits and vegetables using “aeroponic” gardening.  Last month I saw the beginnings of what promises to be an enormous garden where towers of plants will grow vertically.  For now the precious seedlings start life in tiny pots in a back storage area strung with 24-hour grow lights.  Mooney’s dedication to rooftop gardening that employs a system based on water, air and sunlight was honed over the years when as restaurant consultant for India’s Taj Hotel Group, he opened PURE by Michel Nischan, the country’s first organic restaurant.  The well-traveled chef, whose love of cross-cultural cuisine is reflected in his latest restaurant, also owns Bell, Book & Candle in New York’s hip West Village.

Escargots roasted with parsley butter and Yukon Gold potatoes

Escargots roasted with parsley butter and Yukon Gold potatoes

The first thing you notice about Bidwell is its character.  It is modern.  So many are these days with that 50’s living room style that seems to be ubiquitously punctuated with spice orange accents.  But here historic details are incorporated – - subway tiles, reclaimed wood and Italian marble – - giving the place an air of coziness.  The large rectangular open concept room has an all-glass front that overlooks the outdoor dining.  At the far end beyond the bar is an open kitchen with dining counter – - a perfect spot to view the organized chaos of the kitchen, and where my amiable dining partner and I had front row seats to all the action.

At the Chet's table with Chef de Cuisine Inez Raoul

At the Chet’s table with Chef de Cuisine Ines Campoamor

Chef de Cuisine Ines Campoamor was in full command of the kitchen when we arrived.  She is a whirlwind of efficiency, charm and energy who made a point of explaining every dish as it arrived.  Admittedly we had a hard time selecting from all the alluring ‘Shared Bites’ and ‘Small Plates’ categories, so we ordered quite a few – - just to cover our bases, don’t you know.

Red and Golden Beet Salad with melted Burrata

Red and Golden Beet Salad with melted Burrata

Most outweighed their plebian descriptions far exceeding what we expected.   Drunken Bean Dip was one such starter that didn’t sound particularly special, but we were urged to try it and we were glad we did.  It uses Pork Slap Beer that rounds out the flavors and there’s an option to add the in-house made chorizo.  I suggest you do.

Crispy Fried Oysters

Crispy Fried Oysters

We followed with sustainably raised Old Salt oysters that are prepared two different ways.  We went back and forth on which to choose.  But why not try both?  Crispy Fried Oysters with green chile buttermilk dressing and Roasted Oysters with garlic butter, bacon and a parmesan crust topped with ribbons of frizzled celery root.  We had to throw in the towel and call it a tie.  You can decide for yourself.

Marinated Fluke Sashimi

Marinated Fluke Sashimi

For a delicate sashimi you can do no better than the Marinated Fluke Sashimi with citrus, a hint of jalapeno and chopped herbs.  You’ll find herbs get star billing at Bidwell and are tucked into nearly every dish including, as you might expect, escargots with the de rigeur soupçon of Pernod, giving us pause to reflect that all was right with the world, if only as a fleeting illusion.

Irish American Onion Soup

Irish American Onion Soup

Pacing ourselves not at all, we dove headlong into the Irish American Onion Soup shingled with Knockamore smoked Irish Cheddar.  I loved this version that uses mushroom broth as its base, and the unusual smoky cheddar, so hard to find, must be sourced from an unnamed shop in New York City.

A playful dessert from Bidwell

A playful dessert from Bidwell

For the destination dish, I suggest planning an entire visit around the Lobster Tacos.  Better than lobster rolls, (Hold the bread, Downeasters!) they’re served on a soft taco with avocado-tomatillo salsa, and merit a plateful.  Not so exciting was the “Gin & Tonic” Verlasso Salmon entrée.  Dry as a bone after marinating for several hours before being hash-tag grilled.  Poor fish.  He could have used a lot less attention and a lot more care.  A temporary setback which we immediately rectified with a root beer float and Ines’s playful dessert of brownies, ice cream cookie sandwiches and meringues.  We were the boss of the goat’s milk caramel sauce in a baby squeeze bottle.  http://unionmarketdc.com/market/artisans/bidwell/

The Launchology Series at The Howard Theatre 

The Launchology Series at the Howard Theatre

The Launchology Series at the Howard Theatre

In early April industree began presenting a fascinating insider look at the restaurant business with its ‘Launchology Series’.  Promising “candid conversations, unfiltered advice and real stories from industry leaders”, all sessions are held at the Howard Theatre.  Earlier this month I attended the second in the series of four.  As a former restaurant owner, I was quite impressed to hear from a panel that pulled no punches and were unflinchingly honest about their experiences in the hospitality industry.

“We originally came up with the concept for Launchology as a result of one of the original speaker series events we hosted,” said Alisia Kleinmann, founder of industree.  “Following that event, we were inundated with so many questions from members in the industry like, ‘How do I get a loan and a space?  I want to go brick and mortar but don’t know how?  How can we hire and keep great people?’ among other critical questions.  So we thought, lets put on a series that explains everything that members in the industry need to know from people who have actually done it all – and not just any people, but some of the best in the business.  And like our speaker series, we aim to keep it real.  The advice, stories and insight our panelists can give to the next generation may not always paint a pretty picture, but we want them to understand exactly what they are getting into, and the best way to go about accomplishing their plans and goals.”

Local entrepreneurs who offered samples of their wares offered a quick breakfast.  Among them Krave Jerky showed off their high protein, all-natural line of turkey, pork and beef jerky for those on the go; Dolci Gelati served up some cold treats – Pomegranate Honeydew and Cherry Blossom were especially welcomed; and Bub and Pop’s gave out scrumptiously juicy beef brisket on a bun.  I took a seat across from a young woman whose husband was a chef with plans to open a restaurant in DC.  He had sent her as his proxy.

And then it was time to get down to business.  The panel consisted of Kathy Hollinger, President of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW); Thomas Dailey, Potomac Construction Services who has built out a number of restaurants in our area; Jeff Black, Black Restaurant Group; Peter Hapstak of HapstakDemetriou+; Russell Stillwell of Next Step Design; Conan O’Sullivan of SONA Creamery; public relations maven, Jennifer Motruk Loy and Tim Ma of Water & Wall and Maple Avenue Restaurant.  Washington Post Food Writer, Tim Carman, who will moderate all the discussions, kicked off the questioning.

Here are a few pearls of wisdom heard at this session.

On choosing a space:

  • Tim Ma – Try to get an existing space that has already gone through the permits applications.
  • Hapstak – Some spaces don’t want to be restaurants.  The costs of installing the exhausts can be very expensive.

On keeping a project on budget:

  • Stillwell – It’s important to do checks as you move along.  At a certain point it’s important to put your pencils down and just get it done.  At the end of the day you just have to hit those numbers for your client.

On restaurant and bar regulations:

  • Hollinger – It’s been crazy in the year and a half I’ve been President.  Everyone is being slammed across the board.  It feels volatile.  Restaurants are being targeted, though I don’t feel these [city] agencies are sophisticated enough to have a strategy.
  • Black – Virginia is tougher than DC.  Even if we do things according to code we can get a rogue inspector that may insist on something that isn’t even in the code.  You have to eat your pride to make sure your project doesn’t go off the rails.

On interior design:

  • Hapstak – We are moving away from the Brooklyn hipster thing and the reclaimed wood thing.
  • Loy – Our design sensibilities have changed.  You can now get advanced materials that look like they’ve come off a barn.

On efficient kitchen design:

  • Hapstak – Our greatest resource is Google.
  • Black – One of my favorite expressions is, “I pay for every step my employees take.  If they take an extra step I lose money.”  Design, time and money balance with food and scale.

On new or used equipment:

  • Ma – Not for refrigeration!  It’s like one year and done!

On opening a new restaurant:

  • Black – Restaurateurs are perpetually optimistic and eternally pessimistic.  Before you open a restaurant you should go to your ANC meetings to know what your customers want.  They’re all very different and have power over your liquor license. You don’t want to sign a lease that you can’t get out of if you don’t get your liquor license.
  • Hollinger – I think the ANCs [Advisory Neighborhood Commission] and BIDs [Business Improvement District] are much more powerful than any of the agencies.  We try to work with all of them and create and cultivate those relationships.

For tickets and information on the remaining sessions on April 22nd and May 13th visit www.DCindustree.com.

Greek Easter at Zaytinya 

Zaytinya will hold their annual and ever-popular two-week festival from April 20th till Greek Orthodox Easter on May 3rd.   Chef/Owner, Jose Andres, and Head Chef, Michael Costa have created a splendid new menu for the Lenten season with seasonal dishes that incorporate authentic Mediterranean ingredients.

ThinkFoodGroup's Head Mixologist Juan Coronado shows off his Baklava Soda

ThinkFoodGroup’s Head Mixologist Juan Coronado shows off his Baklava Soda

Last week we sampled them along with mixologist, Juan Coronado’s specialty cocktail he calls “Mellow Yiayia” made with rye, honey-walnut syrup, lemon juice and St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram.  Yia Yia as you may know is an affectionate term for grandmother.  I’m sure even my Danish grandmother would have loved this.  Coronado has also concocted a Baklava Soda, which is perfect for mixing with bourbon or rum.  The fizzy mixer is made from honey, black walnut syrup, lemon juice and cinnamon.

Lobster Avgolemono for Zaytinya's Greek Easter festival

Lobster Avgolemono for Zaytinya’s Greek Easter festival

To culminate the celebration, on Saturday, May 3rd from 11:30am to 4pm, Zaytinya will host Agora, its annual Greek outdoor market event.  Agora introduces guests to unique Greek artisanal products, wines and more.  The free festival includes live music, Spartan warriors, and complimentary loukamades.  www.Zaytinya.com.

Maroulosalata a housemade fresh myzithra cheese with brown butter hazelnuts and Earth N Eats greens

Maroulosalata a housemade fresh myzithra cheese with brown butter hazelnuts and Earth N Eats greens

 

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Official Launch of the City of Alexandria’s War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration

Jordan Wright
April 10, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

Photo credit to City of Alexandria staff

Photo credit to City of Alexandria staff

The British are coming!  The British are coming!  It’s been 200 years since the British Royal Navy invaded the Port of Alexandria, but this time they’ll be here by invitation.

As event organizer and resident, Peter Pennington explains, “The festival really commemorates two things. The 1814 war, which was vital to the founding of the U. S as one country, and secondly the fact that enemies can become the firmest of friends!”

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World premiered in 2003 and received 10 nominations for Academy Awards, including best picture. It was directed and co-written by celebrated Australian director Peter Weir, famous for movies The Truman Show and Dead Poets Society. The movie was drawn from the 20-volume series of seafaring novels by Patrick OBrian, following the exploits of Captain Jack Aubrey [Russell Crowe] and his close friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin [Paul Bettany]. - Photo credit to 20th Century Fox, Miramax Films and Universal Studios

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World premiered in 2003 and received 10 nominations for Academy Awards, including best picture. It was directed and co-written by celebrated Australian director Peter Weir, famous for movies The Truman Show and Dead Poets Society. The movie was drawn from the 20-volume series of seafaring novels by Patrick OBrian, following the exploits of Captain Jack Aubrey [Russell Crowe] and his close friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin [Paul Bettany]. – Photo credit to 20th Century Fox, Miramax Films and Universal Studios

To kick off Alexandria’s Bicentennial Commemoration of the War of 1812 organizers are holding a “Film Gala” in the newly restored Old Town Theater.  The fundraiser, which will donate part of its proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project as well as the British equivalent Help for Heroes, will begin with a cocktail reception to be followed by a screening of the Oscar-winning naval classic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russell Crowe.  A pre-screening discussion about the shooting of the film will include a talk by Kyle Dalton, who worked on the replica HMS Surprise, the 18th Century Royal Navy frigate used in the movie.  Special guest USMC Sergeant Brendan O’Toole, the 2007 T. C. Williams High School grad who recently ran 3,600 miles across the country to raise funds for the Wounded Warriors, will speak about the charity.  On display will be some of the costumes from the film along with naval artifacts of the period that have been provided by local Alexandria museums.

Alexandria resident Brendan O'Toole carries a U.S. flag during his run through West Texas in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier - Photo by Tim Dwyer

Alexandria resident Brendan O’Toole carries a U.S. flag during his run through West Texas in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier – Photo by Tim Dwyer

Now you might think after torching our Nation’s Capitol and burning down the Executive Mansion in 1814, then several days later storming Alexandria’s harbor and occupying our city, that we wouldn’t be particularly pleased to roll out the red carpet and hoist up the Union Jack for the British Royal Navy.  But indeed we will.  We have a good deal to be grateful for, not least of all that their soldiers didn’t burn down our city.  That most of our historic buildings are still intact is due to a capitulation pact made between the invading British troops and Alexandria’s Common Council who reluctantly granted the marauders free rein to clean out the city’s storehouses of spirits, tobacco, armaments and tasty comestibles, taking with them twenty-one ships from our fair harbor.

Edward Stabler sold to a variety of city and country residents – from Martha Washington to Robert E. Lee, the local doctor to the local farmer.  The typical products Stabler sold included medicine, farm and garden equipment, surgical instruments, dental equipment, soap, perfume, Buffalo and Bedford mineral water, cigars, window glass, paint and varnish, artists’ supplies, combs and brushes.  Much of the medicine he sold was created on-site, using plant and herb materials. - Photo Credit: Ben Fink

Edward Stabler sold to a variety of city and country residents – from Martha Washington to Robert E. Lee, the local doctor to the local farmer. The typical products Stabler sold included medicine, farm and garden equipment, surgical instruments, dental equipment, soap, perfume, Buffalo and Bedford mineral water, cigars, window glass, paint and varnish, artists’ supplies, combs and brushes. Much of the medicine he sold was created on-site, using plant and herb materials. – Photo Credit: Ben Fink

Apothecary owner Edward Stabler, whose pharmacy still stands, described the surprise incursion like this, “Their conduct was respectful and decorous; and instead of that exultation and triumph which expands the heart of a soldier when he encounters and overcomes a force like his own, these [men] were evidently dejected and adverse to what they were doing.”

But they are not entirely off the hook.  Ever since last December when an invitational challenge from Mayor Bill Euille was tendered to the British Royal Navy, the city has been planning a myriad of activities.  Representatives of the British Defence staff, led by Royal Marine Major-General Buster Howes, CB OBE, will participate in the sporting events.

Throughout the spring and summer there will be lectures sponsored by the Alexandria Historical Society, boat tours on the Potomac, and living history events culminating with a large outdoor festival on the final weekend in August when both a cricket match and a yacht race under sail up the Potomac River will take place.  The race will feature the captains of the British team competing against the Old Dominion Boat Club who will represent the city.

Some events are ticketed.  To purchase tickets to the Film Gala visit https://shop.alexandriava.gov/ For information on all other events go to www.visitalexandriava.com/1812.

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The Thousandth Night – MetroStage

Jordan Wright
April 6, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

Marcus

Marcus

How would you like to be a French gendarme? In Carol Wolf’s whirligig of a play The Thousandth Night, the audience is addressed as such by Guy de Bonheur, a hapless Frenchman separated from a roving troupe of performers and caught up in the web of World War II and the Nazi occupation of France. The production is the first of a duet of In Rep one-man shows at MetroStage and a celebration of its 30th anniversary.

It is 1943 at a railway station, 50 miles outside of Paris, and Guy is alone having lost his fellow performers to the clutches of the German officers.  He is fighting for his life, trying to convince the local constabulary to let him board a train to spirit him away from the Nazis and the ultimate penalty – - a trip to a death camp.  He carries a single suitcase filled with the troupe’s props.

The premise of this play is promising.  Guy must convince the police he is a harmless actor, a man whose life’s work is only to entertain.  But the Third Reich’s enforcers believe his work to be “subversive”, and that he is a saboteur.  To convince them otherwise and gain his freedom he reenacts the troupe’s performances to the French police in hopes they will not turn him over to the authorities.  To this end Guy performs 38 separate characters in a series of plays from the classic stories of “The Arabian Nights: Tales From a Thousand and One Nights”.

As Guy (Marcus Kyd) segues from donkey, to sultan to wife and baker, to hunchback, dead body and soldier in the first tale, he dons different hats and scarves in order to depict the separate characters.  Unfortunately the pathos of the play is lost in schtick and campy banalities – talking hats as puppets and women speaking with a swishy effeminacy – the only drama a series of trains arriving at the station with ever more SS officers hunting down the “saboteurs”.  The stories are stale and the characters trivialized, filled with goofy genies, doomed lovers and feisty sultans.  Kyd tries his damnedest to pull it off, but it just doesn’t work.

Not even James Kronzer’s spectacular set design of a full-stage train station replete with dusty windows and period architecture, Alexander Keen’s clever lighting using searchlights and silhouettes of moving trains, or Robert Garner’s electrifying sound design, can bail this one out.

Through May 18th at 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, 22314.  For tickets and information visit www.metrostage.org.

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