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The Tempest – The Shakespeare Theatre Company

Jordan Wright
December 14, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
Photo credit The Shakespeare Theatre Company

Sofia Jean Gomez as Ariel

Sofia Jean Gomez as Ariel

Lest you forget.  Ariel is the feisty sprite in The Tempest who flits around doing Prospero’s bidding.  And yes, here she flies, though aided by what appears to be a ship’s thick mooring line.  In a way, it’s refreshing to have it be obvious, unlike an aerialist’s metal wire that reveals itself from time to time.  Once you’ve gotten accustomed to it, it seems natural.  As if a floating fairy might be considered “natural”!

As you’ll recall Prospero (Geraint Wyn Davies), the former Duke of Milan, is endowed with magical powers and charges Ariel and her gang of harpies with fulfilling all of his commands – – from the murder of his brother, Antonio (Gregory Linington), who stole his dukedom while he was lost at sea, to assuring the love match of his daughter, Miranda (Rachel Mewbron), and her paramour, the smitten Ferdinand (Avery Glymph).  “They are both in either’s powers,” Prospero brags upon their first encounter.

Avery Glymph as Ferdinand and Rachel Mewbron as Miranda

Avery Glymph as Ferdinand and Rachel Mewbron as Miranda

All this makes Ariel a very busy little spirit who must also oversee her cohort Caliban (Clifton Duncan). Once the proud owner of this island of Sycorax, he has been reduced to a firewood gatherer by Prospero.  Sofia Jean Gomez plays Ariel, a hissing, clawing spitfire, with a duplicitous vulnerability.  “Pardon, Master, I will do my spriting gently,” she assures Prospero, hoping to gain her freedom through obedience.

(L to R) Dave Quay as Stephano, Clifton Duncan as Caliban and Liam Craig as Trinculo

(L to R) Dave Quay as Stephano, Clifton Duncan as Caliban and Liam Craig as Trinculo

Director Ethan McSweeny presents us with a spare sand-drenched set adorned with a single shipwreck.  This bold arrangement allows the playgoer to more fully absorb the characters’ relationships in this lightened up script of Shakespeare’s final play, though the stripped down interpretation yet gifts the audience with all the humor, skullduggery and romance the play affords.  And although there is plenty of bloodthirsty treachery plotted by both the duke’s brother Antonio and his coterie of royal thugs, there is much lighthearted whimsy to enjoy especially when Trinculo (Liam Craig), portrayed as a hapless jester, and Stephano (Dave Quay), a hilarious drunk, pair with Duncan to create a total riot fest in a classic scene of mistaken identity – – if you can mistake three men under a gabardine cloth for a spider.

Rachel Mewbron as Miranda and Geraint Wyn Davies as Prospero

Meanwhile the lords are plotting, as embittered royalty is wont to do, to murder Prospero.  But the Sorcerer’s magical powers prove too strong to overcome and Prospero drugs the lords.  “What’s past is prologue,” Antonio reminds us.

Adding to McSweeny’s vision Sound Designer Nevin Steinberg conjures up some jaw-dropping audio, producing a tempest filled with such thunder claps you’d be pardoned if you thought the entire theater might succumb to a roiling sea.  Lighting Designer Christopher Akerlind augments the storm’s ferocity with a few masterful tricks of his own.

When at last our two lovers are joined Designer James Ortiz imagines the joyful goddesses Juno, Ceres and Iris as giant, diaphanously draped puppet masks, bringing to mind the fantastical puppetry of Julie Taymor, known best for her imaginary creatures in The Lion King.

Highly recommended.

Through January 11th 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.

Nibbles and Sips Around Town – December 9, 2014

Jordan Wright
December 9, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
 

Ben Thompson of The Rock Barn with assorted charcuterie

Ben Thompson of The Rock Barn with assorted charcuterie

Mark your calendars now for one of DC’s best dining events.  On December 16th the 2014 StarChefs Washington DC area Rising Stars Gala will be at Dock 5 at Union Market.  There’s even a special VIP reception where swells can sip champagne and nibble on Petrossian caviar before the awards ceremony and tasting gala dinner.  The celebration will feature local foods, chefs, bartenders, roasters, brewers, artisans and sommeliers.

The fundraiser for DC Central Kitchen will be hosted by Bryan Voltaggio former Top Chef and Top Chef Master finalist and Chef/Owner of Volt, Range, Lunchbox, Family Meal and Aggio.  Co-Hosts are Jason Alley of Comfort, Bertrand Chemel of 2941, Nadine Brown of Charlie Parker Steak, Chris Ford of Range, Stefan Trummer of Trummer’s on Main, Nick Stefanelli of Bibiano and Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya.  The winning chefs will prepare all the food on this fabulous night and I will be there.  Will you?  For tickets and information visit www.starchefs.com/risingstars.

Phillip Perrow and Caleb Shriver of Dutch & Co.

Phillip Perrow and Caleb Shriver of Dutch & Co.

Drum roll, please!!!  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you DC’s newest culinary royalty.

DC Chefs

Kyle Bailey of The Arsenal at Bluejacket  – Pork Loin, Chanterelles, Asian Pears, Red Quinoa, and Pecans

Mike Friedman of Red HenCavatelli, Heirloon Squash, Mushrooms, and Sage

Matthew McGhee of RANGE - Octopus, Lentils, Wheat Berries, and Pistachio

Joe Palma of Bourbon SteakFluke Crudo, Furikake, Golden Beets, Herb Jus, Baby Turnips, and White Shoyu

Aaron Silverman of Rose’s LuxuryPork Sausage and Habanero-Lychee Salad

Johnny Spero of minibarAustralian Lamb, Cucumbers, Whey, and Dill 

Beef Tartare from Lee Gregory and Thomas Leggett of The Roosevelt

Beef Tartare from Lee Gregory and Thomas Leggett of The Roosevelt

Virginia Chefs

Ian Boden of The ShackPretzel Gemelli, Virginia Ham, and Mustard Sauce

Austin Fausett of Trummer’s on MainDuck, Foie Gras, Popcorn, Wild Rice, and Balsamic Reduction

Lee Gregory of The RooseveltWagyu Tartare, Egg, Squid Ink Bread, and Pickled Watermelon

Phillip Perrow and Caleb Shriver of Dutch & Company - Rye Perfect Egg, Cured Salmon, Quinoa, and Cumin Yogurt

Joe Sparatta of HeritageFlounder, Smoked Potatoes, Spinach, and Brown Butter

Maryland Chefs

George Marsh of Parts & Labor - Lebanon Bologna

Graeme Ritchie of Volt - Wagyu Short Rib, Malt, and Salsify

Community Chef

Mike Isabella of KapnosAustralian Lamb with Grain Salad

Concept Chef

Nathan Anda of Red ApronTête de Pho

Pastry Chef Giane Cavaliere of Rogue 24

Pastry Chef Giane Cavaliere of Rogue 24

DC Pastry Chef

Giane Cavaliere of Rogue 24 -Sour Cherries, Valrhona Chocolate, Cola and Pistachios

Maryland Pastry Chef

Sarah Malphrus of Woodberry KitchenButtermilk Sorbet, Oat Granola, Sorghum and Peaches

Restaurateur

Derek Brown of Columbia Room, Eat The Rich, Mockingbird Hill, The Passenger and Southern Efficiency - Oloroso Float

DC Artisans

Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey of 3 Stars Brewing CompanySouthern Belle Imperial Brown Ale

Austin Fausett of Trummer’s on Main - Duck, Foie Gras, Popcorn, Wild Rice, and Balsamic Reduction

Austin Fausett of Trummer’s on Main – Duck, Foie Gras, Popcorn, Wild Rice, and Balsamic Reduction

Virginia Artisans

Evrim Dogu of Sub Rosa BakeryRosemary Sea Salt Flatbread

Benjamin Thompson of The Rock BarnPickled Okra Dog and Assorted Charcuterie

Maryland Artisans

Jay Caragay of Spro Coffee - French Press Ethiopian Lekepipto

Bartender

Bryan Tetorakis of Rogue 24The Martyr

DC Sommeliers

Brent Kroll of Neighborhood Restaurant GroupPairings with winners’ dishes

Julian Mayor of Bourbon Steak - Pairings with winners’ dishes

Maryland Sommelier

Julie Dalton of Wit and WisdomPairings with winners’ dishes

Host Chef - Franck Loquet of iCi Urban Bistro - VIP reception – Petrossian Caviar 

See you there!

Christmas Thrills and Chills for Every Theatregoer

Jordan Wright
December 8, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times

The Nutcracker performed by The Washington Ballet

One of the best ways I know of to get excited about the Christmas season is to get thyself (and thy family) to the theatre where you can watch dancers soar in Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker performed by The Washington Ballet, sing your heart out to the National Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Kennedy Center, or be transported by the age-old charms of A Christmas Carol.  Whether you’re a traditionalist or modernist, there’s something for every taste, and plenty of holiday spirit for the kids too and plus a whole lot of ICE! to pretend we’re at the North Pole.

Signature Theatre

At Signature Theatre it’s zany adult fare with a new spin on the beloved seasonal revue, Holiday Follies.  Directed by Walter Ware III with musical direction by the inimitable Howard Breitbart, it’s an audience song choice evening featuring four fabulous singers, Gannon O’Brien, Stephen Gregory Smith, Delores King Williams and Bayla Whitten in a cabaret set list that changes with each performance.  For tickets and information visit www.Signature-Theatre.org or call the box office at 703 820-9771.

Peter Boyer (Scrooge)-Tracey Stephens (Charity Collector)  Tracey Stephens as Bob Marley (in the body of Mae West)

North Pole enthusiasts will enjoy thrills and chills at this year’s ICE! – now at the Gaylord National Resort.  The fun starts at the door of this glamorous resort when you lay eyes on the 60-foot tall glass tree glowing with over 2 million lights and gaze at the nightly indoor snowfall and musical “dancing” fountains.  There’s fun for the whole family at the “Christmas on the Potomac” celebration where Frosty the Snowman is the star attraction. For info visit www.ChristmasOnThePotomac.com.

60-foot tall glass tree with 2 million lights

Carved from more than 2 million pounds of brightly colored ice sculptures and kept at a crisp nine degrees, you’ll stroll through life-size scenes of Frosty coming to life, marching through the Town Square, taking a train to the North Pole and Santa coming to the rescue to make “melted Frosty” whole again.  Kids and grownups will want a turn on the two-story ice slide before checking out the interactive “Frostbite Factory”, where the Chinese artisans show off their master ice carving skills.

Two-story ice slide

Afterwards head to the Atrium where little ones can hop aboard the miniature Peeps & Company Potomac Express Train or join DreamWorks’ Gingy from Shrek to decorate a gingerbread house to take home.  Along the way play The Great Reindeer Roundup scavenger hunt throughout the hotel’s indoor gardens.

Potomac Express Train

To learn about the many other holiday plans at the resort and to make reservations for the Brunch with Santa at Old Hickory Steakhouse, a DreamWorks’ Madagascar Crack’ A Lackin’ Cook-in Character Breakfast or buffet Dinner, a Yule log pastry making class, or a wine and cheese pairing class with the Old Hickory’s Maitre d’Fromage visit www.GaylordNationalTickets.com or call 301 965-4000.

At MetroStage the Great White Way is celebrated in A Broadway Christmas Carol, a spoof of the classic tale featuring the usual suspects – – Marley, Scrooge, Mrs. Fezziwig, The Cratchits and Tiny Tim.  Set to familiar Broadway blockbusters this madcap Christmas special is performed by three phenomenal singer actors, Peter Boyer, Michael Sharp and Tracey Stephens plus alternating pianists, Howard Breitbart and William Knowles.

Peter Boyer (Scrooge)-Tracey Stephens (Want)-Michael Sharp (Ignorance) – Photo: Colin Hovde

Lyricist Kathy Feininger has concocted all the belly laughs you can handle in this riotous revue that draws its musical chops from all your fave shows like Oklahoma, Guys and Dolls, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Wiz and many, many more.  More than five-dozen tunes and a whirlwind of wacky costume changes jam-pack this hilarious parody directed and choreographed by Michael Sharp.  For tickets and information visit www.MetroStage.org or call the box office at 703 548-9044.

The Little Theatre of Alexandria  Scrooge (Mike Baker, Jr.)-Photos by Veronica Brunoo

For the traditionalist The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents its annual heartwarming classic, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ classic tale of transformation and redemption.  Set against the backdrop of Victorian England, the show has gorgeous costumes, ghastly ghosts and charming children.  Rachael Hubbard adapts and directs this picture perfect Christmas postcard for a family friendly show that reminds us all of the true meaning of the season.  If it’s a Currier & Ives Christmas you hunger for, this is the show for you.  For tickets and information visit www.TheLittleTheatre.com or call the box office at 703 683-5778.

Beauty and The Beast – Synetic Theatre

Jordan Wright
December 8, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times 

Irinka Kavsadze as Belle, Vato Tsikurishvili as The Beast. Photo by Johnny Shryock

Irinka Kavsadze as Belle, Vato Tsikurishvili as The Beast. Photo by Johnny Shryock

In Ben and Peter Cunis’s original adaptation of Gabriel Bardot de Villeneuve’s classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, the audience finds themselves catapulted into a dark world of forest spirits, shapeshifters, a hideous horned beast and a vengeful beauty – – no, not the beautiful ingénue Belle – – but the prince’s spurned first love, Emmeranne, who morphs into a magnificent crow in a scene plucked straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds putting death and destruction foremost on her agenda and setting up the audience for an indelibly unique interpretation.  The scorned woman is an introduced character serving as the prince’s nemesis and his reality check.  In this telling she is hell-bent on revenge and retribution for his fickle-minded affections.

Renata Veberyte Loman plays the hauntingly vengeful Witch and Narrator, Emmeranne, who taunts and curses the man she has transformed into a terrifying beast. “Crows don’t talk.  And love never, ever hurts,” the enchantress proclaims, determined to demonstrate the opposite.  Don’t look for Disney’s saucy little teapot to make an appearance.  The Cunis brothers’ highly imaginative bedtime story is more in keeping with the fiendish fairy tales of the brothers Grimm, or the moralistic fables of Hans Christian Anderson.

Renata Veberyte Loman as Narrator/Witch “Emmeranne”. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Renata Veberyte Loman as Narrator/Witch “Emmeranne”. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Another introduced character is the top-hatted Fantome, the Beast’s magical servant.  Matthew Alan Ward gives a captivating performance in a silent role that draws on his elegant physicality and talent for mime.

Vato Tsikurishvili portrays the Prince and the Beast with both heart and soul, rendering him monstrous at times, at others, as sympathetic a character as Quasimodo.  Irina Kavsadze, a delicate beauty who is the perfect foil for the diabolical Emmeranne, the fearsome beast and the castle’s living candelabras that make up the ensemble, plays Belle.

Irinka Kavsadze as Belle. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Irinka Kavsadze as Belle. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Delivering the perfect alignment of creativity are Scenic Designer Daniel Pinha’s opulent sets and dual ramps providing both comedy and drama, Clint Herring’s original score blending new wave and classical sounds, Sound Designer Thomas Sowers’ eerily futuristic effects, Lighting Designer Brittany Diliberto’s clever transitions all of which combine to produce some splendid special FX throughout, including the Prince’s transmogrification and the creation of a projection screen in the shape of an egg through which the audience views a parallel universe depicted in silhouetted woodcuts.

Irina Tsikurishvili’s choreography adds kinetic flair to a memorable slow motion fight-and-flight scene and a romantic danse è deux between Belle and the Beast, while Costume Designer Kendra Rae draws on leather, silk, fur to reflect lost elegance and folklorica to offer a comedic relief in the costumes of Belle’s ditzy sisters played by Anna Lane and Kathryn Elizabeth Kelly.

Lest you think it’s too scary for children (though I wouldn’t recommend it for the very young), as the theatre was letting out, I asked an eight-year old if the witch had frightened her.  “Not at all,” she declared, to which her father added, “She’s not afraid of anything.”

Utterly spellbinding.

Through January 11th at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City.  For tickets and information call 866 811-4111 or visit www.synetictheater.org.

Interview with Elisabeth de Kergolay of Babeth’s Feast

Jordan Wright
December 6, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

Elisabeth de Kergorlay

Elisabeth de Kergorlay

Elisabeth de Kergolay has led a charmed life with nannies, chateaus and pied-a-terres, though that’s never stopped the beautiful young countess from using her entrepreneurial spirit to bring fresh ideas to America.  Take for example her early investment in Le Pain Quotidien, the rustic chic French bakery café she invested in with Belgian chef and founder Alain Coumont in 1990.  Since then the well-known communal table eatery with four locations in the DC area, has skyrocketed to 200 outlets in 17 countries.  She clearly knows a great idea when she sees it.

Recently de Kergolay launched a frozen food emporium in New York City that is poised to recreate the same success she has enjoyed through her earlier business foray.  Fashioned after the popular Paris store Picard, Babeth’s Feast opened on the Upper East Side in early August.  The groundbreaking store offers high-end frozen foods and cooking demonstrations.  Where has this clever idea been?

After learning about her venture at the opening of Daniel Boulud’s new DC outpost DBGB, Whisk and Quill was highly intrigued to learn more about this novel concept.  

Jordan Wright – What is your past experience with food?

Elisabeth de Kergolay – I grew up around food, and being around Daniel when I was young was a great experience.

Tell me about your inspiration for Babeth’s Feast?  How long has it been in the planning stages?

It was based on the concept of Picard from France.  Arriving in New York in 2008, I like many other French people wondered, ‘Where’s the frozen food store?  Where’s the Picard?’  When I realized there wasn’t one, I thought it had been tried and failed.  But actually it had never been tried!  So I thought about it a lot and spoke to quite a few people and decided to go ahead.  I knew there was a niche for this, though it took several years to achieve.  We had to do absolutely everything from the ground up – – creating and positioning the brand, selecting the products and designing the packaging.

The idea was to have a full range of products.  We like to think of ourselves as a frozen grocery store where you can get anything you want for every meal of day.  We have 400 products divided up into 10 different food categories.  For sourcing and creating the recipes we have our chef, Susie Cover, who develops the recipes.  Initially we made a list of what we liked of French-inspired foods then adapted them slightly to suit American tastes.  We make over half of our products.  Some are made by Susie, and some by private label, others are manufacturers’ brands made by companies who are specialists in their field.  Of course we want our own products to be predominant in the future, but for the moment the remaining products are manufacturers’ brands.  For that we select small companies who are specialists in their field.

Has Daniel been involved with Babeth’s Feast?

Daniel wrote a recipe for our cabbage soup using our fantastic lobster tails – – something new we had brought in for the holidays.  We work with a lobster manufacturer in Maine to assure the most impeccable quality.  In the future I want to explore having other chefs create dishes for us.

Are all the foods prepared?

Mostly, but some are unprepared cuts of meat and sausage and things that we source locally from the Hudson Valley.  Also all our fish are raised sustainably.  For uncooked products we help the customer with recipes.

Who creates the recipes?  

Susie does.  We brainstorm together to come up with different dishes and then she comes up with a recipe.  Most of the original ones we did were traditional French, but we have moved on to curries and other things.  We taste new dishes with our store team and our board to decide which we like.  For the best local products, Susie also visits the food shows.  For example, our ice creams are from Maine and New York, our meat-based products are prepared in Connecticut, and we produce our soups and quiches in New York.

Are they made in the sous vide style? 

Ours are flash frozen, but some of the products we carry are made sous vide.

How are they readied for the table by the consumer?

Usually we have three options – bake, microwave or pan-warmed as with our velouté soups.  Of course if it’s a gratin, it needs to be baked.

Do you sell any fruits, herbs, lemons or salad fixings to complement the dishes?

We have a selection of frozen herbs that have been very successful from the day we opened, like chopped onion, garlic and shallot, as well as sauces and spreads.  And we have a pantry category as well.  We carry crackers for the spreads, jams for our breads and sauces for our meats.  Some of the jams are ours and some are French brands that are not yet known in the US.

Do you find customers buy your products to take to their weekend homes for entertaining?

Absolutely.  I think the customer has yet to get used to the idea of having things in advance for special occasions as well as for regular use for whenever you need them.  For me, although I still like cooking, perhaps I won’t make a side dish.  I might make some fish or meat that I’ve purchased elsewhere to complement some of the side dishes that I keep in my freezer. It’s a whole way of mastering the use of frozen food.  It answers many needs.

Do you ship to customers who might not have access to high quality foods?

We ship nationwide by FedEx.  It’s packed in dry ice. And we deliver around Manhattan too.

What are the most popular items?

So far mostly the main courses like Coq au Vin, Veal Blanquette, Chicken Provençal and Chicken Tarragon.  Also side dishes like Susie’s gratins and her favorite savory crumbles.  She’s made three this season – one with Brussels Sprouts, one using tomatoes and another with butternut squash.

Coq au Vin Fig and Caramelized Onion Puffs Tomato Crumble

What surprised you the most since you’ve opened?

I think really the time and the interest that people spend in the store looking before buying. When I shopped at Picard in France I was single and going out all the time, I didn’t spend a lot of time looking.

People are learning that we have a tasting area where we sample all day long.  It was something that was indispensable to the success of the store.  Because when they try they “get it”, and it’s so satisfactory for us.  We know there’s a certain stigma attached to frozen food because the offerings haven’t been great.  In France people choose to go to the frozen food store.  It’s not considered a last resort.

I looked at your online calendar and your upcoming cooking demonstrations sounded exciting.  I was especially captivated by the one called “Comfort Food” featuring Cauliflower Blue Cheese Velouté, Lamb Shanks, Sweet Potato Écrassé, and the Banana Apple Crumble.   Are you also teaching your clients to cook at home as well as purchasing the products?

We show them how to pull it all together.  When we give a demonstration we’ll use a few different products to create a meal.  We want to keep it simple.  We also show people how to plate the foods and show them tricks as how to serve it in their own dishes.

What other helpful tricks do you use? 

We use a color code for each category of product.  The idea behind this was to see exactly what the product is when it’s in the freezer.  Like the breakfast products are coded yellow.  That way you can see immediately what you have without having to rummage around.

Babeth’s Feast is at 1422 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10028.  For more information visit www.BabethsFeast.com

Mini parfaits

Mini parfaits