The Humans ~ Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
January 13, 2018 

Richard Thomas, Therese Plaehn, Pamela Reed, Lauren Klein, Daisy Eagan, and Luis Veda in the national tour of The Humans. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Richard Thomas, Therese Plaehn, Pamela Reed, Lauren Klein, Daisy Eagan, and Luis Veda in the national tour of The Humans. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Stephen Karam’s The Humans takes a deep dive into the zeitgeist of the modern middle-class American family where there is much to recognize and even more to ponder.  The Blake families are a caring and tolerant lot, more progressive than their Scranton roots might have you think.  They tenderly care for their wheelchair-bound Momo, the family matriarch, who suffers from acute Alzheimer’s, their gay daughter Aimee, their unmarried daughter Brigid (Daisy Egan) and her social worker boyfriend Richard (Luis Vega), and, what may be even more surprising, they are willing to look away from their father Erik’s career-destroying adultery.  What they are not accepting of is how their lost jobs and mounting debt are affecting their future happiness.

As the family gathers around the Thanksgiving table at Brigid and Rich’s recently rented rundown duplex, they appear to be anything but dysfunctional as they exchange gifts and speak in pleasantries and platitudes.  Soon though, Aimee (Therese Plaehn), a successful attorney, goes into total meltdown.  She’s lost both her job and her girlfriend.  To temper the drama there is much dark humor as Momo (Lauren Klein) interrupts with repeated outbursts and foul curses, while Brigid and Rich do their best to explain away the bars on the windows and the cockroaches in the bedroom.

As a deeply Irish Catholic family, they embrace one another’s failings with grace.  Deirdre (Pamela Reed), a mother whose schadenfreude extends to musings on lesbians, AIDS, and cancer, keeps up a cheerful front to jolly everyone along.

The play’s suspense derives from a curious cacophony emanating from an upstairs Asian neighbor.  What can we draw from that?  Does it signify the random incremental erosion of the status quo?  Or is it related to Erik and Rich’s talk of dreams and monsters?  Talk that seems to affirm the unpredictability of their future.  Even the traditional celebratory peppermint pigs, cracked at a table to signify thankfulness, cannot keep out the unknown.  “We just have a lot of stoic sadness,” Aimee opines

Director Joe Mantello brings together a superbly flawless cast.  Richard Thomas shines as the darkly complex father, Erik, in this compelling and empathetic American dramedy that examines the universal human condition.

A multiple Tony-Award winning play, it is highly recommended.

Through January 28th in the Eisenhower Theatre at The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or purchase them online.

On Your Feet! – The Emilio and Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical is a Grand Salsa Party ~ Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
January 11, 2018 

Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Company ~ Photo credit Matthew Murphy

When the original ten-piece Miami Sound Machine is banging out a full-on Latin beat smack dab onstage and bringing sizzling hot salsa rhythms and house party funk, you can party like it’s 1985, the year the group’s huge crossover hit “Conga” soared to the top of the Billboard pop charts.

Entering the theatre Emilio and Gloria Estefan graciously greet fans ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

It didn’t mitigate the excitement that the show’s producers Gloria and Emilio Estefan were in the house last night driving the on-their-feet audience wild with cheers and selfies.  But when it comes right down to it, it’s her story.  Their story.  A universal story of hopeful immigrants everywhere, that bonds us to their triumphs and tragedies in this electrifying musical.

Christie Prades (Gloria Estefan), Mauricio Martinez (Emilio Estefan), Danny Burgos and Omar Lopez-Cepero ~ Photo credit Matthew Murphy

On Your Feet! tells the story of 26-time Grammy Award-winning pop singer/songwriter Gloria Estefan and her producer/husband Emilio and their sensational rise to fame.  In spite of a talent agent who blocked the act from crossing over into mainstream American pop and a record company who wouldn’t allow them to sing in English, the pair did an end-run around discrimination by directly approaching local DJ’s and dance clubs where their beat-driven music had an immediate fan base. “See this face?” Emilio demands of his agent.  “This is an American!”  With this line, the audience broke into instantaneous and sympathetic applause.  After all, it’s kill DACA season and we feel their pain.

Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan, Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Devon Goffman as Phil the Agent ~ Photo credit Matthew Murphy

The “jukebox musical”, as these throwback rock musicals are familiarly called (though one wonders if anyone from that era has ever played a jukebox), depicts the Estefans as children leaving on the “Pedro Pan” flights from Cuba in the early 60’s – flights that brought families from Havana to Miami from the fresh hell that was Batista’s revolution – and settling into the burgeoning Cuban community in Miami. Emilio hears Gloria sing and invites her to join his band, the Miami Latin Boys to gig weddings, bar mitzvahs and quinceañeras.  To her mother’s dismay, Gloria joins the band.  Even a mother’s wishes can’t hold back her teenager’s dreams or her talent.

Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Fajardo and Company ~ Photo credit Matthew Murphy

Flashbacks include Havana’s Montmartre Club and her mother’s truncated career as a nightclub singer, her Vietnam vet father José’s (Jason Martinez) tragic end, and little Gloria’s fondness for her grandmother (Alma Cuervo) and her guitar.  The story charts the pop star’s meteoric success and the near career-ending tragedy of the car accident that left her unable to perform for months.  It’s a deeply personal story that parallels artists’ dreams and immigrants’ aspirations.

Colored by the aqua and hot pink colors made popular by Miami Vice, it stars Christie Prades and Mauricio Martinez (from the original Broadway cast) as Gloria and Emilio.  The Tony Award-winning musical includes many of Gloria’s greatest hits in 26 numbers from “Live for Loving You”, “Get on Your Feet” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”, to heart-melting ballads like “Don’t Wanna Lose You” and “Here We Are”.  80’s period costumes by Emilio Sosa and Cuba-evoking sets by David Rockwell, the band is joined by three additional musicians from the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

Filled with uplifting sparkle.  Get ready to party Latin-style!

Highly recommended for the whole family.

Through January 21st in the Opera House at The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

Company of the National Tour ~ Photo credit Matthew Murphy

An American in Paris ~ A New Musical

Kennedy Center
Jordan Wright
December 15, 2017 

An American in Paris in USA - Photo credit Matthew Murphy

An American in Paris in USA – Photo credit by Matthew Murphy

Ballet buffs and George and Ira Gershwin enthusiasts will adore Director/Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s film-to-stage homage of An American in Paris.  Wheeldon successfully recaptures the mid-century modernist style of dance that Kelly created for the eponymous 1951 classic.  The movie garnered six top Academy Awards and gave Kelly his one and only Oscar.  In this multiple Tony Award-winning interpretation, Craig Lucas has freshened up both the story and the dialogue to appeal to millennials, mad for anything Parisian.

Allison Walsh and McGee Maddox ~ Photo by Matthew Murphy

Set in post-war Paris it is a story of three men enamored with the captivating, Lise (Allison Walsh), an aspiring ballerina whose backstory touches on France’s Nazi occupation.  Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox), an American GI and amateur painter who, like many other soldiers, stayed behind in the City of Light, soon bonds with budding composer and jazz pianist, Adam Hoch (Matthew Scott), an American Jew who survived the war and stayed on with the intention of writing a ballet about it.  Adam makes a few francs mentoring Henri Baurel (Ben Michael), a well-to-do society gent keen on a career as a song-and-dance man in America.  All three pals are unaware that the others are in love with Lise.

Ben Michael, McGee Maddox and Matthew Scott – Photo by Matthew Murphy

There are disparate, sometimes awkward elements in the stage version that can sometimes feel as though it was produced by an ad hoc committee.  The debonair insouciance we remember fondly of Kelly goes missing, yet the salient parts – the wonderful dancing, Bob Crowley’s seamless Parisian set designs, as well as his 1940’s costumes, are superb.  Milo Davenport (Kirsten Scott), Jerry’s American sugar momma and arts patron, wows in an emerald green gown reminiscent of the period.

Kristen Scott and Matthew Scott – Photo by Matthew Murphy

If you love arabesques, multi-revolution pirouettes, dancing en pointe, lofty lifts and leaps, you will fall hard for Maddox and Walsh, who seem cloud-like and gravity-defiant.  After a slew of hip rolls and high kicks in a nightclub can-can, comes Jerry and Lise’s 18-minute pas de deux finale that will cause you to dismiss any less than stellar moments.  Crowley again delivers with Mondrian color-block leotards echoing the abstract minimalist movement of the period.

A twenty-person dance ensemble delights as feather-bedecked Follies girls (Henri’s show biz fantasy tapdanced in tails and high hats), in Grecian tableaus at a salon reception given by Henri’s staid maman, Madame Baurel (Teri Hansen), and in the many jazz ballet numbers.

And harder you may fall for David Andrew Rogers’ soaring orchestra backing songs like “I Got Rhythm”, “S Wonderful”, “The Man I Love”, “Shall We Dance”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, and twelve other somewhat lesser known Gershwin tunes that dovetail neatly into the plot.

Through January 7, 2018 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit website.

Holiday Happenings

Jordan Wright
December 1, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

Synetic Theater ~ MetroStage ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria ~ ICE! at National Harbor ~ Christmas at Mount Vernon ~ Signature Theatre ~ Symphony Orchestra of Northern Virginia 

Raven Wilkes (Babysitter), Justin Bell (Hansel), and Sharisse Taylor (Gretel) Photo Credit: Johnny Shryock

Raven Wilkes (Babysitter), Justin Bell (Hansel), and Sharisse Taylor (Gretel) Photo Credit: Johnny Shryock

Hansel and Gretel at Synetic Theater During the bustle of holiday crowds, Gretel tries to keep her brother, Hansel, out of trouble while their babysitter leaves Gretel to fend for them both. As Hansel embarks on his own wonder-filled exploration of his everyday surroundings, he and his sister fall into a magical realm that takes them far away from home. In this wordless production, the well-beloved Grimm fairy tale embraces the fantastical through the eyes of those who see the world through a different lens.  Directed and choreographed by Elena Velasco and Tori Bertocci.  Through December 23rd at 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City.  For tickets visit www.synetictheater.org.

Christmas at the Old Bull and Bush

Christmas at the Old Bull and Bush

The Old Bull & Bush at MetroStageOriginally staged in the Old Vat Room at Arena Stage writer, director, and actor Catherine Flye will be transferring her 9-person troupe to a circa 1912 replica of the famed Hampstead, England pub to jolly up your holidays with food, 35 songs, jokes, dance, a sing-along and an abbreviated reenactment of Dickens’ Christmas Carol.  With Christmas crackers, British beers and sausage rolls for purchase, the classic British music hall entertainment runs through December 24th at 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, 22314.  For tickets visit www.metrostage.org.

Larry Grey as Fezziwig and Hannah Pecoraro as Mrs. Fezziwig and cast ~ Photo credit Michael DeBlois

Larry Grey as Fezziwig and Hannah Pecoraro as Mrs. Fezziwig and cast ~ Photo credit Michael DeBlois

A Christmas Carol at The Little Theatre of Alexandria – In a fresh interpretation by director Eleanor Tapscott, enjoy a return of the Christmas classic by Charles Dickens. Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable Victorian humbug, travels with diaphanous ghostly guides (beautifully choreographed by Ukranian Victoria Blum) through Christmas past, present, and future to find the true meaning of the holidays.  Complete with special effects, Victorian carols and Tiny Tim. Through December 16th at 600 Wolfe Street.  For tickets call 703.683.0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer atICE!” at the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center – A 9-degree winter wonderland carved from over two million pounds of ice, a Christmas Village, merry-go-round, Glacier Glide ice skating rink, “JOY” – an eye-popping, Broadway-style holiday musical show, nightly snowfalls and dancing fountains at this first-class holiday destination.  Additional events are a Mistletoe Mixology class, Build-A Bear Workshop, photos with Santa, Cookies with Mrs. Claus and so much more. Through January 1st at 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745.  For tickets and event times visit www.GaylordNationaltickets.com.

Photo credit Melissa Wood

Photo credit Melissa Wood

Christmas at Mount Vernon Tour George and Martha Washington’s mansion by candlelight and make merry with 18th century dancing, fireside refreshments and caroling.  Meet Aladdin the Camel, watch holiday fireworks on December 15th and 16th, hear period music, experience a military encampment and more.  For tickets and event times visit www.MountVernon.org.

Holiday Follies at Signature Theatre – Starring jazz singer Ines Nassara, David Rowen (Signature’s Diner) and Katie Mariko Murray (Signature’s West Side Story) singing classic holiday songs.  Through December 16th at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets visit www.SigTheatre.org.

The Symphony Orchestra of Northern Virginia in collaboration with the Office of the Arts presents a “Friday Evening Chamber Concert Series”.  The next concert “A Brass Christmas” is scheduled for Friday, December 15th at the Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron St.  For online tickets visit http://bit.ly/2vSKXRd.  Tickets are also available at the door.

The Real Americans ~ Mosaic Theater Company of DC Atlas Performing Arts Center

Jordan Wright
November 27, 2017 

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

If you saw Vicuña and the American Experience (through December 3rd at Mosaic) and you’re still itching to understand Trump voters, then journey with award-winning impressionist and playwright Dan Hoyle throughout America’s Heartland where Hoyle met some of these mindless flag-wavers.  Adopting the accents and gestures from mall rats and military vets to hipsters, techies and Christian fundamentalist right wingers, Hoyle is the man of a thousand voices.  In his search for folksy wisdom under the woodpile of America, this talented physical comic dons their personas in a one-man whirlwind of impressions.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

That Hoyle actually undertook his courageous, 100-day voyage in a van with the idealism of Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”, as opposed to say, hipster Jack Kerouac, is what sets it apart from your typical wise guy comedian.  He conceived his plan with a deep need to make sense of the direction of our nation’s political landscape.  His sincerity is palpable and raw.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Traveling through bayous and hollers and Midwestern farms to urban outposts, Hoyle comes across redneck pride, thick with ignorance and anger.  He interviews wacky conspiracy theorists and tries to make sense of Ramon, the street-wise Dominican.  These “real Americans” are also ordinary Americans whose isolationism circumscribes their views.  Logic, reason and science are frighteningly absent in their approach to politics and their choice of candidates.  Hoyle suggests the formation of an “anti-ignorance task force” requiring citizens to read at least three books per year.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

He actualizes his experiences through on-the-road phoners and meetups with his liberal, latte-drinking New York City peers who have an equally zero-tolerant, isolated view of the world beyond city limits.  Directed by and developed with Charlie Varon and performed in black box format, it was first produced in 2015.  Since then Doyle has updated the piece to reflect our post-presidential election malaise, touching on the opioid addiction crisis and the effects of Trump world.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Funny and poignant.  Recommended.

Through December 22nd, 2017 in Lab II at the Atlas Center for the Performing Arts, 1333 H Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.  For tickets, info on post show discussions, special rates and discounts visit www.MosaicTheater.org or call the box office at 202.399.7993 ext. 2.