Turandot Captures Tragedy with Balletic Passion

By Jordan Wright

Turandot and her father, the mandarin.

Turandot and her father, the mandarin.

Maija Kovalevska made her Kennedy Center debut as the slave-girl, Liu, in this season’s Turandot and the role will never be the same. Her portrayal of the sympathetic Liu was nothing less than transcendent.

With a voice that renders music “noteless,” pours forth pure and effortless in its transitions, and a physical presence that captures her tragedy with balletic passion, Kovalevska owned every moment that she was on stage.

This “Lily of Latvia” challenges all who have ever sung the role and those who have yet to.

Like Alexander Pope’s sylph, full of spleen and vanity, Sylvie Valayre, as the bloodthirsty Princess Turandot, stalks the stage seeking revenge and becomes the very thing that she despises, cruel and loveless. Unfortunately, Valayre’s performance was neither sympathetic nor nuanced, so that when at last she is revealed by Calaf’s kiss to be a frightened girl, we are stymied by the sudden shift.

Dario Volente gave the vainglorious Calaf his all, but it was not enough to bolster the Persian prince. His Calaf was competent but devoid of heft, his stultifying voice following the libretto as notes on a page.

A very bright note was the brilliant set design by Sally Jacobs that reminds one of Canton Famille Rose porcelain, with its delicate depictions of Chinese life.

When Ping, Pang and Pong, fearing Calaf will fail the test of the three riddles, and hoping to flee their awful fate, wax nostalgic with homesickness, Jacobs employs a hand-painted bolt of silk fabric depicting scenic landscapes. This billowing panel unfolds behind them and travels across the stage like Christo’s “Running Fence”, quickly transforming the set to accommodate the music.

Her slate grey backdrop of a Chinese palace serves to further enhance the bright costumes and Kabuki-style masks in this amalgam of Asian culture that Puccini imagined.

Well-received too, was conductor, Keri-Lynn Watson, making her Washington National Opera debut with this production, which closed June 4.

Valerie Harper Wittily Channels Hollywood Bad Girl Tallulah Bankhead in ‘Looped’

By Jordan Wright

Looped reach to director

Looped reach to director

Valerie Harper wraps her considerable performing skills around the witty and uninhibited Tallulah Bankhead like a full-swing sable coat and inhabits the former screen star’s persona like a hungry spirit. Her portrayal of the imperious legend is spot on, an hilarious channeling of this Hollywood “bad girl”.

Bankhead was always a fascinating character in the same vein as Dorothy Parker, Josephine Baker and Eva Tanguy, the original “I Don’t Care Girl”. Bawdy, uncensored and drenched in bon mots, Bankhead was a brilliant but controversial leading lady.

Writer Matthew Lombardo’s “Looped” is based on an episode in a recording studio when Bankhead was asked to redo one line to be synced into the classic b-movie, ”Die! Die! My Darling!”.

Like Kathy Griffin (“My Life on the D List”), Bankhead was notorious for peppering her language with colorful four-letter words that would make a sailor blush, and Harper nails it with an uproarious performance in this over-the-top sendup.

Emotional projection

Emotional projection

Fueled by cigarettes, cocaine, pot and booze Bankhead quips, “Everyone has their vices. It’s just that mine all come out to play at the same time.” The one-liners come fast and furiously, most too raunchy to repeat. In his role as studio “suit” Danny Miller, Jay Goede, as straight man, is convincing. To his rejection of her advances she declares, “If I were hungry for a man, I would want a meal not an hors d’oeuvre!”

After the show a little old be-pearled lady beside me whispered, “She’s not like me at all. I’m very straight-laced. Oh, I wish I could be like that!” To judge by the audience’s enthusiasm it seems we’d all like to be a little like that.

Catch it before it leaves town. (Harper will be the Celebrity Grand Marshall of DC’s feathered and fabulous Gay Pride March on June 13.)

If You’re Going…


At the Lincoln Theatre until June 28

1215 U Street

Washington, DC


For ticket information call (202) 488-3300

The X-Files R.W. Goodwin: Setting Down with Alien Trespass

Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions Behind the Scenes on Alien Trespass with Jenni Baird, Eric McCormack and director R.W. Goodwin

Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions Behind the Scenes on Alien Trespass with Jenni Baird, Eric McCormack and director R.W. Goodwin

By Jordan Wright
January 4, 2009

R.W. Goodwin, best known as the director/producer of “The X-Files,” was in town last week and Local Kicks Senior Editor Jordan Wright sat down with him to explore his latest cinematic foray into the realms of outer space.

LOCAL KICKS: What is your attraction to the sci-fi genre?

GOODWIN: It was all accidental, if you want to know the truth. Years ago I was a producer on “Star Trek.” They’d given up the idea of a movie at Paramount but wanted to do it again as a series with the original cast except for Leonard Nimoy and Gene Roddenberry. They asked me to do it. I didn’t know much about sci-fi then. I couldn’t call myself a Trekkie.

“The X-Files” was one of those serendipitous things. I was moving our family up to Washington State to get the kids in school up there and we picked a little town called Bellingham, WA. near the border (of British Columbia), and I’d produced a number of shows in Vancouver.

I get a call from Fox and they set me up with Chris Carter who is doing 12 episodes of this show.

“Alien Trespass” came about through Jim Swift who also lives up in Bellingham. I’d known him for about six years, he was an avid “X-Files” devotee, and after a few years he presented me with a story outline. Continue reading The X-Files R.W. Goodwin: Setting Down with Alien Trespass