Sunday, December 29, 2013

Catch-Up: Nuts and Lyons and more nuts, oh my!

Hosaa crawls back to the second-to-last row of the balcony, taking back her comfortable place in the audience following brief (but occasionally long-winded) attempts at providing content....

Knowing the Fall would be a bit over-scheduled, I let the recapping here go a bit. But now it is the end of the year, and I have a few notes to share. I'll keep them brief, if possible. (No guarantees on that.) I'll take any opportunity available to mention Edward Duke and Clay Aiken in the same post, but let's start with the more recent past.

The Nutcracker ~ Joffrey Ballet, Kennedy Center, November 30, 2013 (evening performance)

Overproduced. Very pretty, with lovely dancing, but too busy. The Washington Post's review of the production mentioned the voluminous clouds of dry ice and the snowflake and flower-petal shaped confetti littering the stage, which caused at least two dancers to fall during the performance I saw.

There also were simply too many people on stage. Love to see jobs for dancers, but when your eye doesn't know where to go, you miss some major plot points. (Yes, Virginia, there are plot points in The Nutcracker.) I totally missed Clara chucking her slipper at the Mouse King, which drives the grateful folks in Candy Land to dance their thanks to her in Act II.

Christine Rocas and Rory Hohenstein in the Snow Pas de Deux, courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet via Facebook
Highlights for me were the Arabian lady (Coffee), danced by Christine Rocas, and the surprising balloon airlift out of fantasy land, a la Wizard of Oz. (Unfortunately, that ended the show before Clara/Dorothy could wake up and realize that her dream had been a gift.)

Finale, Joffrey's Nutcracker. Via Facebook
Speaking of gifts and gratitude, however, I am extremely thankful to my dear friend who gifted me this ticket, which not only gave us the God view of the stage, but it also gave me the opportunity to enjoy the experience with someone very knowledgeable about dance! Great fun.

Henry IV by Luigi Pirandello, translated by Tom Stoppard, Lansburgh Theatre, December 9, 2013

The second of this season's free ReDiscovery Series readings, produced by the Shakespeare Theatre Company, here starred the previously described "ferocious" actor Patrick Page as the aristocrat-gone-nuts in Pirandello's blackly comic psycho-social satire. In Stoppard's contemporary interpretation, there was more comedy than I remembered when I read the play at Grinnell (the version in the classic Naked Masks anthology), especially in the form of the four characters in search of a meaningful life as a madman's indulging servants.

But I could barely take my eyes off Page, who, in this stripped-down staged reading (no costumes, no sets, minimal but meaningful stage business), delivered a fully realized character. You want ferocity? Duck. You don't expect mayhem in a polite weeknight reading, but he did all the choking and stabbing required. Hot holy hoo-hah!

Patrick Page, via

I skip momentarily over the next STC event to note:

The Lyons ~ Round House Theatre, December 19, 2013

(L-R) Naomi Jacobson, John Lescault, Marcus Kyd, Kimberly Gilbert - cast of The Lyons. Courtesy of Round House Theatre, via Facebook
Well alrighty. More dysfunctional family black comedy at RHT. Sigh. At least this one had more comedy going for it than the Beauty Queen, and I am genuinely beginning to admire the range in Kimberly Gilbert, who I've now seen in three productions this season.

Kimberly Gilbert, courtesy of Round House Theatre via Facebook
I could use a thematic break, though. A sister-audience-member I spoke with at Ford's Laramie Project mentioned that she was also considering dropping her RHT subscription if this is the artistic direction the theater is taking for its future.

That said, the Lyons matriarch "Rita" (Naomi Jacobson) did have me thinking about my own mother, who I don't think was nearly as disregarding of the feelings of others as Rita is in this play. And that said, when plot lines and characters come this close to home, I prefer to experience them from some safer distance. Give me Lady Macbeth or something.

Now let's skip back to my audience-hood experience:

Meet the Cast reception for The Importance of Being Earnest, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Sidney Harman Hall, December 12, 2013

Thanks to another dear friend, who is a supporter of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in a more tangible way (donor) than I am (slobbering fangirl) I got to sit in on the introductions of the cast for the forthcoming production of The Importance of Being Earnest.  

Director Keith Baxter introduces the cast of The Importance of Being Earnest. Uncredited photos courtesy of STC

This was a first for both of us, and we didn't realize that the main benefit of this event was the fantastic food and beverages served in the upstairs lobby after the presentations. We got the last few nibbles after the Shakespearean hordes had invaded (absolutely yumm-o), and then mingled with the cast.

The well-cast role of "Jack Worthing" went to one Gregory Wooddell, who was too handsome and charming for us to come within five donors of him at the reception.

Gregory Wooddell, cast reception. Courtesy of STC

We did, however, speak to a young "Ensemble" cast member, Logan DalBello, a local boy (Takoma Park) making his way on the theater scene. Very sweet kid.

Logan DalBello speaks with guests at meet-the-cast reception for The Importance of Being Earnest. (Hosaa's elbow seen at far right.) Courtesy of STC, via Facebook.
Logan told us humbly that he was absorbing the older, more experienced actors' wisdom "like a sponge." It reminded me of the advice that Edward Duke once told me he'd been given by Sir Ralph Richardson during the filming of Invitation to the Wedding: "It would be better," Sir Ralph told young Edward, pointing at some indistinct location behind him and well off-camera, "if you stood over there." Logan laughed, though I'm sure he had no idea what the hell I was talking about.

The other cast member we got to speak with was the lovely young thing set to play "Cecily." (It was dark in the theater during the introductions, so I didn't get a chance to write down any names; STC hasn't posted the cast list yet, and my memory fails me now.) In my clumsy attempt to be engaging and topical, I interrupted her while she was answering my question about how she prepares for a new role. ("Organically," she seemed to be saying.) My urgent comment was about there not being an iconic reference for "Cecily" like there was for, say, "Maria" in The Sound of Music, tripping up purists into any form of appreciation for the likes of Carrie Underwood.

Sorry I mentioned it. And very sorry I interrupted poor "Cecily."

So, back to my Edward Duke obsession. During his introductory remarks, director Keith Baxter mentioned that he'd been in the production of Private Lives with Joan Collins. My ears pricked up! OMG! He must have known my Edward!!

Baxter was not actually in the performances I saw at National Theater back in 1992 (we got Simon Jones in the role that Baxter played), but perhaps it was on Broadway or in London.

Anyway, I was very anxious to collar him at the reception and find out anything he could tell me about Edward. In the rush and crowd, I asked him about the "Joan Collins production of Private Lives," and Baxter seemed to think I wanted to talk about Joan Collins. So I blurted out as quickly as I could, "Were you in the show when Edward Duke was in it?"

He didn't seem to remember at first, but then he did say, "Oh, yes. Lovely man." He then went on to express an opinion about Miss Collins, which was irrelevant to me, but he seemed determined to provide some juiciness to our brief discussion. I was just in heaven dreaming about the "lovely man" that Edward Duke was, that he should be so remembered by a fellow actor some 20 years later.

Yes, I'm that fangirly. Still.

Which brings me back to the earlier event I have yet had a chance to recap, which isn't strictly speaking an entertainment.

Champions Gala, National Inclusion Project, October 12, 2013

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the organization co-founded by Clay Aiken, who, according to the Web site, remains Chairman of the Board. Galas are normally out of my price range, especially when it involves travel. I went to last year's because it was local, and even sprung for the VIP ticket for the meet-and-greet and group photo (and bad luck on that, hosaa was not seen in photo).

The event was held in Charlotte, so within driving distance for me. The cheap seats with a reduction in goodies got me in for $75. It was an inspiring evening, though unfortunately Clay didn't sing as much as we all wanted him to (he did sing quite a bit, apparently, at the VIP event the night before).

Clay Aiken sings "You Are the Song" to thank donors and volunteers on the occasion of the National Inclusion Project's 10th Anniversary. Photos courtesy of National Inclusion Project via Facebook

And even sadder for many attendees, the one song he did sing at the end of the evening seemed like a goodbye song. He'd also hinted about changes of life direction and won't we all still support the NIP if he's not around?

WTF? Is he leaving NIP? Is he leaving show biz? Is he - dying?

Well, some people were/are more upset/angry/scared about all that than I was/am. My Edward Duke obsession taught me patience. In the pre-Internet days, I could go years between news items about Edward. When he was cast in Sullivan and Gilbert, for instance, I heard about it from friends who saw him performing in Toronto and sent me a copy of the program.

It was a full two years from that afternoon that Edward let me hang out in his dressing room during Private Lives' Act II before I heard the next tidbit about him. A friend called me at work to report reading his obituary in The New York Times.

So you see, I've lived through the anxiety of silence, and I've lived through a worst-case scenario.

I don't know what to make of Clay Aiken's future just yet. All I know is that it's been fun and interesting to watch him build a future after that first Wild Card scenario 10 years ago. I'm just hanging onto my seat in the audience. That's one subscription I'm not letting lapse!

Love, hosaa

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