I love the idea of Smithsonian at 8 - essentially cool, after-hours events at Smithsonian museums. Its execution can, I've found, be patchy... The venue in this instance was the Postal Museum, perhaps one of the more obscure of the Smithsonian's offerings. And yet as soon as I stepped in it was clear that this is a fun museum. Lots of cool, hands-on exhibits, including one about Amelia Earhart which I really liked, and plenty of trains and delivery trucks to climb into, airplanes to ogle, postal dogs to appreciate... The lighting was evening-ish. The music was thumping DJ beats (that perhaps those more youthful or cool than I might enjoy - but frankly I'd have liked more of a Valentine/Post themed musical repertoire). The Smithsonian at 8 crowd seem to have learned from their disastrous hour-long lines to the bar at their last event and this time had several bars with minimal waiting. And they had various cool things to do, including making my own postal stamp on a computer, crafting a Valentine's card, doing a scavenger hunt, and a 30 minute Story League show about 'missed connections' which was great. We'd splashed out on VIP tickets and I was excited to not only get cocktails but also a little buffet of cakes. (To clarify: there are few things that excite me more than a buffet of cakes). I felt bad for the people who couldn't make it, and lucky that I could - it was really lovely. One of the best nights I've had in DC for ages, and I am making vigorous plans to return to the Postal Museum to see more of the exhibits!
Which is very much more than can be said for the Woolly Mammoth Theatre's latest show, We Are Proud to Present... I was excited to see this show which boasted a few (inexplicable) good reviews, and I went along to their intern benefit. The Woolly Mammoth has a great-sounding intern program, and they had a lovely little pre-show reception with, you guessed it, a cake buffet. Oh what a happy week for me... But the show? Oh dear. Essentially it's about a group of actors trying to workshop a play about the events of the genocide of the Herero tribe in Namibia during German colonization. It's about how ordinary people can come to commit atrocities. It's about how we deal with traumatic history, particularly when it's fueled by race. It's certainly a very worthy, socially relevant play. But, ladies and gentlemen, that doesn't mean it's actually good. As I sat there sneaking looks at my watch (it's 2 hours and 10 minutes without an interval, and almost impossible to sneak out surreptitiously), and counting the audience members opposite me who had fallen asleep (seven), I mused upon my five key impressions: self-indulgent, self-important, preachy, patronizing, shouty.
One of the reviews I read said Woolly Mammoth is the 'very definition of daring and relevant'. I think there's a risk that audiences start assuming that on this basis, everything they see at Woolly Mammoth is in some way brilliant, even if they don't actually enjoy it. But daring means risk-taking. Sometimes they get it very right. I have loved some shows at Woolly Mammoth. But if you're spending your money on theatre tickets this month, Tribes at the Studio Theatre has a better script, with better staging, better acting, more nuanced messaging, and I didn't see anyone sleeping during it. Just my opinion...
The most fun I had this week was performing in Speakeasy DC's Valentine's Day show, Sucker for Love. While this was not a very romantic way to spend Valentine's Day for me (I took my lovely wife to The Gibson for cocktails afterwards - definitely one of the best and coolest cocktail bars in DC)... I had a great time. I've performed with Speakeasy DC before, but this was at the 9:30 Club, which made everything cooler. From green room glamor to 9:30 Club cupcakes (oh yes!) to the massive, sold out audience with my lovely friends in attendance, I was quite charmed by the whole experience! And performing was a lot of fun. I heard the audience laughing so hopefully they enjoyed it as much as I did... (even if they didn't get the cupcakes. Gosh - this really was a good cake week for me).
Other fun things I did this week included going to see the Animated Oscar-nominated Shorts at the lovely Landmark E Street Cinema (I'm rooting for the brilliant, charming Mr Hublot), and walking round Roosevelt Island which is absolutely delightful in the snow.
What I'm looking forward to in the coming week
Tue 18th Feb - Behind the Science with NPR's Joe Palca is about Planetary Science tonight, interviewing Sean Solomon who sounds very cool. I love the concept of interviewing top scientists about what they love about their field... It's at the S Dillon Ripley Centre (next to the Smithsonian Castle) for $20-25.
Wed 19th Feb - The Corcoran is having one of its Corcoran Uncorked evenings, and this one's Hitchcock-themed. Tickets and info here. Oh, and DC's independent film festival starts today and goes on all weekend. Hooray!
Thursday 20th Feb - The show to see tonight is Literary Death Match. I've seen it twice now and it's a mad mix up of writers reading things, and being judged on silly categories. I can't explain it but it works and is brilliant. It only occasionally comes to DC. It's at Sixth and I. Tickets and info here.
Fri 21st Feb - Atlas Intersections festival is happening from 21st Feb - 8th March. A little something for everyone down in H Street... Will have to split time between here and the Independent Film Festival this weekend...
Sat 22nd Feb - DC Shorts is doing a retrospective at the Atlas Intersections festival. Sounds good! It would be reasonable to make this whole weekend a film festival weekend. For example, if you just can't get enough of animated shorts, check out Saturday afternoon's animated shorts at DC's independent film festival!