Musicals: Fiddler on the Roof, Little Dancer
Indy spoken word: SpeakeasyDC, Science Comedy
Art: American Sequitur, Think With Your Hands
Hike: Cabin John Regional Park
Food: Floriana, Little Red Fox, DC Noodles, Esme, Jaleo, Dicksons Wine Bar, Bistro D'Oc, Dog Tag Bakery and Cafe Aficionado. Phew.
It has been a week for going to see big ticket musicals. First up, Fiddler on the Roof at Arena Stage. I love this musical but hadn't seen it for years. Arena Stage do a good job with it, and I really enjoyed the staging in the round. The music was great. Some of the acting was also great, but somehow it didn't quite wring much emotion from the audience. Tevye didn't carry it like I've seen others do in the past. But it's still good. It's worth seeing, but it's not life changing. Technically no complaints, but perhaps it lacks a spark...
Little Dancer, on the other hand, is one of the best musicals I've seen in ages. A brand new musical at the Kennedy Center, I wasn't entirely convinced that I was interested in a musical focusing on Degas and the ballerinas he painted. I was wrong. Little Dancer is the name of an infamous Degas sculpture of a young ballet dancer, and the musical imagines the life of that dancer in the Paris ballet world, and her relationship with Degas. The plot is well imagined, the performances are excellent, the look perfect, and the music is somehow still in my head. A particular treat is some of the dancing, and I'm not even much of a ballet fan personally. This is expensive for DC, yes, but absolutely worth seeing, in my opinion. I loved it. And you can see the original statue at the National Gallery of Art now!
But enough of these polished mega-shows for one week, and onto the indie scene. We went to SpeakeasyDC's monthly show, and the theme this time was swansongs. It's interesting as I've never been to a storytelling show where there wasn't significant emphasis on humor. Some of these stories had their funny parts, but I spent a significant part of them wiping away tears. A really good show though, with some excellent storytellers, including Perfect Liars Club favorites Pierce, Cara, Anne and Brent. We also went to Science Comedy. The first time they did this show, a couple of months ago, there were people there, but nobody could accuse it of being busy. On Friday night, the Bier Baron was beyond standing room only. People were trampling each other. There was a horrendous line for the bar. And on the stage, several scientists and science writers told jokes, stories, and even sang a topical science song. Other than wondering how old I need to become before someone gives me their seat, it was an excellent evening of largely very funny people whose jokes were - a rarity in DC comedy - clever and interesting. They're back in January. I wonder if there will be a wonky spin off: DC Economist Comedy, for instance? Hmmm.
Do you use Sosh? It's an app that finds particularly excellent things to do in DC, somehow more effectively than any other 'things to do' researcher (except Brit About Town obviously). Never does a DC weekend approach without me looking up Sosh recommendations for how to have fun. I took them up on two suggestions this weekend and both were great.
I love Artisphere in Rosslyn, but oddly I fail to follow what they have on at any particular time. So when Sosh suggested I check out the Joshua Yospyn photo exhibition, American Sequitur, it seemed like a good excuse to stroll across the river (it opens at noon on weekends). This exhibition is small, sweet, and unexpectedly witty, with an even more unexpected British-style sense of humor. It highlights 'irony, whimsy and pride' in American patriotism, documented during a cross-country road trip. Absolutely worth checking out.
While we were in Artisphere, we also wandered to one of their other exhibitions, Think With Your Hands. We were completely taken aback: this show is beautiful and brilliant. First the art, on the walls and in cases, are whimsical, graphic depictions of journals and dreams. But then it gets so much more exciting. You can download their app or check out one of their iPads, and using the camera function, focus on some of the pictures... and they come to life. In an amazing, mash-up of art and tech, this is perhaps the only time I have felt true, old fashioned delight at the combination. This exhibition is an absolute must-see. It's free. It was pretty much empty when we were there. This is unacceptable - I doubt there's a lovelier exhibition on in the city right now. Prioritize this. Make sure you have at least an hour to spend there - I ran out of time, and I'm not known for lingering. It's on til November 30th.
I also followed Sosh's recommendation to an 'enchanted forest', aka Cabin John Regional Park in Montgomery County. It was quite an investment to get there - nearly $30 on Lyft. And once we did, I'm not sure it was as spectacular as promised. But it was a very attractive forest walk for 6 miles of pretty countryside, along riverbanks (follow the blue trail), and if you're getting bored of the old faithful walks in DC (Glover Archbold, Rock Creek, Roosevelt Island), this might be just what you're looking for.
The latest two ventures on my grilled cheese exploration are (1) Floriana - amazing bread, but I am a grilled cheese purist and felt the deviation from cheddar was just a step too far... and (2) Little Red Fox next to Politics and Prose, which had just okay bread, but a particularly delicious filling including something apple-y.
Moving on from the joys of grilled cheese, I really liked DC Noodles at 14th and U which I just tried for the first time - one of the best pad thais I can remember having outside Thailand, plus friendly and efficient service, and very attractive decor. Looking forward to returning for more! Down at Dupont Circle, a shout out to Ezme, one of my favorite neighborhood Turkish restaurants - it was packed on Friday night, and the baked hummus was everything glorious I remembered it being. And we checked out the Crystal City Jaleo after an evening sipping wine with In The Capital in a design lab as part of the 50 on Fire awards. CC Jaleo not quite as excellent as Penn Quarter Jaleo - but still their pan con tomate is the stuff of dreams.
Then onto dessert: at the delightful Dicksons Wine Bar (surely the very nicest wine bar in the city) they have a seasonal pumpkin bread pudding dessert which is amazing - particularly the caramel coating on the ice cream. Mmmm go try. And mustn't forget Bistro d'Oc. On 10th between E and F. We were off to the Landmark E Street Cinema to see The Way He Looks (which was really good: a coming of age story in Brazil, focusing on a boy who is blind and gay). But first, my lovely wife had promised me dessert in Centrale, which is fantastic for dessert. But on Sunday evening it was closed! Coco Sala: closed. Proof: hideously busy. Poste: ditto. Nopa: ditto. We were giving up (and getting a bit distraught) when we ventured into Bistro d'Oc, right opposite the Ford Theatre. And completely unexpectedly found ourselves in a little corner of France - not Paris France, but a quiet, friendly, informal small town neighborhood bistro. We sat at the bar and ordered profiteroles and they were delightful and we couldn't have felt further from the bustle of tourists and chaos that awaited us just outside the door. I know where I'll be retreating to next time I find myself dessert-hunting before a movie.
And what of those of us who seek a simple coffee, you ask? Well after much anticipation from your Brit About Town, Dog Tag Bakery is finally open! And what's more, it is everything we dreamed. Friendly staff. Great coffee. Fantastic baked goods. Lots of places to sit (the tourists haven't found it yet: shhhh). And even a cool tiny stage - I'm excited to see what they do with that! Baked and Wired, this could be competition for you... I'm scared to reveal too much in case the currently horrifying hoardes of M Street shoppers divert there. It's only a matter of time... check it out soon! We also went to Cafe Aficionado in Rosslyn which was also pleasant and incongruously pretty, but had more of a takeout feel than a place you might settle with a book - though you could: they have a few seats...
What's coming up this week that sounds cool
Wed 12th Nov - Female comedy at Bier Baron? Schtick is a fundraiser, featuring Perfect Liars Club favorites Natalie McGill and Chelsea Shorte.
Wed, Thu and Fri - An 1800s cocktail party with a live stage adaptation of the original radio script of War of the Worlds? This sounds amazing!
Fri 14th Nov - What, The Moth is in DC? Nobody seemed to know in advance, yet it's sold out. How did this happen? If you really want to go, email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be a volunteer. Or else instead head to Speakeasy Shorts for your story fix - storytellers tell their stories - and over the next week competing groups of filmmakers turn them into short films, which you can see next week!
Sat 15th Nov - Feeling arty? You could 'do the loop', i.e. take advantage of a free shuttle bus between the Georgetown art galleries, Katzen Arts Center, Kreeger Museum, and Dumbarton Oaks. Enjoy. Then in the evening head to Sixth and I for comedy by Gary Gulman.
Sun 16th Nov - At 4pm the Hill Center has an exclusive free screening of the original Mary Poppins, in celebration of the actress Mary Wickes. Then the free DC comedy festival kicks off.
Tue 18th Nov - It's a big book fair at the National Press Club. Or go to National Geographic for some practical instruction and sampling of wine/beer/stinky cheese pairings.