REVIEWED THIS WEEK: Filmfest DC, Jarman at the Atlas, Helen Hayes Awards for DC theatre, 3 bike rides around the city, TSNY Trapeze school, Story League, General Assembly's mobile phone app development class, and DC's newest gin.
This week has been all about films, theatre, trapezing, and cycling around DC.
Washington's International Film Festival, Filmfest DC, is at about its midway point, and so far I've loved seeing a range of diverse and intriguing films. Here is a paragraph of my short reviews!
Best has been King Ordinary, a German film about a man so average that he's seized as a precious market research resource - very funny, interesting premise, riveting... if you get a chance to see it, I highly recommended! We absolutely dashed from Landmark E Street to Mazza Gallerie for our second film that same night, The Great Passage, but while it was quite good, it wasn't a patch on King Ordinary. It was a Japanese film about the making of a dictionary. It would have been better if they'd cut about 50 minutes from it, but still worth seeing. Which is more than I can say for Viktoria, the very next day. Back at Landmark, I had high hopes for Viktoria, a Bulgarian film about a girl who becomes a symbol for the glory of communism - and it started out well. But then it went on for what felt like five hours and really, really lost its way. I was gazing at my watch every 5 minutes, willing it to be over (and in retrospect, I probably should have just left!). The following day I'd booked tickets for Harmony Lessons but I somehow wasn't in the mood for misery and torture in Kazakhstan and skipped it... but we still had two films that day, both at Mazza Gallerie: A Five Star Life, an Italian film about a woman who inspects luxury hotels was charming and lightly funny. And Half of a Yellow Sun, about the conflict in Nigeria, was very good and worth seeing when it's inevitably soon on general release. In between I went to the Tasting Rooms Wine Bar to find it was shutting down that very day: what a shame! Not that it had the best wine in the world, but now I need a new Friendship Heights bar to accompany my movie trips: any suggestions?
Meanwhile, it's also been DC Theatre Week. Many of the discounts were sold out by the time I got round to booking, but I did get to go to Jarman (All this Maddening Beauty) at the Atlas Performing Arts Centre on its opening night on Saturday. This force/collision production is a one-man tribute to the life of British artist, film director, and gay man Derek Jarman - who died of HIV/AIDS. An interesting topic, taken on by what is clearly an energetic and talented company with real vision. The result: an ambitious piece, which is not yet fully realized. (For Londoners: it seems to be aiming for something in the vein of the excellent Confessions of a Dancewhore.)
John Moletress carries the show, alternately playing Jarman himself, and one of Jarman's fans. It's stylish, and I liked that it integrates some cool film stuff (featuring an array of scantily clad gay gentlemen from DC, most of whom were in the audience, giggling throughout). It seems to aspire to capture the feeling of a person in a certain time rather than deliver a chronological plot. It self-consciously aims to be edgy. And it sort of succeeds in all this. But as a self-professed work in progress, this show is indeed not really ready for audiences yet. The script is a bit meandering and needs some editing and focus. People laugh when it doesn't seem they were intended to. The design doesn't work perfectly in this particular space, with different films playing on different screens causing the audience to move our heads like we were watching a tennis match. There's a bit too much reliance on audio over live performance. But for me, the biggest challenge is that Moletress, who generally performs well, has not yet pinned down either or the two English accents he attempts throughout the show. I see this play is planning to tour to the UK and if it's to be anything of a success there, Moletress needs many more hours of accent training first. Americans may not have been aware. But as Brits, we were so distracted by Moletress's problems grasping the two accents, we almost couldn't concentrate on anything else - it overwhelmed much of the cool stuff about this entire play for me. I admire what this theatre company is trying to do, even if it's not there yet. It's exciting to see an ambitious work like this taking shape. And it's on til the 27th April, so get tickets and say you were there at the start of something.
Last night DC Theatre Week culminated in the 30th Helen Hayes awards. I was exceptionally excited to be the winner of a competition which meant my lovely wife and I got to go to the cool and glamorous ceremony at the Building Museum. The event was an absolute treat. Everyone from DC's theatre scene seemed to be there, with glitz and fancy dresses aplenty (and the facility to check in your stiletto heels and replace them with a pair of Helen Hayes comfy slippers!). The Building Museum looked amazing. And while nothing will ever equal the extraordinary buffet I once had there as part of TEDMED, they had free flowing macaroni, champagne, and various savory treats which we munched upon happily while watching the awards. And then, just when I had given up hope, my dream: a cake buffet. The awards themselves were fun. Book of Mormon, Stupid Fucking Bird, and the Signature Theatre were the main recipients. I felt poor Studio Theatre didn't get enough kudos for its exciting programing (especially Baby Universe). But in general, a great reflection of some of the really great theatre going on in Washington these days. I had a delightful evening and am ready to book a lot more local theatre. Thank you so much, Theatre Washington!
And now, settle down for a short account of three brilliant bike rides around DC - with equally brilliant destinations. My lovely wife and I will be cycling the Five Borough Bike Tour in New York the day before the next Perfect Liars Club and since our cycling round Burma last year, have been very lax on long-ish bike rides. So this Easter weekend, we applied ourselves:
1. First up, the 36 mile round trip cycle from Rosslyn to Mount Vernon, all along the beautiful, scenic Potomac, and hardly a road to traverse in that whole trip. This is my favorite ride in the DC area - and we punctuated it with lunch at the superlative Grape and Bean in Alexandria. In DC there are three small plates I dream of constantly when I'm not eating them: Palak Chaat at Rasika, Avocado Bruschetta at Cork, and Artichoke Crostini at Grape and Bean. We rarely get to Grape and Bean due to its location, so it's a perfect addition to this cycle. I ate an embarrassing number of crostini...
2. Next up, the 20 mile-ish cycle from Georgetown up the Capital Crescent Trail, past Bethesda, down onto the Georgetown Branch through Rock Creek Park, past the zoo, and back to Georgetown. Again, hardly any traffic if you do it on a Sunday when Beach Drive is closed to traffic. The Potomac river, the C&O Canal and Rock Creek itself make for beautiful scenery throughout. And we sneaked 10 minutes off the trail for lunch at Tryst in Adams Morgan, which remains one of my very favorite coffeeshops in DC.
3. Finally, on day 3 of our bike extravaganza, we cycled from Georgetown up to the Tidal Basin, and met the Anacostia Riverwalk trail. Currently a 12-mile circuit (plans are afoot to extend it), we zoomed past Arena Stage, across the bridge at South Capitol Street, and pottered up what turned out to be a charming riverside meander through woods, over bridges, up to Benning Road - and then an equally charming and only slightly desolate route back on the other side, passing a jetty, navy ships, and culminating in the attractive new landscaping of the Yards Park. This is a slightly off the beaten track, rather fun cycle. And Yards Park is looking great! It's amazing how in the 2 years since I first saw it, it's transformed into a proper summer day out: cool restaurants, Blue Jacket brewery, Jubilee ice cream (almost - it wasn't open yet, leaving me to press my nose against their window in covetous lust), lovely loungers to sit upon, overlooking the sparkling river, kayaks... and of course, the TSNY Trapeze School. I've taken several trampolining classes there, but that day, I randomly decided to face my fears and do what I'd always watch others doing: a trapeze class!
TSNY is brilliant because it's safe, easy and accessible. A hop, skip and a jump (along the cool 'Transportation Walk' alley) from Navy Yard Metro, you can pay $55, turn up, and actually do proper trapeze stuff! Despite my embarrassing terror, I climbed up the ladder and soared through the air on a flying trapeze! People less scared than me even hung by their knees. On their first class! I am the opposite of an adrenaline junkie. But my goodness, what an exceptionally cool and exciting thing to do. Literally - go onto their website, choose a class, and you too can participate in this thrilling madness. And in the summer, they set up a trapeze outside too! It all felt very safe and well managed too. Despite my shrieks of: "Argh I'm going to die!" My heart is still racing...
Other fun stuff I did this week? Judging Story League's 'saucy' themed story competition (congratulations, Perfect Liars alumnus Mike Kane who was the winner) - always a fun night if you like storytelling, comedy, and/or Busboys and Poets nachos. Paddleboarding on the Potomac from Key Bridge Boathouse. A delight as always. Sampled The Farm Gin, DC's newest home-grown gin, at Farmers Fishers Bakers (not for me - it's very aniseed-y and I'm a floral gin girl). And took a class in mobile app development at General Assembly (more complicated than I'd hoped but a very well designed and delivered class - worth checking them out if you want to learn coding). Phew, it's been quite a week!
What looks cool for next week
All week: More Filmfest DC fun - I'm particularly looking forward to Le Chef, Gare du Nord, and Bad Hair. Check them out!
Wednesday 23rd: Mortified is on at 8pm at Town Dance Boutique - this show where people read from their angst-ridden teenage diaries can be quite hilarious.
Sat 26th: If you're in the mood for a LGBT masquerade ball, you're all set at Taggfest.
Fri 25th and Sat 26th: It's Georgetown's annual French market, and note the library has some special events on this year though their website is rubbish in telling you about them. Pop in!
Sat 26th and Sun 27th: The US Science and Engineering Festival is on at the Mount Vernon Convention Center - and it's free. I like the sound of The Science of Illusion by Apollo Robbins, a science-driven magic show from 2-3pm on Sunday on the Bell Stage, and the Mathemagician, by Art Benjamin, 10-11am on both Saturday and Sunday on the Bell Stage. And Astrocapella - a musical tour of the universe on Sat 11-11:30 or Sunday 5-6 on the Bell stage. Check out the full listings, and enjoy!