Archive for January, 2011

Cymbeline: Shockingly Terrible—Theatre

January 22, 2011

There’s no good way to say this: the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Cymbeline is a mess. Miscast, shockingly acted in the negative and poorly conceived and directed, this whole production is completely unworthy of the Company.

Some of the problem is the play itself–it’s all over the place. Part tragedy, part comedy, part romance…Cymbeline ultimately fails at all three. For the theatergoer, it’s like watching at least three plays at once…nothing weaves seamlessly together. 

In order for Cymbeline to work, it’s heavily dependent upon excellent, believable acting. This production of Cymbeline does not have that. But thankfully it does have four good performances– Gretchen Hall as Imogen, Cymbeline’s daughter and Michael Rudko as Morgan,  Justin Badger as Polydore and  Alex Morf as Cadwal, father and sons respectively. Over the course of 2 hours and 20 minutes, these are the only actors who actually act and are right for their parts. Gretchen Hall is wonderful as the wronged daughter and wife, but there is only so much she can do. When Morgan and his two sons enter the play and interact with Imogen we finally feel as if the clouds have parted and the light of good acting has entered.

At the beginning of the play, when we learn that Imogen has sacrificed the love of her father to marry Posthumus, we expect there to be a good reason for such devotion.  Then we see and hear Posthumus, performed by Mark Bedard.  Him? This is your great love? This pipsqueak of a man with a tinny voice?  This role is so miscast it detracts from the entire play. Equally wrong for his role is Leo Marks as Cloten, one of the play’s villains and son of the Queen. Marks plays his part for cheap, easy laughs. The only shtick he doesn’t use is the twirling of his mustache. And what to make of veteran actors Ted Van Griethuysen as Cymbeline and Franchelle Stewart Dorn as the Queen?  Van Griethuysen seems to have phoned in his performance and Stewart Dorn is just painfully awful. Finally, what have they done with Andrew Long? This terrific actor would have been wonderful as either Posthumus or Cloten. He could have elevated Cymbeline to something special. Instead Long is relegated to an insignificant part as ambassador Caius Lucius. He does what he can with this role, but comparatively speaking, it’s still an insignificant part.

It’s hard to know what to say about the directing of Rebecca Bayla Taichman. The insertion of the Vespa from out of nowhere pretty much says it all.

I can’t remember when I’ve been this disappointed on so many levels in a Shakespeare Theatre Company production. Enough said.

Lansburgh Theatre

450 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20004

Runs January 18 2011—March 06 2011

Scion: A mouthwatering experience—Restaurant

January 17, 2011

Why do some restaurant locations just seem unlucky? No matter how good the food, the restaurant closes. Such has been the story of 2100 P Street NW. Let’s hope the luck has changed for the best. Scion, an American restaurant with an Asian flare, deserves a long stay in its convenient, easily accessible location.

Scion’s appetizers run the gamut from vegetable spring rolls to rock shrimp tempura to smoked salmon to honey glazed brie and much more. My dining companions and I recently sampled all of these items and found all of them to be delicious.

Appetizers were followed by entrees. Vegan or vegetarian, no worries–a delectable dish awaits. My sautéed shrimp and scallops over spicy white bean succotash was a tad spicy but absolutely delicious. One of my companions said her crab cakes with rosemary herb garlic fries melted in her mouth. The Syrah braised beef short ribs with mashed potatoes had mixed results. One loved it, another found it slightly overcooked. Both agreed that the portion was enormous. Turkey meatloaf with mashed potatoes was deemed unsuccessful, but the pumpkin goat cheese ravioli was a crowd pleaser.

Try and make room for dessert, because they are wonderful. We sampled the carrot cake, chocolate cake and the cheesecake. All were divine.

An extensive offering of wine, beer and cocktails, and friendly customer service round out a wonderful dining experience. Scion is a terrific addition to the DuPont Circle neighborhood and deserves to be a resident for a very long time.

2100 P Street, NW  Washington, DC  20037   202-833-8899       

scion@scionrestaurant.com

Hours: Monday – Thursday  11 am to 11 pm, Friday – 11 am to midnight, Saturday – 10 am to midnight

Sunday – 10 am to 11 pm

Brunch served Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 3:30 pm

Country Strong: Plot Weak—Movie

January 17, 2011

What to make of Country Strong, written and directed by Shana Feste?  The film is ostensibly the story of country singer Kelly Kanter (Gwyneth Paltrow), who, on the insistence of her manager husband, James (Tim McGraw), is prematurely released from a rehab center for alcohol and drug abuse to begin a new tour. But somewhere along the line the secondary story of the secondary leads takes over and unfortunately for the film, it is far more interesting.  

Paltrow is fine as the beleaguered singer. She seemingly has the accent down and she can sing, but something is off. Maybe we’ve seen this story too many times, but you never really connect with her or her story. As we learn what caused her most recent collapse, it’s obvious to all that she’s still struggling with inner demons. But what got her started down that path to begin with? We never really find out and if we did it might make the story more compelling. 

Enter Garrett Hedlund as Beau Hutton and Gossip Girl’s  Leighton Meester as Chiles Stanton. Hutton is an aspiring singer-songwriter who worked with Kelly while she was in rehab and had/has a love affair with her. Stanton is a former beauty queen hoping to make it as a singer. Both are recruited to open for Kelly on her comeback tour and the two of them begin to fall in love while on the road.  These two have terrific chemistry together and boy, can they sing! Hedlund’s voice has a fabulous tonal quality and sounds very much like Jeff Bridges’ Bad Blake would have sounded before the alcohol set in. Meester is fantastic, and truth be told, her character is way more interesting than Paltrow’s. Often seeming like the only person who can really act on Gossip Girl, she shines in Country Strong.

And riddle me this…in a country music film with actors who are not professional singers singing, why have a real country singer, Tim McGraw, if you don’t intend to have him sing?   McGraw can act. He’s actually very good in this movie, but he could have done more.

Country Strong has potential, but never reaches it. Wait for Netflix and then watch it for Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester. Let’s hope we get to see more of both of them in future movies.

2 nuggets out of 4

Rabbit Hole: So Worth the Digging—Movie

January 9, 2011

It’s rare, but possible, for a movie to be sad and moving without being depressing. Such is the case with the brilliant Rabbit Hole.

Based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s play and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole is the heartbreaking story of Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie Corbett (Aaron Eckhart). The Corbetts are a young, wealthy couple whose seemingly idyllic life is shattered when their young son is hit and killed by car. We join the couple eight months after the accident and see the toll that different coping mechanisms has taken on the couple’s marriage. Becca wants to ease her pain by eliminating the many reminders of their son, while Howie wants to hold on to everything. He seems to find solace in group therapy, while she finds comfort in occasional chats with the teenager who was driving the car that killed their child. Will the two ever come together and reunite as a family or will they go their separate ways in grief?

Kidman is absolutely fantastic as the grieving, brittle Becca. While we never fully witness the accident, we relive it briefly through her eyes. That piece of non-verbal acting is worth a ton of awards on its own. And Eckhart? He is a revelation. He matches Kidman every step of the way. He is given the opportunity to shine and he seizes it. Dianne Wiest, as Becca’s mother, with sorrows of her own, is terrific, as is Sandra Oh, a mother the Corbetts meet in therapy.

Rabbit Hole is a small gem of a movie. It’s a wonderful script with a superb ensemble cast. It should not be missed.

4 nuggets out of 4

Blue Valentine: Really Blue—Movie

January 9, 2011

Sometimes great acting can overcome a mediocre script and such is the case with Blue Valentine.

Written by Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis  and Cami Delavigne and directed by Cianfrance, Blue Valentine is the story of a marriage that has fallen apart. Cross-cutting between time periods we first see the marriage’s sad present and then flashback to its shy, romantic beginning. But what we never see is the middle…how the marriage ended up the way it did. How did it come to its present state? We can guess, but we never really know, and that is a huge missing piece. When the couple first meet, Dean (Ryan Gosling) is a happy go-lucky, not very ambitious blue-collar worker and Cindy (Michelle Williams) is a college student hoping to become a doctor. Dean is immediately smitten and Cindy is soon charmed by him. Then life enters.  More than that we never learn.

Thank goodness for Gosling and Williams who give a master class in acting as the mismatched couple. They are so terrific that we spend less time wondering about what’s missing than we would with lesser actors.  Also wonderful is Suri Cruise look-alike, Faith Wladyka, as their cute daughter, Frankie.

Gosling’s and Williams’ performances keep you interested and keep you rooting for them even though you know 15 minutes into the movie there is little hope for a happy ending. It’s their fabulous acting that will keep you glued to your seat and in reality, the only reason to see Blue Valentine

2 nuggets out of 4

Somewhere: It’s the Road to Nowhere—Movie

January 9, 2011

What was the New York Times thinking/smoking when they declared Somewhere one of 2010’s best?  Did the reviewer actually see this movie? 

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, Somewhere is 90 minutes plus of pure nothingness. One gets a bad feeling that we’re in for a loooooooooooong movie, regardless of the actual minutes, when we watch Stephen Dorff (Johnny Marco) drive his car around in circles for at least  the movie’s first five minutes. I felt like screaming, “I get it. I get it. Move on.” In fact, there seemed to be no dialogue for the first 15 minutes of the movie. 

Once there is some dialogue we understand that Johnny Marco is a hot Hollywood actor who is successful in his professional life, but is completely bored by his personal life of “sex, drugs and rock roll.” He only seems to spring to life on weekend visits from his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). And once she is dumped in his life for unknown personal reasons by her mother for an unspecified period of time, we are left to believe that perhaps his life will eventually be going…somewhere.

Stephen Dorff is fine as the spoiled, bored actor, but he really isn’t called upon to do much. Elle Fanning is actually very good and probably has a great career in front of her as the Fanning sisters take over Hollywood. 

Truth be told, if the writer/director was Sofia Smith rather than Sofia Coppola, Somewhere never would have been made. If  you are a masochist and must see this move, wait for this to come to HBO. Better still, watch Entourage instead.

 ½ nugget out of 4


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