Archive for March, 2011

Jane Eyre: Not Your Grandmother’s Version—Movie

March 27, 2011

 Jane Eyre has been given a fresh coat of paint and it’s stunning to behold. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, based on Charlotte Brontë’s novel, with screenplay by Moira Buffini, Jane Eyre 2011 is romantic, eerie, and very well-acted.

Mia Wasikowska, seen most recently in The Kids Are Alright, is perfectly cast as Jane. She infuses her character with just the right amount of quiet spunk to stand up to Mr. Rochester and all other obstacles that come Jane’s way.

Michael Fassbender is a revelation as Rochester. My only point of reference for Rochester is in the form of Orson Welles from the 1944 version I’ve enjoyed countless times on television and Orson Welles is no Michael Fassbender. Welles played the role as sinister and brooding. Fassbender‘s Rochester is more eccentric than sinister and more lonely than brooding. Not to make less of Orson Welles, but Fassbender’s interpretation is more entertaining to watch and complements Wasikowaska effortlessly. And wow, is he gorgeous in a Daniel Day-Lewis kind of way.

But I digress. The supporting cast is impeccable, too. Jamie Bell as St. John Rivers, Jane’s rescuer and potential suitor, brings just the right touch of denseness and sweetness to his role. He’s proven to be a very versatile actor. Judi Dench is just right as Mrs. Fairfax, Rochester’s housekeeper, and is far more likeable than was the 1944 version. Sally Hawkins, so bubbly and perky in Happy- Go-Lucky, is nearly unrecognizable in looks and tone as Jane’s heartless, greedy Aunt.  Finally, Amelia Clarkson as the young Jane and Romy Settbon Moore as Mr. Rochester’s charge, Adele, are very real and unprecocious in their respective roles.

Fukunaga is a former cinematographer and it shows. Although Jane Eyre 2011 is more bare-bones than other productions, it has a melancholy splendor about it that is highlighted by the hauntingly beautiful piano and violin solos throughout the film.

Jane Eyre 2011 is not your grandmother’s Jane Eyre, but it’s destined to be a classic on its own.

Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema 7235 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD

Landmark E Street Cinema  555 11th Street NW, Washington, DC

Loews Shirlington 7 2772 South Randolph St., Arlington, VA

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

Joan Rivers at the Strathmore: Offensive, Foul and FUNNY

March 26, 2011

Joan Rivers: Where does the stamina come from? Does nothing embarrass you? How do you keep your material fresh? How do you manage to have any friends? Those are the four questions I want answered come Passover time.

In a sold-out performance and an audience of every race, gender and age, Joan Rivers took the stage at Strathmore’s Music Center Thursday, March 24, and  for 60 minutes brought on the zany and the profane. With the energy of a 25 year-old, the limber 77 year-old Rivers literally leapt on stage in some sort of gold and black ensemble and began insulting everyone near and far.

 And it was hilarious.

She began with her “can we talk?” and we were off to the races from there. Rivers is an equal opportunity offender. No one is off limits…not even her late husband. But to quote her,”grow up.”  With no notes, no breaks for sips of water, Rivers worked every part of the stage and even mimed sexual acts on the floor.

And it was hilarious.

Her potty mouth makes Sarah Silverman seem virginal. Whether it’s describing some of the men she’s “met”, talking about her friends’ children or ripping the celebrities she’s encountered in person or just watched over the years, she says what we think , only it’s a lot funnier coming from her.

Since her winning run on Celebrity Apprentice, Rivers’ career has been given new life. She’s the host and real wit on the weekly Fashion Police, her reality show with her daughter Melissa, Joan Knows Best has just been renewed, and her line of QVC jewelry remains a best-seller. But as her documentary, Joan Rivers, a Piece of Work showed, she works very hard at her craft. She didn’t wake up one day, snort tons of coke, utter two catch phrases in some sort of manic episode and have the keys to Radio City Music  Hall handed to her.  She’s earned every laugh she’s gotten and received more than her share of hard knocks along the way.

No gig is too small for Joan Rivers.  With the Strathmore she got the venue and the appreciative crowd she deserved.

And it was hilarious.

5301 Tuckerman Lane North Bethesda, MD 20852


An Ideal Husband: A More than Ideal Production–Theatre

March 20, 2011

A witty Oscar Wilde play, a terrific cast and breathtaking costumes and sets make for a highly entertaining production of the Shakespeare Theatre’s An Ideal Husband.  Under the direction of Keith Baxter, Oscar Wilde’s wry humor comes to life and feels as fresh today as it might have when first produced in 1895. And certainly politicians with skeletons in their closet are nothing new…today’s rogues just don’t handle their misdeeds with the same panache as Wilde’s Sir Robert Chiltern.

An Ideal Husband’s cast is one of the best the Shakespeare Theatre has assembled in quite some time. Many of the area’s premier character actors are doing their finest work in this production. Nancy Robinette never disappoints and as Lady Markby she’s in top form. Floyd King as Phipps, the servant, is an absolute joy to watch. King does more with a shrug of the shoulders or the lifting of an eyebrow than most actors do with a page of dialogue. Not to be outdone is Shakespeare veteran David Sabin, as the Earl of Caversham, K.G. He is perfect as the worried, demanding father of Lord Goring.

And what of the leads? Cameron Folmar is wonderful as the happily unemployed raconteur, Lord Goring. In lesser hands Goring could be very difficult to convince as a romantic heterosexual, but Folmar  somehow manages to do it. Emily Raymond is terrific as the devious Mrs. Cheveley. As Lady Chiltern, Rachel Pickup is perfectly cast as the wife with the difficult task of softening her steely outlook on everything she holds dear, particularly that of “the ideal husband.” And Gregory Wooddell as Sir Robert Chiltern, the politician with a past, does a very good job in bringing to life a somewhat stodgy character. The only false note in the cast is Claire Brownell as Mabel Chiltern, the sister of Sir Robert, who has a not so subtle crush on Lord Goring. She literally screams her lines and I found myself covering my ears every time she came on stage.

According to the play’s notes, Oscar Wilde, when summoned to the Prince of Wales’ box following the play’s opening, apologized for its length. Yes, An Ideal Husband is long. But we’re in agreement with the Prince who reportedly replied, “Pray, do not take out a single word.”

Runs through April 16

Sidney Harman Hall 610 F Street NW, Washington, DC

The Trip to Bountiful:Get on Board NOW—Theatre

March 20, 2011

The Roundhouse Theatre’s production of The Trip to Bountiful is a must-see for anyone who loves terrific acting, a wonderful script and just an all-round fabulous theatre experience.

Director Timothy Douglas has gathered as close to perfect an ensemble cast of actors that one can imagine and he does Horton Foote’s play proud. The fact that the cast, all but one, is  African-American is beside the point, other than giving actors a chance to shine. And shine they do.

There aren’t enough words of praise that one can heap on Lizan Mitchell as matriarch Carrie Watts who just wants to visit her Bountiful hometown once before she dies. Mitchell literally sparkles in her role. It’s as if the part was created just for her. It’s one of the most amazing performances that I have ever witnessed. But the rest of the Bountiful cast also astounds. Howard Overshown as Ludie Watts and China J. Hardy as his wife Jessie Mae feel like a real couple. As off-putting as Hardy’s character is, she makes you understand where Jessie Mae’s pain and anger comes from and that she is more than some disgruntled shrew. Jessica Frances Dukes is mesmerizing as Carry’s traveling companion, Thelma. Rounding out the cast is Doug Brown as the patient bus attendant and Lawrence Redmond as the empathetic Sheriff. Their parts are small, but important, and they both make the most out of them.

The Trip to Bountiful is one of the best productions to be staged in metropolitan DC in years. It’s a trip that should be taken immediately.

Runs through April 3

Round House Theatre  4545 East-West Highway  Bethesda, MD

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