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Filtering by Tag: Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

527 Dog Years: Mike Daisey Tells "A People's History"

Chris Klimek

Class is in session. (Darrow Montgomery for the Washington City Paper)

Class is in session. (Darrow Montgomery for the Washington City Paper)

Mike Daisey is an artist I've written about more often and in greater detail than only anyone else. He's certainly the artist with to whom I've spent the most time speaking directly. The reviews I've written of his monologues and the features I've reported about how he creates them and editorial I was once moved to write in his defense all reflect my great admiration for his work.

That has not prevented me from condemning him when I think he's deserved it, and he did do something that warranted condemnation, years ago. I will say that in the third year of a Donald J. Trump administration, it seems awfully quaint that so many journalists who had never publicly discussed theatre at all before they lined up to express their outrage at Daisey in the spring of 2012 got so steamed over a guy who tells stories in theaters for a living taking some liberties with one of them.

Anyway, Daisey's wildly ambitious current show A People's History—an 18 part retelling of American history circa 1492-to-now, based heavily on the work of Howard Zinn but also on Daisey's own life—is the subject of my second Washington City Paper cover story about him, available today wherever finer Washington, DC alt-weeklies are given away for free. My 2012 WCP story detailing the problems he created for himself with his show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, and his effort to remedy them, is here. In fact, all of my writings about Daisey are mere clicks away! How much time do you have?

Theatre of Pain: Woolly's "Gloria" and Round House's "Small Mouth Sounds," reviewed.

Chris Klimek

Megan Graves and Ahmad Kamal are two of the standout performers in  Gloria . (Teresa Castracane)

Megan Graves and Ahmad Kamal are two of the standout performers in Gloria. (Teresa Castracane)

After the customary late summer lull, I’m back on the theater beat. Last week’s Washington City Paper featured my reviews of two plays that first appeared in 2015, now making their regional premieres Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ stunner Gloria, at Woolly Mammoth, and Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl, at Round House.

FURTHER READING: My 2013 City Paper profile of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is here.

The Once and Future Prince: Botticelli in the Fire, reviewed.

Chris Klimek

Jon Hudson Odom and Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan (Scott Suchman)

Jon Hudson Odom and Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan (Scott Suchman)

Canuck Renaissance Man Jordan Tannahill's Renaissance fantasy Botticelli in the Fire is the quintessence of what several speakers at Monday night's tribute to retiring Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company co-founder Howard Shalwtiz referred to as "a Woolly play." I tend to like those, and this one I happened to love. Here's my Washington City Paper review.

Less Is More: John and Underground Railroad Game, reviewed.

Chris Klimek

Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard, the writers/performers of  The Underground Railroad Game.  (Scott Suchman)

Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard, the writers/performers of The Underground Railroad Game. (Scott Suchman)

Criticism imitating art imitating life: My Washington City Paper review of Annie Baker's John at Signature Theatre is three times as long as my review of the touring Underground Railroad Game at Woolly Mammoth, just as John is three times as long as Underground Railroad Game. And roughly a third as rewarding.

Your mileage, as ever, may vary.

Deleted Scene: Howard & Jen & Lenny & Lou & The Wheelbarrow Walk

Chris Klimek

Howard Shalwitz and Jennifer Mendenhall in Ian Cohen's  Lenny & Lou,  directed by Tom Prewitt, 2004. Thanks to Gwydion Suilebhan and Lexi Dever at Woolly for digging up the photo.

Howard Shalwitz and Jennifer Mendenhall in Ian Cohen's Lenny & Lou, directed by Tom Prewitt, 2004. Thanks to Gwydion Suilebhan and Lexi Dever at Woolly for digging up the photo.

It pains me to report that when my Washington City Paper story about Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Founding Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz's career as an actor hits tomorrow it'll be absent one filthy anecdote from his Lenny & Lou co-star Jennifer Mendenhall that had to be sacrificed for space considerations. (Newsprint doesn't grow on tr—you know what, never mind).

Anyway, here's the bit. My apologies to Ms. Mendenhall's spouse Michael Kramer, who gave me some less salacious but still insightful comments about directing Shalwitz in a 1990 production of David Rabe's Hurlyburly that also hit the cutting room floor.

Mendenhall had been a little intimidated, she recalls, when she’d had to share a long kiss with Shalwitz—an actor she hadn’t met before—in Savage in Limbo. But when Prewitt put the two actors together again in Lenny & Lou, 17 years later, that kiss felt like mere foreplay.
Or five-or-six-play, if chief Washington Post theatre critic Peter Marks is to be believed.
“It’s not pornographic exactly,” Marks wrote in his admiring 2004 review of Lenny & Lou, “though one scene of acrobatic rutting is so well-choreographed it would make a decent novelty act in an X-rated Cirque du Soleil.”

Woolly was without a regular address at that time (the show was performed at Theatre J which makes that filthy sequence all the more fun to try to imagine), and Mendenhall recalls rehearsals taking place in offices borrowed from Theatre J. Mendenhall kept urging Prewitt and fight director John Gurskisex scenes have fight directors—to let the encounter be more absurdly explicit.

“I said, ‘We need a wheelbarrow walk.’ Howard said, ‘What’s a wheelbarrow walk?’ I said, ‘I’ll show you!’” Mendenhall recalls, laughing. She says Shalwitz’s one job during their carnal melee was to hold her skirt down so it she wouldn’t moon the audience. But he’d sometimes forget. The night her parents were in the audience was one of the nights when he forgot.
“It was insane,” she says. “It was so fun.”

The Hateful Eighth: An Octoroon and To Tell My Story: A Hamlet Fanfic, reviewed.

Chris Klimek

Erika Rose and Kathryn Tkel in  An Octoroon  (Woolly Mammoth).

Erika Rose and Kathryn Tkel in An Octoroon (Woolly Mammoth).

My review of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company remount of An Octoroon, the best show I saw in 2016, is here. I should've credited Gwydion Suilebhan (a Woolly staffer, though I've known him longer than he's been on payroll there) for the observation in paragraph four about police body cameras; I couldn't swear I would've thought of that if he hadn't mentioned it to me when we were chatting after the show. He's a playwright and a very smart guy, so if you're going to pilfer ideas, he's a good victim. Also, the 2016 cast isn't quite "fully intact" like I said in paragraph three; Felicia Curry is new to the remount.

I also reviewed To Tell My Story: A Hamlet Fanfic, the latest literary comedy from Washington Post humor columnist Alexandra Petri.

FURTHER READING: My 2013 profile of An Octoroon playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

Woolly Mammoth's Hir and Rick Foucheux's possibly-career-capping Avant Bard King Lear, reviewed.

Chris Klimek

Emily Townley and Joseph J. Parks in  Hir . (Scott Suchman)

Emily Townley and Joseph J. Parks in Hir. (Scott Suchman)

My review of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's "rich and fervent" production of Taylor Mac's family tragicomedy Hir is in this week's Washington City Paper, along with a shorter one of WSC Avant Bard's latest King Lear — which just might be the swan song of one of DC's most venerable actors, the great Rick Foucheux. Pick up a paper copy for old time's sake.

Von Braun play Ad Astra, assessed for Air & Space

Chris Klimek

Two of my main beats—aviation/space and theatre—overlapped last week when I attended a reading of Ad Astra, a new play by James Wallert about the life of pioneering rocket scientist—and Nazi—Wernher von Braun. I wrote a post about that for Air & Space/Smithsonian, but at my editor's suggestion we removed a paragraph where I named the four actors who performed the reading. That was the right call for Air & Space's audience; after all, when Ad Astra gets fully staged it will likely be with a different cast. Still, the cast—all members of New York's Epic Theatre Ensemble, which Wallert co-founded—was terrific, so I'd like to name them here.

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