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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Taking Stock of Mostel, A Look Back at Woodstock, and a Week Stocked With Events

Zero Hour, the new Theater J offering about Zero Mostel, packs a punch.  It reaches a crescendo in the second act.  We've already been told about Mostel's hatred for director Jerome Robbins, who named names in the Blacklist Era of the early 50s. We've watched a scene where Brochu--who delivers a dead-on impersonation of Mostel--walks over to a desk on the side of the stage to recreate Mostel's testimony to Congress. He will not name names. "I will only talk about myself," he says.  But when A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Mostel's first huge success, started in rehearsals, it wasn't working. So George Abbott and David Merrick had the answer, Mostel tells us.  Robbins was brought in.  Would this be okay with Mostel?  "Those of us on the left do not blacklist," he said. Last year Theater J soared with plays like The Accident and The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall.  I wouldn't say Zero Hour soars.  But it flies low with an interesting and well-acted if fairly undramatic historical story.  It's still worth seeing.

When Ang Lee started out, it was one beautiful movie after another. The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman, Sense and Sensibility.  Great stories all.  Lately, it's been Ice Storm, Hulk, Brokeback Mountain and now Taking Woodstock  (3.5 red dots).  I wasn't crazy about those others, but this one I enjoyed watching.  The story doesn't quite hold up, but it works because of good feelings, Liev Schreiber, newcomer Jonathan Groff, the aura of Woodstock and Lee's light touch. Great directors still neat great scripts and this isn't one.  One critic pointed out how Robert Altman worked the camera in and out of small scenes in Nashville to amazing effect.  Here, Lee reverts to split screens with less success.  (Though Nashville is one of the best movies ever - in my opinion - so it's not quite a fair comparison.)  I would say to go see it because you'll come out smiling.  And for me that's enough once in a while.

Monday, Sept. 7 - Glen Echo Arts Show and Irish Music
Sept. 8 - Baader Meinhof at the Goethe-Institut
Sept. 9 - Art opening at Goethe-Institut: Thirteen: A Portrait Series, 6-8pm
Sept. 10 - Opening night of DC Shorts; Phillips Collection Thursday evenings, Second Thursdays at the Torpedo Factory
Sept. 11 - 2nd Friday in Bethesda; DC Shorts big party following their 7pm shows.
Sept. 12 - Kennedy Center Open House, Rosslyn Jazz Festival (featuring the amazing Fred Yonnet) and Arts on Foot

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