Saturday, November 8, 2008

Day 31/365 - Boom

Tonight I went to see the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's production of 'Boom', by up-and-coming playwright (and marine biologist) Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. I did my usual trick of getting my ticket through Ticketplace for half-price, which left me more money to splurge on dinner and drinks before the show at Café Atlantico (two passionfruit martinis, scallops and coconut rice appetizer, jerk chicken mofongo entree, cappuccino, and warm chocolate cake with banana dessert -- damn, it was good).

This was my first time going to see a Woolly Mammoth production. They specialize in quirky, funny, more daring, off-Broadway type plays. I think one of the reasons I'd never been to one of their shows before was because of their ridiculous name. Unlike Smuckers, with a name like Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company I thought they had to be bad and that they would put on pretentious, inaccessible, annoyingly experimental, avant garde solely for the sake of being avant garde, too cool for school type productions. Nope. They just do odd, small, funny, smart plays that you'd be hard-pressed to see anywhere else. The name is still stupid, though.

WMTC has a new theatre in the Penn Quarter section of Washington, DC and it's a very well-designed space. The theatre itself is small but doesn't feel cramped. It's a bit like a modern, cinder-blocks and exposed wiring version of an Elizabethan theatre with a U-shaped seating area (both groundlings and balcony) around three sides of the stage. It's a good space with good sightlines, good acoustics, and good seats and it doesn't detract or distract from the productions in any way -- which is really all you need in a theatre.

Now, onto the play itself. Boom was funny and excellent. Excellently funny, funnily excellent. It's a one-act, 90-minute long play with three cast members -- two of whom (Aubrey Deeker and Sarah Marshall) are brilliant in their roles and one of whom (Kimberly Gilbert) starts out a little awkward and stilted but definitely gets better as the play goes along. The plot involves a biologist who becomes convinced the world is about to end in a catastrophic natural disaster and who then places an ad for a sex partner in order to lure a woman to his lab/apartment/fallout shelter.

The summary makes the plot sound a bit creepy, but it's not. The writing is excellent with sharp and clever dialogue and in 90 scant minutes it manages to serve up a primordial soup incorporating adaptation, natural selection, the Garden of Eden, the persistence of life, the survival instinct, intelligent design, evolution, mutation, fate, destiny, free will, determinism, the nature of sexuality, deism, deus ex machina, the Wizard of Oz, chaos, justice, obsession, sex, love, and dating.

Sticking with the soup analogy, it's 'mmm, mmm good', so go and see it. It runs nightly through December 7th and most days Ticketplace has seats available for $25-30.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Day 30/365 - Cirque du So-So

I went to see Cirque du Soleil's new touring show Kooza with my friends Chris and Desiree tonight. Des liked it, Chris gave it a 6 out of 10, and I just thought it was okay.

The picture is of CdS' 'Le Grand Chapiteau', which I think may be French for 'the big top' but don't quote me on that. CdS comes to the DC area just about every year with a new touring show. Normally they pitch the big blue and yellow striped tent that houses the show in downtown DC, but this year they decided to hold it at the National Harbor over in middle-of-nowhere Maryland instead. Not the best idea ever. I'm sure they got a great deal out of it from the folks that run National Harbor, but it means (1) everyone attending the show has to deal with the traffic on the Woodrow Wilson bridge, (2) there are no meaningful public transportation options, and (3) there are no decent places to eat or get a drink either before or after the show seeing as how the National Harbor complex is basically a wasteland of dead bars, chain restaurants, and pay parking garages.

Kooza is more like traditional circus than most CdS productions. Instead of the interpretative dance, big production number, elaborate sets and staging approach of many CdS shows like Love, O, Varekai, and Corteo, Kooza is mostly just acrobats, tight rope walkers, contortionists, and jugglers. Generally speaking I love to see that kind of stuff, but I expect more than just that from CdS. When I go to a CdS show, I want to see stuff I've never seen before and stuff that really knocks my socks off. There were a couple of performance pieces like that in Kooza, but they were few and far between.

This was the least original CdS production of the eight different ones I've seen (Love, O, Varekai, Alegria, Corteo, Saltimbanco, Kooza, and Mystere -- which I'd rank in that order). There really wasn't anything very novel or creative about Kooza. The performance pieces weren't anything you couldn't see done (and oftentimes done better) at a traditional circus or a Vegas or cruise ship variety show for about half the price. Even the costumes seemed unoriginal and appeared to have largely been cribbed from various Dr. Seuss books and 'Nightmare Before Christmas.'

There were only two truly noteworthy production pieces in Kooza -- a trio of phenomenal contortionists in the first act and an impressive troupe of teeter-totter tumblers in the second act. There was a chair-balancing guy whose act was fairly cool, but even his routine was more 'hmmmm' than 'whoaaa.' Des really liked him, but I think that was largely because he performed shirtless and in tights. She's a hussy like that. (Kidding!)

So the final verdict from me for Kooza was that it was an adequate night's entertainment, but a CdS show should never just be adequate. It should be amazing. I can't really recommend it unless you're a hardcore CdS fan or you've got money to burn. Otherwise, I'd suggest saving your ducats for one of their other shows.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day 29/365 - New Jersey(s)

Today the Washington Nationals baseball club unveiled their new road jersey, alternate home jersey, and special occasion home jersey at a lunchtime ceremony held at the ESPNZone in Downtown DC. I was there along with about 100 other sad loser fanboys. It was a bigger turnout than I'd expected. Usually the autograph sessions they hold at the ESPNZone during the baseball season only draw about 20-30 people. Today though it was standing room only and the place was packed.

Pictured above are Nats centerfielder Lastings Milledge, Manager Manny Acta, and team radio broadcaster Charlie Slowes. I got Lastings to add his signature to an autographed baseball I keep on my desk at work.

I've been a Nats season ticketholder since they first moved to DC from Montreal in 2005. That first year I had a full season ticket but since then I've opted for the half-season plan instead. Eighty-one games is a lot of games to have to attend, especially during 10 game homestands. All you have time to do then is sleep, work, go to the game, sleep, work, go to the game... No time to do laundry, go to the grocery store, or anything else. The half-season plan is much less demanding.

I've really only been a baseball fan since the Nats came to town. Before that I'd largely ignored baseball. The idea of getting in on the groundfloor as a fan of a franchise was appealing though and going to the games gave me something to do, so as a result I've become a great fan of a less-than-great baseball team. There's just something about sitting outside next to a big green field and eating a hotdog and drinking beer and cheering the good plays and groaning at the bad plays that holds a lot of charm for me.

The Nationals may be a lousy team, but they're my lousy team and that counts for something.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Day 28/365 - Yes We Can!

I haven't the words to express how pleased and proud I am today.

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me, and I'm feeling good.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day 27/365 – I Voted/Yo Voté

Hopefully you did as well. Now comes the nervewracking part... waiting for the outcome. I have a bottle of my favorite champagne (Nicolas Feuillatte) chilling in the refrigerator. I'm really hoping to be able to drink it tonight in celebration.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Day 26/365 - Barack the Vote!

Little Barack says 'Make sure you vote tomorrow!' Even if you're not going to be voting for Obama (although Little Barack and I both hope you will be), get out there and let your voice be heard tomorrow.

Democracy is not a spectator sport, so get your butt in the game!

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Twilight Kayaker

This week's bonus photo from my archives is a shot I took last Fourth of July while I was standing around on the bank of the Potomac River waiting for the fireworks to start. None of my fireworks shots turned out to be worth a damn, but I really like the way this one came out.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Day 25/365 - Shady Characters

Today I went to my first meet-up for the DC Social Flickr group. I've been posting photos to the DCist website's photo pool on Flickr for a few months now, and I'd noticed there was a group of photographers who contributed to that pool who all seemed to know each other and commented on each other's work. Then I discovered they were also members of another photo pool called DC Social.

At first I didn't quite understand the purpose or rules of that group, and I was a bit worried they would be an uber-cool, hipper-than-thou, exclusive clique that would frown on dilettante outsiders like me. Then I took a closer look at some of the pictures from the group's prior meet-ups and realized that 'Hey, they're mostly just a bunch of camera geeks same as me!' So I decided to go to this month's group meet-up at Rocket Bar in the Gallery Place section of Washington, DC.

I'm glad I went. They turned out to be a really laid back, welcoming, fun group of people who live, breathe, eat, drink, sleep, and dream photography. Now I'm already looking forward to next month's meet up.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)