Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pick of the Pack


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

You can’t go wrong when you mix ancient Roman farce with Stephen Sondheim’s catchy show tunes — and, indeed, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” won numerous Tony Awards when it debuted on Broadway in 1962. This week, the Shakespeare Theatre revives the hysterical show, which was adapted from the farcical plays by ancient Roman playwright Plautus. “A Funny Thing” opens in ancient Rome, where a wily slave named Pseudolus is desperately trying to win his freedom from his master, the handsome Hero. Pseudolus sees an opportunity when Hero falls in love with Philia, a beautiful courtesan who lives next door but is promised to another. Pseudolus tries to help Hero win her heart, and in typical farcical manner, pandemonium ensues — including mistaken identity, high-speed chases and plot twists, as well as plenty of double entendres. Starting Dec. 1, the theater also will host a number of pre- and post-show discussions with the cast and artistic team. Thursday through Jan. 5 at Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. 202/547-1122. Web: shakespearetheatre.org.


Forward, 54th

Veterans Day has come and gone, but the National Gallery of Art continues to honor a special group of soldiers — the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first units of black soldiers in the Civil War. This weekend, the gallery will tell the story of the regiment through the eyes of a young drummer boy with “Forward, 54th,” a dramatization of the group’s bravery at the Battle of Fort Wagner in South Carolina on July 18, 1863. The performances coincide with the museum’s exhibition “Tell It With Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial,” which memorializes Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the dozens of black soldiers who died fighting for the Union. In addition to the “Forward, 54th” performances, the exhibit also includes photos of the regiment and abolitionists from the era, relevant historical documents, and works of art depicting the battle and subsequent memorial. Performances on Saturday and Sunday and on Dec. 7. Exhibit through Jan. 20 at the National Gallery of Art West Building, Constitution Avenue and Sixth Street Northwest. 202/737-4215. Web: nga.gov.

Book Lecture

“Woodward & Lothrop: A Store Worthy of the Nation’s Capital”

Longtime Washington residents will remember when holiday shopping began with a visit to “Woodies” rather a website. In 1880, dry goods purveyors Samuel Walter Woodward and Alvin Mason Lothrop moved from Massachusetts to Washington. In 1887, Woodward & Lothrop opened at 11th and F streets Northwest. The store soon became a viable competitor to the New York City names with locations throughout the region until the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1994. Even new arrivals to the city will recognize the building, a historic landmark that now houses Zara and Madame Tussauds wax museum. The Baltimore-based department store historian Michael Lisicky has just released a book that tells the story of the Washington institution’s journey through world wars and the 1968 riots and zoning laws and, eventually, closure. On Monday evening, the author will discuss the book at the public library a few blocks from the flagship. Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW. 202/727-0321. Web: dclibrary.org/mlk.


Artists in Action Film Series

It’s Le Mois du Film Documentaire (French Documentary Month), but if you can’t get to the City of Lights, the Embassy of France is bringing two critically acclaimed French documentaries to Washington for a double screening this week. On Tuesday, get an intimate look at the life and work of Louise Bourgeois, a French-American artist and sculptor, with “Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress, and the Tangerine,” directed by Marion Cajori and Amei Wallach. A pioneering artist best known for her spider sculptures, Bourgeois was the first woman to receive a major retrospective at MOMA in New York. (She passed away in 2010, shortly after the biopic was shot.) On Wednesday, catch “Double-Blind,” directed by artistic collaborators and partners Sophie Calle and Greg Shephard, who videotaped their journey (and relationship) as they drove through the American West in a Cadillac. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Road. Web: frenchculture.org.


A Christmas Carol

We just polished off the Halloween candy, but it’s officially the holiday season since “A Christmas Carol” opens Thursday at Ford’s Theatre, a beloved Washington tradition for more than 30 years. We all know Charles Dickens’ story, though it never gets old. The miserly Ebenezer Scrooge insists that his counting house clerk Bob Cratchit work on Christmas Eve. Scrooge even turns down his nephew’s invitation to the family holiday party and turns away two men asking for a holiday donation for the poor. That night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of an old friend, as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, who show him what his life could have been had he been more kind — and how it could get worse if he doesn’t forswear his greedy ways. Will he change his heart before Christmas Day? Ford’s “A Christmas Carol” has been directed by Michael Baron since 2009 and again stars local actor Edward Gero as Ebenezer Scrooge. Thursday through Jan. 1 at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. 202/347-4833. Web: fords.org.

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