Rich Massabny is a theatre, arts, & food critic in the nation's capital. He has been quoted in the Washington Post and Washington Times. One of the most visible cable television personalities in the Washington, D.C. area, his celebrity chefs on cooking shows, his weekly reviews and his hour long talk show, reach over 3,000,000 homes.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lessons in LEADERSHIP from the GREATEST GENERATION by Rod Gragg

The book, “Lessons in Leadership from the Greatest Generation” by Rod Gragg, should be must reading for all American kids. This book is about ordinary Americans who took their responsibilities seriously at tremendous risk to themselves and became World War II heroes. Commander Richard N. Antrim, age 34, saved his crew after the Japanese sunk his ship. After being captured and suffering from torture, Antrim interfered to defend his men. Then there's 25tyear old Sgt. Mike Fitch who earned two purple hearts and a Bronze Star; Marine Sgt. Mitchell Page; Army medic Desmond Doss; African-American Lt. Charles Thomas; Major Richard Winters. And at-home hero Elaine Wright, who after losing her son, took care of soldiers at a USO canteen. All of these folks showed not only courage, but leadership as well. So many moving stories that I wish I had time to tell. The book was published by Peilican Publishing Company in 2013. To secure a copy of this inspiring book, contact Peilican Publishing at 504-368-1175 or visit www.pelicanpub.com

GMU's Center for the Arts --”Moscow Festival Ballet”

At GMU's Center for the Arts, the Moscow Festival Ballet performed “Ballet Favorites” on Sunday, April 6. This wonderful ballet company was founded in 1989 by legendary Bolshoi Ballet principal dancer Sergei Radchenko. His mission was and is to stage new productions of timeless classics in the grand tradition of Russian ballet. Sunday's performance included excerpts from popular ballets like, “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Little Humpbacked Horse,” “Cinderella,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “ Don Quixote,” “Dying Swan” and “Paquita.” For more information about upcoming shows, call 888-045-2468 and check the website at www.cfa.gmu.edu. Keep in mind that the Virginia Opera comes in with “Carmen” on April 11 and 13. I had the pleasure of interviewing the star of “Carmen,” Ginger Costa, and she is charming. She's 27 years old and studied in Sicily. I suspect she's going to be a dynamic “Carmen.”

ARENA STAGE - - “Camp David”

DO NOT MISS “Camp David” at Arena Stage!!! I cannot remember in my 30 years of reviewing theatre, when a show was as compelling or went as quickly as “Camp David,” currently playing at the Arena Stage in the District. The show was particularly meaningful to those of us in the audience old enough to remember when then President Jimmy Carter brought together Israeli leader Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat for peace talks. They met at Camp David for nearly two weeks before an agreement was finally reached. Lawrence Wright wrote this riveting play based on true accounts and it was directed beautifully by Arena Stage's artistic director, Molly Smith. The actors were absolutely superb: Richard Thomas played Jimmy Carter; Ron Rifkin, Menachem Begin;Khaled Nabawy, Anwar Sadat and Hallie Foote as Rosalynn Carter. As an added treat, on opening night, President and Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Sadat were in the audience. “Camp David” plays through May 4 at Arena Stage. This is a show you will never forget. For information and tickets, call 202-488-3300 and check the website at www.arenastage.org.

METROPOLITAN OPERA simulast of Puccini's “La Boheme”

It doesn't happen often at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, but it did this past Saturday afternoon. Anita Hastig was supposed to star as Mimi in Puccini's “La Boheme”, but she came down with the flu. So, at 7:30 a.m. and after just two hours sleep, having sung the lead role in “Madame Butterfly” the night before, Kristine Opolais received a call from the general manger of the Met, Mr. Gelb, asking her to sing the role of Mimi. She did—and she was wonderful So were the packed stage of the other singers and actors. Vittorio Grigolo played her lover, Rodolfo. “La Boheme” was saved in grand style. For upcoming simulcasts, check the Met's schedule at www.metopera.org. The next simulcast is “Cosi Fan Tutte” on April 26. In our area the Met simulcasts are at the Ballston Regal Theatres in the Ballston Mall.



THE NATIONAL THEATRE Hal Holbrook's “Mark Twain Tonight”

To call Hal Holbrook a national treasure would be an understatement, given his body of work and in particular his portrayal of Mark Twain for the past 60 years. Holbrook was at the National Theatre last week for an all too short run of “Mark Twain Tonight!” He covered so many topics, and spent a lot of time working over Congress, much to the delight of the audience. Holbrook is close to 90 years old, but his voice is strong and his performance, flawless and absolutely wonderful. The next time he comes to town, you must not miss him. Kudos to The National Theatre for bringing him to town.
The next Broadway show coming to The National is one of my favorites, “West Side Story.” It opens June 3 and runs through June 8th. For information and tickets, call 202-628-6161 and check the website at www.thenationaldc.org.



SHAKESPEARE THEATRE COMPANY “Brief Encounter”

I never saw the 1945 black and white movie, “Brief Encounter,” but was always well aware of it—and Noel Coward's one-act play”Still Life” on which the movie was based. Currently playing at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre in D.C. is one of the best plays I've seen this season, “Brief Encounter.” STC is playing host to Kneehigh, a Cornish theatre company on an international tour with this new version of “Brief Encounter” employing techniques making this production simply outstanding! You won't believe how they mesh film footage of the old movie into the live action onstage. Remarkable! The story is a lovely, not sordid, affair between two people, both married, but not to each other. Laura (Hannah Yelland) is waiting for a train and gets a speck in her eye. A charming physician, Dr. Harvey (Jim Sturgeon) is nearby and quickly removes the speck—and a friendly relationship begins. They agree to meet every Thursday at the train depot. Kneehigh truly captures the innocence and sweetness of the 40's era. Joe Alessi is terrific in two roles, a waiter and then more seriously as Laura's husband. Annette McLaughlin as Myrtle a concession stand worker and Dorothy Atkinson as Beryl, contribute lots of laughs. Damon Daunno as Stanley rounds out the cast. Musicians Dave Brown and James Gow add to the good feelings. Emma Rice adapted and directed this romantic story. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!!! “Brief Encounter” only runs through April 13. For information and tickets, call the box office at 202-547-1122 and check the website at www.ShakespeareTheatre.org.

METRO STAGE - - “The Thousandth Night”

Metro Stage in Alexandria is producing in repertory, two, one man shows, “The Thousandth Night,” written by Carol Wolf and “Underneath the Lintel,” written by Glen Berger. I saw the first one last weekend, “The Thousandth Night” which stars Marcus Kyd as a French actor headed for a German concentration camp. Playing many roles he tries to convince his captors to let him return to Paris and the Cafe Shaherazad. Kyd, a co-founder of the Taffety Punk theatrical company, is adept and engaging at physical comedy.
Beginning April 17, Paul Morella will star in “Underneath the Lintel,” about a Dutch librarian searching for the person who returned a book 116 years overdue. John Vreeke directs both shows. For information and tickets, call Metro Stage at 703-548-9044 and check the website at www.metrostage.org.