Potpourri for November

1.  Forum (Re)Acts. A very nice evening at the Forum Theatre’s program on neighborhood change and gentrification.  Several local groups put on short skits which were built on various articles and news reports regarding urban neighborhood changes.  The audience packed the Silver Spring Roundhouse Theater.  I particularly enjoyed the sketch based on the Stronghold neighborhood of DC and the one-woman presentation called “The Way We Move”.

Stronghold is a small neighborhood located off North Capitol Street just south of Catholic University. At one time, it was white (generally German), and then became African American.  Now, there are whites moving back in.  This makes it typical of many Washington neighborhoods.  Stronghold (named about 50 years ago by a local informal football team – it had been called something else) is a close knit community.  The sketch was narrated by two women, and involved recorded interviews with Stronghold residents, images of the area flashed on a screen and a narrative read by two young women.  Quite professionally done.  Quite evocative.

“The Way We Move” was a narrative based on a report that Arlington VA is trying to promote development in, and upgrade, the neighborhood surrounding Columbia Pike. It told the story of moving into a neighborhood of strong ethnicity and mom-and-pop stores, being part of the change yet enjoying the old neighborhood, and seeing it change and change, but realizing that this is the way things are.  That things are continually changing.  That what is new today is old tomorrow.  That no change is permanent.  That “This is the Way We Move”.

Other sketches involved playing a game where you don’t know the rules and winners and losers were arbitrary. And the story of a woman being evicted as a neighborhood changed and her neighbors (with whom she thought she was in alliance) took buy-out payments one by one.

A nice theatrical evening that brought out a number of questions, none of which were resolved during the audience discussion period that followed and contained many thoughtful comments and recollections.

2.  Theater J:  “The Argument”.  Another example of questions that cannot be answered.  If she gets pregnant and wants an abortion, and he really wants this maybe, and there is obviously no compromise possible.  How do you resolve this?  (No answer given).  Nicely performed – interesting play.

3. Shakespeare Theatre: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  Washington Post critic Peter Marks thinks that the Shakespeare Theatre’s choice of this slapstick show is part of the dumbing down of American theater.  He may have a point.  This is a pretty worthless show, with a couple of good songs and a couple of cute lines.  And, naturally because this is STC, the show is very well done.  It was fun, although as I said, pretty worthless, the plot not worth explaining.  But it was fun………and pretty forgettable.

4.  Film:  Lost in America.  Many of the DC public library branches provide a public service by showing feature films at no cost to the public.  The Chevy Chase branch shows a film everyone Monday afternoon.  Several months ago, I went to see “Fahrenheit 451”, a film I had seen when it first came out (and remembered as being much better than in fact it was); I was one of two in the audience, and I wondered why the library staff bothered.

Last Monday, just for something to do, I went again, this time to see the Albert Brooks-Julie Hagerty 1985 comedy, “Lost in America”.  This time, I was one of 16 in attendance.  I would guess that the average age of the audience was at least 85 (that’s OK).  I had not seen this film before and must say I was again disappointed.  Husband and wife Brooks and Hagerty quit their successful careers, cash out their “nest egg”, by a Winnebago, and determine to spend the rest of their lives cruising the country.  But they lose their nest egg in Las Vegas on the first night, rattle around with their last $800, and go back to their careers.

Hard to make a winning movie of that theme, you say?  I agree.

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