Review: The Motherf**ker with the Hat

On February 5, 2013, in Featured, by Focus Washington

By Chuck Conconi

It is important to get the profane title – The Motherf**ker with the Hat – out of the way and move on to realizing that the play rises far above any snickering, shock value of the title. The asterisk protected Motherf**cker, as it appears in print advertisements, is a brilliant and thought-provoking production now being performed at the Studio Theatre. Ignore the title, and if profane language offends you, then don’t attend. If you make that decision, however, you will have missed a significant theatrical experience.

Photo credit: The New Yorker

The author, Stephen Adly Guirgis, writes about people of the underclass of New York City. They are real, often angry people who drink too much, use drugs, and have sex outside of their committed relationships. They are not all that different than the rest of us, except being at a lower economic level. They talk a language filled with familiar vulgarities that flow smoothly and comfortably through their conversations. It takes a few minutes to get past the shock and nervous amusement of so much profanity, but then it seems normal and of little consequence. What is more important is that Guirgis has such a remarkable ear for the speech patterns of his characters. The way they talk and act feels authentic and natural. In fact, profanities are what most of us hear at the office and at the best social events.

Guirgis is like a 21st century John Steinbeck with a symphony and understanding of people at the lower rungs of society, trying to cope with drugs, alcohol, infidelity, love and survival. They are conflicted people with a code of behavior they desperately try to maintain, and are genuinely surprised when things don’t go as smoothly as expected. They are all of us, even though most of us like to believe we are more refined.

The five-member cast – Rosal Colon, Drew Cortese, Quentin Mare, Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey and Liche Ariza – adeptly handle the intense emotions Guirgis demands under the smart, deft direction of Serge Seiden, who clearly understands the people Guirgis knows and loves and treats the characters with the respect they deserve. The play pivots on Jackie, a confused, tragic figure, trapped in a world he doesn’t understand, stuck with having served jail time and in love with a woman who is an addict and has been unfaithful to him, hence the title when he sees a hat in their apartment that isn’t his. Drew Cortese so successfully portrays Jackie’s anger, love and confusion that he almost brings you to tears. A normal life is just within his grasp, and then it isn’t.

Cortese is someone to watch as his career will certainly grow. The same can be said of the other cast members who bring a painful reality and depth to the characters they portray.

The Motherf**ker with the Hat is a sensitive play, sensitively directed and performed. The stark sets designed by Debra Booth contribute to the hopelessness and despair of the characters and is complimented by being staged in Studio’s intimate Metheny Theatre.

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Review: Henry V at the Folger Theater

On January 31, 2013, in Featured, by Focus Washington

By Chuck Conconi

There are rare times in the theatre when a play that has been around for centuries will surprise you with a brilliant, well conceived and acted production, unexpected because it is so familiar. The Folger Theatre production of Henry V, which runs through March 3, does that.  It is one of Shakespeare’s easily recognizable plays with young king’s familiar Saint Crispin’s Day ringing oration before leading his vastly outnumbered troops once more into the battle at Agincourt. It is one of the great Shakespearian dramas that is as contemporary as today’s news. Henry V is all about the grim human sacrifices of war, the unrealistic call of patriotism, and a callow king who is tested in battle and becomes a better leader of men than even he realizes he can be.

As envisioned and directed by Robert Richmond, Henry V at the Folger is a rare theatrical production where everything is right, from the set to the costumes, to the music and lighting, and especially to the 13 member troop of players performing the 48 characters of the play. There is no argument that the intimate Folger Theatre is a setting that profoundly enhances the Shakespearean experience, but to say that detracts from this marvelous production that taxes the ability in finding the proper superlatives.

Henry V is the inexperience king on a campaign to seize the throne of France who faces a superior force on the fields of Agincourt, and against the overwhelming odds, is victorious. Richmond describes the play as “a young man’s rite of passage.” And Zach Appleman, who portrays the callow king, is simply mesmerizing. Anyone who sees this production will forever measure any future productions by the standard Appleman has set.

Every member of this remarkable cast deserves recognition, and it seems unfair not to praise individual performances. There are performances, however, that must be listed. That includes Richard Sheridan Willis, who as the chorus, sets the scene, Louis Butelli as the tragic Bardolph, and Katie deBuys who, in two significant roles — one an impressionable English boy who follows off to war and later as Katherine of France who is marry Henry. Henry and Katherine have a delightful, memorable scene together — the English king in halting French attempting to express his love, the beautiful princess in hesitant English, being coy and coquettish.

One of Richmond’s additions to the production is the mesmerizing music of Jessica Witchger, who plays an exciting, sometimes melancholy violin background. She also plays the harp. Her inclusion into the background of the production, is still another example of Richman’s deft hand.

Mariah Hale’s costumes are respectful of the historic period. Tony Cisek designed a functional minimalist set with massive timbers that are lowered or pulled back to establish the moods of Andrew Griffin’s lighting design and Michael Rasbury’s sound design. Not to be overlooked is the complex stage fighting by fight director Casey Kaleba.

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What it’s like to attend the official inaugural ball

On January 22, 2013, in Featured, by Focus Washington

Obamas Inauguration 2013

By Mary Morgan

As the official inauguration ceremony and parade came to an end last night, Washingtonians refused to stop the celebration. Dressed in black tie attire, D.C. celebrated the second inauguration of Barack Obama far into the night.

Last week, Chuck Conconi advised D.C. on how to handle inauguration weekend like a veteran of the affair. Today, I’m going to tell you how to handle inauguration like a newbie, such as myself. And if you haven’t attended before, you should definitely go to an official inaugural ball.

This was my first inauguration in Washington. Following Chuck’s advice that everyone should experience an official inaugural ball at least once, I was quick to jump on the experience when a friend offered me tickets.

This post is about what it’s like to attend the official inaugural ball.

The official ball attracted 30,000 attendees. The excitement level was high, the ball gowns were floor-length, the tuxedos were crisp and the champagne was flowing. Many dates danced from the moment their arrived until the ball’s end at midnight. People posed for their official photos and also snapped many more on the dance floor. A long list of performers covered almost every music genre: Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Black Violin, Fun., John Legend, the Glee cast, Soundgarden and Stevie Wonder.

The moment everyone was waiting for happened around 9. President Obama and the First Lady took the stage, and received a massive round of applause and cheers from the crowd. Jennifer Hudson also appeared, and her rendition of “Let’s Stay Together” was the background for their official dance.

After the Obamas departed for their list of other places that undoubtedly required their presence, the epic Stevie Wonder hit the stage. Stevie attempted to teach the crowd how to sing in harmony to “Isn’t She Lovely.” And thousands of people tried to harmonize for Stevie, but apparently the ballroom’s musical talent was limited to strictly the people on the stage.

The Bidens followed him, with Jamie Foxx to provide the tune of “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Attending an official inaugural ball at least once is an experience I would encourage. It’s rather exciting to be part of something as monumental as an inauguration. Standing in a crowd of 30,000 and being able to feel the energy of an historic moment is truly unique and unforgettable.

Next inauguration, I may take Chuck’s advice and attend one of the private soirees or a state society ball. But this night was one I’ll always remember, and I am thrilled to say that I was a part of the experience.

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America’s Other Army: The Podcast Series

On January 10, 2013, in DCView, by Focus Washington

By Mary Morgan

Former Financial Times and Washington Times correspondent Nicholas Kralev covered the State Department for a decade. He traveled with four secretaries of state, and his experience has granted him a superb knowledge of diplomacy and foreign service. Finding himself frustrated with the media practices, he quit his job and wrote the book America’s Other Army.

The research for his book granted him unprecedented access to Washington and across the world. He visited over 50 embassies and consulates, and interviewed 600 diplomats.

Diplomats have a never-ending set of responsibilities to ensure national interests. Their day-to-day service affects the lives of millions of individuals across the planet.

His book launch party, held at Qorvis Communications‘ headquarters in D.C., kickstarted Kralev’s tour. On Jan. 8, he announced his hope to launch a podcast series in order to dive into the topic he feels so passionately about.

He seeks to prove that foreign affairs is more than crises, scandals and policies. Kralev has seen the foreign service protect security and prosperity, and he hopes to teach people more about America’s Other Army: The diplomats.

This video, produced by Qorvis’ video team, seeks to help Kralev find sponsors to make the podcasts a reality, and further his dream of unveiling to the public the rigorous role of a diplomat.

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D.C. Votes

On November 5, 2012, in DCView, by Focus Washington

By Colleen Flanagan

Tomorrow decides the fate of the next four years of our country, who will be occupying the White House come January, as well as numerous state and local issues included on the ballot. The polls will be open from 7:00am to 8:00pm at various voting locations in D.C. and Maryland. In Virginia, polls will open an hour earlier at 6:00am and close likewise at 7:00pm.
dc-washington-early-voting-silver-spring
This year’s election is unique because a record number of residents in the area took advantage of Early Voting. Over the past week, residents waited in lines for up to two-hours long to cast their ballot. The New Jersey government is allowing residents to email or fax in ballots due to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Today you can research ballot issues and follow Washington Post’s comprehensive guide to local and national elections. Tomorrow we here at Focus Washington urge you to get out and vote.

There are many ways to celebrate Election Day in D.C. including events at Busboys & Poets, The National Press Club, and various restaurants and venues around town. The Kennedy Center is featuring Election Night Jam to ring in the Election. One thing’s for sure, no matter where you go the live results will be prominently displayed.

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Superstorm Sandy Sweeps Across DC

On November 1, 2012, in Featured, by Focus Washington

By Mary Morgan

The hurricane indirectly hit the nation's capital

Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Atlantic coast this week, and left behind a stream of unparalleled northeastern wreckage. Sandy wreaked havoc in DC, Philly, New Jersey, New York City and Boston, and left some in historic states of emergency.

On Sunday night, the Federal offices of D.C. officially closed for Monday, and the majority of other companies followed suit. The metro and bus systems were also closed. The same occurred the next day, extending the closure through Tuesday. Most residents of Washington, D.C. worked from home, and waited for Sandy’s rude arrival, and her aftermath.

While it had been inevitable for DC to be effected by the storm, the degree of what the damage would be was unknown.

Due to the location that Hurricane Sandy ended up hitting shore, the storm sideswiped Washington instead of delivering a direct landing. Residents awoke Tuesday to find that even a dampened blow was enough to make its mark.

Massive power outages and extensive damage swept across the greater D.C. area. Trees fell into homes; roads were closed due to flooding. By 4 p.m. Tuesday, around 238,000 people in the Washington-Baltimore area had lost their power. Most power outages were concentrated in Northern Virginia, Bethesda and Rockville. The rising Potomac River gained six inches, and hovered inches away from its banks.

DC residents felt the storm in an additional way: This hurricane extended its reach into politics. Gallup suspended its nightly polling of the presidential race. State officials asked residents to bring political lawn signs inside, as to avoid them becoming projectiles. The presidential candidates suspended campaign appearances. Former governors George Allen and Timothy Kaine took breaks from their Senate race. Allen rested at home, and Kaine carved pumpkins with his children.

Much of the damage to the capital is being repaired swiftly. Work resumed Wednesday, and the metro lines returned to normal. Power is being restored, and trees are being removed.

While D.C. residents marvel at how their city was spared, their hearts and thoughts reach out to their northern neighbors. To the residents of New York and New Jersey, we at Focus Washington give you our deepest thoughts and sympathy, and hope that your lives are restored to normal as quickly as possible.

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Focus Washington: 2012 Election & Conventions

On September 6, 2012, in DCView, by Focus Washington

 

Qorvis‘ Chuck Conconi sits down with Ron Faucheux to discuss the 2012 election. The presidential race as close to a tie as an election can be as Republicans and Democrats focus on rallying their base and swaying undecided voters with their conventions. Democratic National Convention got off to a fast start with a lot of enthusiasm attendees while the Republican National Convention schedule had to get shuffled last minute to due to hurricane Isaac. The Democrats stand a chance to pick up some house seats, but republicans are likely to hold the majority. However control of the Senate is up for grabs.

The budget deficit situation has never been this bad. The numbers have never been this large. Politicians are unwilling to compromise.

Focus Washington: 2012 Election: Is it the 99% v. 1%?

On July 31, 2012, in DCView, by Focus Washington

Bill Press, an astute observer of the American political scene, discusses the 2012 election with Focus Washington host and chairman at Qorvis, Chuck Conconi. The 2012 election comes down to a choice between somebody who comes from the 1% and will fight for the 1% or someone body who comes from the 99% and will fight for you. Do we go forward with Obama’s program or go back to the policies of Bush and Cheney? Why isn’t gun control part of this campaign?

DC’s Government Agencies Grades for July

On July 24, 2012, in DCView, by Focus Washington

A new system implement by D.C. mayor Vincent C. Gray, which allows residents of the district to grade their cities government agencies has found that city services are still just average but have improved over the past month. The innovative testing service, know as Grade DC concluded that residents are generally satisfied with the public works, transportation, motor vehicles, parks and recreation and business licensing agencies. To add your grades go to grade.dc.gov

The agency grades for the month of July are as follows:

DDOT = C+, DCRA = C+, DPW = B, DMV = C-, DPR = C

 

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