Metro Weekly

Hot Picks: 10 Things in do IRL and online in D.C. and beyond

The KenCen reopens Studio K, catch a Donna Summer musical in Baltimore, devour some Honeymoon Chicken, and more.

The Club at Studio K: Liza Treyger
The Club at Studio K: Liza Treyger

THE CLUB AT STUDIO K

In the fall of 2019, the Kennedy Center was bustling with excitement and potential stemming from the venue’s significantly expanded range of cultural programming with its REACH expansion. It all came to a sudden, screeching halt in March due to the pandemic. Two years later, the REACH is officially reopening with the relaunch of a performance series presenting contemporary musicians and cultural creatives in an intimate, informal cabaret-style setting.

The Club at Studio K series is intended, as the Kennedy Center’s Simone Eccleston puts it, to serve “as a creative ‘hang space’ and a dynamic cultural incubator where artists and audiences can connect with each other.” Over the next six weeks, the series offers nearly a dozen events featuring a dynamic mix and spanning genres of jazz, hip-hop, comedy, storytelling and spoken-word poetry.

One clear early standout is the Washington Improv Theater’s iMusical, in which improv experts in the ensemble work to churn out “completely catchy, seductive, singable musical theater songs happening spontaneously, in a way that connects to something hilarious and/or truthful in a scene” (2/19).

Two weeks later, “Riot! Funny Women Stand Up” is a three-night event featuring nine up-and-coming female comics, among them Ali Kolbert, a 28-year-old queer comedian and podcaster who has a knack for sharing hilarious personal asides while tackling weighty issues of queer identity, dating, and mental health; Cristela Alonzo, credited as the first Latina to develop, produce, and star in her own primetime comedy series, ABC’s Cristela from 2014; Natasha Leggero, the mordant comic actress who first gained attention as a Chelsea Lately regular and more recently starred in Comedy Central’s zany Another Period; Brittany Carney, a staff writer for HBO’s That Damn Michael Che Show; and Liz Treyger, a Chicago-bred comic known from MTV2’s Joking Off and Adam Devine’s House Party (3/3-5).

Washington Improv Theater: iMusical, the improvised musical
Washington Improv Theater: iMusical, the improvised musical

Additional highlights among the full lineup include:

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, a third-generation New Orleans musician and innovator known for his genre-blurring Stretch Music label and annual festival (2/11-12).

“Mortified,” David Nadelberg’s podcast-based storytelling show in which strangers from all walks of life “share the shame” of their “teen angst artifacts,” created when they were all so young and impressionable (2/17).

“The Time Machine Roast with Benjy Himmelfarb,” a kind of sober, live Drunk History show in which comedians roast heretofore hallowed historical figures and challenge their legacy with some of “the meanest, funniest, most historically accurate jokes you’ve ever heard” (2/24).

Mark Turner Quintet, a leading contemporary jazz player leading his band in a musical and literary exploration of the Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, James Weldon Johnson’s landmark 1912 novel about a young, biracial man in post-Reconstruction Era America (2/25).

Georgia Anne Muldrow, a Grammy-nominated collaborator and producer for Dev Hynes and Erykah Badu, among others, whose work as a solo artist is a multi-genre blend of jazz, hip-hop, electronica, and rock (3/17).

Story District with “Funnier Than Fiction: Real Hot Girl Sh*t,” a showcase of true autobiographical stories from extraordinary women in honor of Women’s History Month (3/18).

Ticket prices range from $15 to $49 per show. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.

SUMMER: THE DONNA SUMMER MUSICAL

In 2018, actresses LaChanze and Ariana DeBose garnered Tony nominations for their performances as Diva Donna and Disco Donna in the original Broadway run of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. All told, the show requires three strong actresses with powerhouse voices to bring to life the singular sensation born as LaDonna Adrian Gaines, whose influence and legacy surpasses that of the limited Queen of Disco title bestowed upon her, just as her talent and accomplishments surpassed the respect and acclaim she was accorded in her lifetime. (Case in point: She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the year following her death in 2012.)

In the current touring production of the show, Brittny Smith plays Diva Donna while Charis Gullage is Disco Donna, and Amahri Edwards-Jones is Duckling Donna. Porter Lee Anderson III plays Summer’s father, John Guaragna her husband, and Christopher Lewis her label boss, Neil Bogart, and the show runs with a whopping 17-member ensemble cast. Colman Domingo, the queer Black actor and playwright, made his musical-writing debut with the work, serving as a book co-writer with Des McAnuff and Robert Cary.

The show features many of Summer’s biggest hits, ending, rightfully, with a full company performance of “Last Dance,” which Summer called a clear favorite both of hers and her fans. “There’s something magical about [it], honest and truly,” Summer said in a rare 2010 interview with Metro Weekly. “I used to see Judy Garland, and she would be in her light and in her moment. And there are times in that song when I have a sense of that [same] feeling. Everybody knows the lyrics, they’re singing it back to me. There’s a real connection in that song. That’s beautiful.”

Opens Tuesday, Feb. 15 and runs to Feb. 20. Hippodrome Theatre, 12 North Eutaw St., Baltimore. Tickets are $52.50 to $175. Call 410-547-SEAT or visit https://baltimore.broadway.com.

SONiA: disappear fear -- Photo: Steve Tabor
SONiA: disappear fear — Photo: Steve Tabor

SONIA DISAPPEAR FEAR: BAND REUNION CONCERT

Next Friday, Feb. 18, the trailblazing lesbian indie-folk artist Sonia Rutstein will celebrate her birthday — a date also designated as the 34th Annual International Disappear Fear Day. “When you disappear fear between people, what you have is love,” says the progressive Baltimore-based singer-songwriter, who has made the whole notion of disappear fear her life’s motto, and long ago adapted the expression to serve as the name of her music act and identity, which she stylizes as SONiA disappear fear.

One day later, she will continue the celebration with a one-night-only concert featuring the original five-piece disappear fear backing band: Howard Markman on guitar, Brian Simms on keys, Chris Sellman on bass, and Marc Lawrence on drums. Along with special guest Tony Correlli, they’ll jam with SONiA to perform many of the standout songs from her 30-plus year career, but the focus is on debuting songs from the forthcoming SONiA disappear fear album, expected later this year, and the first recorded set featuring the five-piece since 1996’s Seed in the Sahara.

Saturday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. Gordon Center for the Performing Arts at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills, Md. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door, plus $3 fee. Call 410-356-7469 or visit www.jcc.org/gordon-center or www.soniadisappearfear.com.

McLean Community Center: The Alden Theatre and the Old Firehouse: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo -- Photo: Sascha Vaughan
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo — Photo: Sascha Vaughan

LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO

Ballet is a mostly dramatic artform, which is why Tory Dobrin didn’t start his career as a professional ballet dancer donning drag. You have to be serious before you can get silly. Ultimately, Dobrin has had a long career of getting silly with drag ballet — having auditioned in 1980 to dance with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and add some zip and zing into his routine.

When he retired from dancing two decades ago, Dobrin stepped into the role of artistic director for the company, touted as “the world’s foremost all-male comedic ballet company.” The Trocks, as they’re known, have only gotten better, bigger, and more popular in the 48 years since they first donned drag for a show in a tiny loft space in New York’s Meatpacking District. “The dancing is better, more technically secure,” Dobrin told Metro Weekly a few years ago. “And that has allowed the comedy also to broaden out a lot, to be less subtle and more campy.” The troupe has been nearly all gay from the beginning, and continues to perform for a predominant mix of gays and gay-friendly aficionados of dance and theater. Friday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave., Mclean, Va. Tickets are $30 to $40. Call 703-790-0123 or visit www.www.aldentheatre.org.

Russian Ballet Theatre: Swan Lake
Russian Ballet Theatre: Swan Lake

RUSSIAN BALLET THEATRE: SWAN LAKE

This weekend, the Washington Ballet celebrates its triumphant return to the Kennedy Center with a new, enhanced production of Swan Lake that had already been years in the making before the pandemic. Also revisiting the tragic love story of Prince Siegfried and the Swan Princess Odette, set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s powerful score, is the Russian Ballet Theatre, coming this weekend to the Weinberg Center for the Arts.

Launched in 2015, this classics-oriented touring company puts an emphasis on spectacle and technique, hiring some of the world’s sharpest and most renowned designers and dancers for productions aimed at putting “the breathtaking beauty of classical Russian ballet” on full, grandiloquent display.

For Swan Lake, the company turned to two Mariinsky Theatre veterans to handle the bulk of the work — Nadezhda Kalinina, credited with lovingly revising the dazzlingly iconic choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and Sergei Novikov, who designed exquisite, hand-painted sets and 150 gorgeous, hand-sewn costumes. Meanwhile, Irina Strukova, a go-to makeup artist in Hollywood, best known for her work on Crazy Rich Asians, signed on for hair and special effects makeup duty, helping to further enhance the general sense of magic and whimsy. Eugeny Svetlitsa as Siegfried and Olga Kifyak as Odette lead a large, 36-member cast of dancers also featuring Mikhail Ovcharov as the Jester. Friday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m. Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick, Md. Tickets are $58.50 to $88.50 plus fees. Call 301-600-2828 or visit www.weinbergcenter.org.

Debbie Millman — Photo: John Madere

NOTABLE DISCUSSIONS AT SIXTH AND I

Over the past 15 years, Debbie Millman has explored what it means to design a creative life as well as one with meaning and purpose through her podcast “Design Matters.” Millman has just released Why Design Matters: Conversations with the World’s Most Creative People, an illustrated, curated anthology grouping dozens of her best interviews from the podcast into categories, including Legends, Truth Tellers, Culture Makers, Trendsetters, and Visionaries, and is said to represent Millman’s talent for celebrating curiosity, self-expression, intelligence, and both inner and outer beauty. Included are insights and reflections from Brené Brown, Ira Glass, Pete Souza, Priya Parker, Tim Ferriss, and Esther Perel. Millman will drop by the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. for a conversation about the anthology led by her wife, Roxanne Gay, the bestselling author of Hunger and essay collection Bad Feminist who is also a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times.

That’s just one of a handful of upcoming readings and discussions at Sixth and I, with a virtual component available for all in-person events. The schedule also includes Marlon James, a National Book Award finalist for Black Leopard, Red Wolf, discussing his latest novel, Moon Witch, Spider King, the second in a Dark Star trilogy he’s dubbed his “African Game of Thrones” (2/16);

Arthur Brooks, the Harvard professor and social scientist who will discuss From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life in conversation with The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg (2/17);

Erik Larson, who will discuss The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, a portrait of courage and leadership in a time of unprecedented crisis now out in paperback (2/22);

Reshma Saujani, the Girls Who Code founder who will focus on Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work (and Why It’s Different Than You Think) in a discussion about the “big lie” of corporate feminism and her plan for innovative leadership, government intervention, and sweeping cultural shift, guided by Sally Buzbee, executive editor of the Washington Post (3/17). Sixth & I is located at 600 I St. NW. Call 202-408-3100 or visit www.sixthandi.org.

Honeymoon Chicken: Hot Honey Dipped Chicken Sandwich

Honeymoon Chicken’s Hot Honey Dipped Chicken Sandwich

HONEYMOON CHICKEN

A month ago, Petworth got a new finer-than-your-average fried chicken joint. Of course, there’s nothing noteworthy about that at face value. What’s noteworthy about Honeymoon Chicken, however, is the concept itself, and the principals behind it. The latest in the new but growing collection of culinary and hospitality concepts known as Catalogue by Salis Holdings, Honeymoon is a sibling to Ted’s Bulletin, Federalist Pig, Sidekick Bakery, Ensemble Kitchen, and Kramers, the iconic Dupont Circle bookstore and its rebranded café All Day by Kramers.

Steve Salis, an original founder of the &Pizza fast casual chain, is clearly on a mission, one of creating a multi-varied empire of ventures that “share one thing in common: these brands elevate the everyday.” In the case of Honeymoon Chicken, we’re talking “fried chicken, but fancy,” with a chef-curated menu led by Federalist Pig’s Rob Sonderman featuring high-quality ingredients, advanced preparation for the bird — a three-step process starting with pickle-brining for 24 hours before hand-breading and then pressure-frying — and signature finishes, including the sweet and savory Honey Dust spice blend and the sweet and spicy Hot Honey Dip sauce. Plus, it’s all available at reasonable fast-casual (as opposed to fast-food) prices.

For those preferring a different kind of white meat — what could be called chicken of the sea, if you joke — Honeymoon also offers Seafood Baskets of Shrimp or Flounder, or a mix of the two. Also available are entree-sized salads topped with crispy chicken bites, a range of sandwiches going beyond the basic chicken varieties from Honey Garlic Chicken Banh Mi to Crispy Mushroom Sandwich, additional sharable options and sides, an enticing selection of signature desserts (Honeymoon Hand Pies, Honeymoon Cosmic Sundae), and an eclectic list of cocktails, from a Strawberry Lemonade Frozen Spiked Slushie, to a vodka-based Citrus Watermelonade with melon puree and sour mix, to the incredibly potent Tokyo Tea, a knockout of rum, tequila, midori, and triple sec, with lime juice and soda. Honeymoon Chicken is at 4201 Georgia Ave. NW. Call 202-983-5010 or visit www.honeymoonchicken.com. Takeout and delivery via Toast.

1st Stage: The Phlebotomist
1st Stage: The Phlebotomist

THE PHLEBOTOMIST

A phlebotomist finds herself being pulled deeper and deeper into the dark side of the genetic testing underworld in this gripping science-fiction romance that was a recent hit in London, even garnering a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement. Virginia’s 1st Stage presents the regional premiere of this play by Ella Road, a dystopian thriller set in a genomics-ruled society where every person is assigned a “rating” at birth based on their genetic map. This unnerves the phlebotomist, named Bea, — until she meets and quickly falls in love with Aaron, who, she comes to find out, has a near-perfect rating far exceeding her own, setting the stage for her undoing.

Alex Levy directs a four-person cast including Josh Adams, Anne Bowles, Sasha Olinick, and Lynette Rathnam, for a production with a strong design team led by scenic designer Kathryn Kawecki. Previews begin Thursday, Feb. 17. Opening Saturday, Feb. 19. Runs to March 6. 1524 Spring Hill Rd. Tysons. Tickets are $15 to $50. Call 703-854-1856 or visit www.1ststage.org.

Carrie Waller Fire and Light
Carrie Waller Fire and Light

STRATHMORE’S THE BIG AND SMALL OF IT

When viewed together, works by three very different artists “highlight the ways the big and small work together in paintings,” to quote the official description for a current exhibition at Strathmore’s historic Mansion. Debra Keirce, Carrie Waller, and Maria Bennett Hock comprise the collective known as Women. Artists. Masters., or WAM, who work to help each other solve problems as well as create and implement goals, brainstorm ideas, and support each other in their creative pursuits.

The Big and Small of It features bold, palm-sized oil miniatures, often created under magnification by Keirce, intriguing works on canvas using bold, loose strokes in oils by Hock, and larger-than-life watercolors depicting everyday objects with intricate nuances and in dramatic light by Waller.

The result is an invitation for viewers, as Lesley Morris, Strathmore’s exhibitions director, puts it, “to both lean in and step back for the experience.” And the ultimate goal of WAM, in addition to helping advance the members’ individual artistry and output, is to encourage others to join together “in a spirit of business and friendship.” On view through March 12. The Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda. Call 301-581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.

Charli XCX: Alone Together

CHARLI XCX: ALONE TOGETHER

When Los Angeles issued a five-week stay-at-home order at the outset of COVID-19, avant-garde pop artist Charli XCX decided she would keep herself busy by creating a new album from scratch during that time period. And as soon as she unveiled the project through impromptu Instagram Live sessions, her fans she calls “Angels” convinced her to make it a collaborative effort, with her enlisting their input on everything from songwriting to video design. The artistic duo known as Bradley & Pablo even convinced her to let them record the whole process for their feature-length film debut.

After spending a year of sifting through the more 5,000 video clips captured over those 39 days, the resulting documentary is far more insightful and compelling than expected, revealing some of the anxieties and insecurities that Charli has previously kept hidden behind a steely facade and displays of bravado. Far more remarkable is the palpable sense of community and personal bonding the project helped engender between Charli and her sizable contingent of vulnerable LGBTQ fans in particular — with Charli drawing inspiration from their strength and resolve in the face of adversity, stigma, and rejection, and vice versa.

Subtitled An Intimate Portrait of Isolation, Creativity and Community, Charli XCX: Alone Together serves as an illuminating and endearing time capsule documenting far more than merely the making of her album How I’m Feeling Now to also show how connections and community can be made in the virtual realm in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. Now streaming on Hulu. Visit www.hulu.com. For more on the artist, visit www.charlixcx.com.

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