Metro Weekly

Hot Picks of the Week: Dua Lipa, AirOtic, Capital Irish Film Festival and more!

A pop diva returns, rippling torsos soar, Hillwood explores luxurious clay, and a unique dining experience opens.

Irish Film Festival
Capital Irish Film Festival

CAPITAL IRISH FILM FESTIVAL

Solas Nua, the D.C.-based organization dedicated to presenting contemporary Irish arts, readies its annual showcase of films from Ireland the first weekend of March. Co-presented by the AFI Silver Theatre, this year’s festival inaugurates the Norman Houston Short Film Award, named in memory of a former director of the Northern Ireland Bureau in the U.S. as an honor for a filmmaker based in or from Northern Ireland with a film screening at the festival.

The first recipients of the award are Tom Berkeley and Ross White, whose film, An Irish Goodbye, is a black comedy focused on the reunion of two estranged brothers after the untimely death of their mother, portrayed by Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones). The filmmakers will receive the award as part of a ceremony on Friday, March 4, also offering a screening of the short paired with Stacey Gregg’s haunting thriller Here Before, starring British actress Andrea Riseborough.

The 2022 CIFF launches on Thursday, March 3, at 7 p.m. with Redemption of a Rogue, the debut feature from Irish playwright Philip Doherty, described as mixing “tar-black comedy and soulful reflections from an irresistible Groundhog Day-style premise,” and closes three days later — Sunday, March 6, at 7:15 p.m. — with Where’s The Craic?, a music-filled exploration of the Emerald Isle’s diverse and vibrant music scene from director Lauren Hakulinen, who will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.

In between are 15 feature-length films, plus nearly a dozen short films screening in one of two distinct programs.

Highlights among the full lineup include Conor McMahon’s Let The Wrong One In, billed as “a wonderfully silly horror comedy and irreverent take on the traditional vampire tale” ideal for fans of What We Do in the Shadows (3/4);

Secrets from Putumayo, a documentary from Aurélio Michiles exploring the legacy of Irish humanitarian and diplomat Roger Casement and narrated by The Crying Game‘s Stephen Rea (3/4);

Death of a Ladies’ Man, a Canadian/Irish film inspired by the music of Leonard Cohen and starring Gabriel Byrne as a carousing professor whose life takes a series of unimaginable turns after learning of his impending doom (3/5);

Lost Lives, a documentary paying cinematic homage to the victims on all sides of the conflict between Ireland and Northern Ireland and featuring narration by Kenneth Branagh, Brendan Gleeson, Roma Downey, Ciarán Hinds, and Liam Neeson (3/5);

Foscadh (Shelter), Seán Breathnach’s poignant tale about the struggles of a shy, reclusive young man after the death of his overprotective parents, adapted from Donal Ryan’s novel The Thing About December and selected as Ireland’s official 2022 entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar (3/6).

At the AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. Tickets are $13 per screening, or $120 for a CIFF All-Access Pass. Call 301-495-6720 or visit www.afi.com/Silver or www.solasnua.org/ciff.

LANDMARK THEATRES: OSCAR-NOMINATED SHORT FILMS 2022

Now that Landmark’s cineplexes, including all three in the Washington area, have fully reopened, the national chain has revived its annual tradition of screening all short films nominated for Academy Awards in the run-up to Hollywood’s biggest night, set for Sunday, March 27.

Co-presented by Shorts HD and Magnolia Pictures, Landmark offers three distinct programs of shorts, grouped into the same category as their nomination, whether Animated Short, Documentary Short Subject, or Live Action Short. There are no specifically LGBTQ-identified works among this year’s nominees, but LGBTQ-adjacent highlights include one shot in the area. Audible, by Matt Ogens and Geoff McLean, follows the Maryland School for the Deaf football team, although the Netflix-produced short is really a cautionary tale about discrimination and bullying and focused on Deaf Black star athlete Amaree McKenstry-Hall as he copes with the death by suicide of his gay, deaf, and Black best friend.

Documentaries also include When We Were Bullies, a joint U.S./German film from Jay Rosenblatt, Three Songs for Benazir from Afghanistan, Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk’s Lead Me Home, and Ben Proudfoot’s The Queen of Basketball.

Dealing with issues of racism, violence, and sexual assault, the Live Action category is a mostly international affair save for K.D. Dávila and Levin Menekse’s Please Hold, with On My Mind from Denmark, The Dress from Poland, The Long Goodbye from the U.K./Netherlands, and Ala Kachuu (Take and Run) from Kyrgyzstan/Switzerland.

Finally, this year’s Animated Shorts program isn’t the kind of light, kid-oriented fare you might expect. In fact, as the official release notes, it’s “FOR ADULTS ONLY,” given the male and female nudity and adult themes of the joint U.S. and Spanish film The Windshield Wiper, and especially the “disturbing imagery, animal abuse, bestiality, and rather extreme violence” of Bestia, a Chilean film about an infamous torturer of the Pinochet regime.

The slate is rounded out by the Russian Boxballet, the British/Canadian Affairs of the Art, and the British Robin Robin. All three individual programs screen at Landmark’s E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. The Animated and Live Action programs also screen at Bethesda Row Cinema, 7235 Woodmont Ave. Call 202-452-7672 or visit www.landmarktheatres.com.

Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia

DUA LIPA

This time two years ago, Dua Lipa was already firing on all cylinders, revving up promotion for her forthcoming second album, a disco-fueled conceptual dance-pop masterpiece — and future Grammy winner for Best Pop Vocal Album — which is as different from her appealing and auspicious 2017 self-titled debut as day is to night. And by this point in 2020, Lipa had just kicked things off in the grandest and gayest way possible, with a headline performance at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

All was seemingly going as planned, as if the stars were aligned for the aspiring stadium-filling superstar and diva-in-waiting — and then, well, you know. The pandemic lockdown would go on to inspire Lipa to plan an elaborate livestream in lieu of all the live shows that had been in the works for the remainder of 2020 and much of 2021. (Fun fact: That livestream, Studio 2054, attracted 5 million viewers, a record for a paid livestream at the time, and also the Guinness World Recordholder for highest ticket sales for a paid livestream by a female artist.)

Last year, in addition to forcing a second postponement of the Future Nostalgia Tour, the ongoing pandemic would also compel Lipa to release a deluxe Moonlight Edition of the album. And that, along with Club Future Nostalgia, the imaginatively nostalgic, time-warped remixed set that Lipa wisely tapped lesbian DJ The Blessed Madonna to oversee, served to help keep the album and its songs in regular rotation.

But now, lo and behold, the time is really and truly nigh: Lipa launched her tour earlier this month in Miami and will stop next week at Capital One Arena. Further fanning excitement, early reviews of the tour suggest it more than lives up to expectations, and was also well worth the wait.

As the Rolling Stone summed up the Miami stop: “It may have taken a couple extra years to bring Future Nostalgia to the stage, but she used that time to hone her powers and return as an even stronger, certified pop diva.” With Lolo Zouai and Caroline Polachek as opening acts. Wednesday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m. Capital One Arena, 601 F St. NW. Remaining tickets, both original and “Verified Resale,” are $125 to $625, plus taxes and fees. Call 202-628-3200 or visit www.capitalonearena.com.

AirOtic

AIROTIC

Roughly six years ago, Atlantis Events tapped aerial artists and acrobats Stephane Haffner and his husband Kyle Kier to develop a full-length LGBTQ-focused production for the popular gay cruise line. Since then, the married duo has formed a troupe featuring more than a dozen artists in peak physical form performing what they refer to as a “sexy and sensual circus-style show” — all while wearing tight and skimpy costumes that show off their chiseled bodies, courtesy of Haffner, a skilled, Paris-trained designer.

AirOtic has become a leading draw not only on Atlantis cruises but also at gay resorts including Provincetown, Palm Springs, and Ft. Lauderdale, as well as Chicago and Los Angeles. And this weekend, the troupe will make its debut in D.C. with shows in Park View’s dramatically high-ceilinged Hook Hall.

The hour-long production loosely relates a “story of love, passion, sexuality, and eroticism,” as told through a mix of choreography, circus artistry, aerial stunts, burlesque, and cabaret. Given all that, you won’t be surprised to hear of high demand for tickets.

If you want to catch the show, try to plan ahead and reserve tickets at least a week or more in advance — and booking is currently available for all shows in Hook Hall during the three-month engagement, running through May 13. Multiple performances each weekend. Hook Hall is at 3400 Georgia Ave. NW. Tickets are $45 to $80 each, or $95 per person for a four-seat Super VIP Couch. Call 202-629-4339 or visit www.hookhall.com or www.AirOticShow.com.

Blue Door -- Photo: Adam Mendelson
Blue Door — Photo: Adam Mendelson

BLUE DOOR

In recent years, noted playwright Tanya Barfield has dabbled in screenwriting for television — garnering a Writers Guild of America Award for her work on FX’s drama series The Americans and an Emmy nomination for writing on the acclaimed miniseries Mrs. America. Yet Barfield is still very much rooted in the theater. She serves as co-director of the playwriting program at Juilliard, and it was only six years ago when the self-identified “biracial gay woman” won a Lambda Literary Award for her Off Broadway play Bright Half Life, which focused on the romantic relationship between two lesbian characters.

A decade earlier is when the buzz about Barfield really started, when her play Blue Door prompted favorable comparisons to the work of August Wilson for exploring similar themes about race and racism, just on a more intimate and personal scale. Maryland’s Perisphere Theater has revived the play with original songs in a production directed and designed by Henery Wyand and starring DeJeanette Horne as the central character Lewis, with Jaucqir LaFond portraying various ghosts, from Lewis’s great grandfather to his brother.

A successful mathematics professor, Lewis is failing in his private life, with the wife who just left him accusing him of trying to ignore his Black identity and his ancestral history with slavery and racism. Cue visits from those family apparitions, who force him to reckon with all that and the way that history has, in fact, impacted and shaped him.

For an even deeper dive into the subject, Perisphere has invited two local professors of African-American history to lead discussions after the Sunday matinee performances, with Dr. Quincy Mills of the University of Maryland, College Park on hand this Sunday, Feb. 27, and Dr. Sylvea Hollis of Montgomery College speaking on March 6. Runs through March 12. Silver Spring Black Box Theatre, 8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. Tickets are $24 to $34. Call 301-588-8270 or visit www.perispheretheater.com.

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden

THE LUXURY OF CLAY: PORCELAIN PAST AND PRESENT

Invented in China in the 7th Century, porcelain didn’t become an international commodity until roughly a thousand years later, after Portuguese and Dutch merchants first created European demand for the beautiful, polished kiln-fired ceramic goods, and even more so once potters in Germany and France began producing “true porcelain” goods rivaling the Chinese exports.

The latest special exhibition at Hillwood offers a chronological overview shedding light on the history of the material, sometimes referred to as “white gold” given its natural color and high value — with an emphasis on its role in helping shape the luxury goods market and its lasting impact on the art world, chiefly by igniting centuries of innovation and creativity. Hillwood founder Marjorie Merriweather Post started her extensive porcelain collection a century ago, and in the ensuing decades established herself as a discerning connoisseur of the craft, displaying her treasures in special cases and designated rooms for French and Russian variations.

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden

Curated by Hillwood’s Rebecca Tilles, The Luxury of Clay features more than 140 porcelain objects — ranging from functional pieces and tableware to fine art and decorative sculptures, and including vases, teapots, dishes, and figurines. The bulk of these are prized, even rare, 18th-century pieces from innovative European factories — Meissen, Sèvres, Du Paquier, and the Imperial Porcelain Factory (KPM) — mostly drawn from the museum’s permanent collection but also featuring loans from the National Museum of American History, the Frick Collection, and other private reserves.

The exhibition is rounded out with contemporary examples and interpretations, including beautiful works of art by artists Bouke de Vries and Cindy Sherman, displayed in the dacha on the grounds of the estate, plus special Hillwood commissions of artists Chris Antemann — who created two Hillwood-inspired porcelain surtouts de table gracing the mansion’s dining and breakfast rooms — and Roberto Lugo, whose new works, incorporating themes from pop culture, politics, and social justice, are interspersed throughout the mansion’s first floor.

On view to June 26. Hillwood Estate, 4155 Linnean Ave. NW. Tickets are $15 to $18 for adults, with discounts available for students, children, and everyone visiting on weekdays. Call 202-686-5807 or visit www.HillwoodMuseum.org.

Bonobo -- Photo: Grant Spanier
Bonobo — Photo: Grant Spanier

BONOBO

Born in England as Simon Green nearly 46 years ago, the artist known as Bonobo has been transfixing anyone who gives his brand of downtempo electronica an honest, focused listen for two decades now — and the more you listen, the more it’ll move you.

Last month, Bonobo released his latest album, Fragments, whose title references how the project started, putting together instrumental bits and pieces of ideas and experiments he created in his Los Angeles studio during the pandemic. The end result is far greater than the sum of those parts. As a review in the British magazine NME put it, the album is “his most engaging in a decade: soothing, energetic and just right for the current moment.” Bonobo will render Fragments live with a full band on tour, including a stop at the 9:30 Club next week, which should be particularly engaging on account of the collaborators featured on half of the 12 tracks, including Jamila Woods on “Tides”, Joji on “From You,” and Kadhja Bonet on “Day By Day.”

The real standout, though, features a longtime collaborator and recurring touring partner of Bonobo’s, Jordan Rakei, who lends his buttery-smooth and captivating R&B-styled vocals to the dreamy and chill vibe of “Shadows.” Rakei, the London-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist originally from New Zealand, first sparked international interest as the featured vocalist on Disclosure’s “Masterpiece” from 2015.

Since then the slightly experimental and ethereal soul- and hip-hop-influenced artist has won high praise from the likes of Elton John and Common, who Rakei featured on “Signs,” from 2019’s Origin. In 2022, he’s teamed back up with Bonobo for a tour in support of last year’s What We Call Life, which he calls his “most vulnerable and intimate album to date.” Rakei will open for Bonobo on Thursday, March 3. Doors at 7 p.m. 815 V St. NW. Tickets are $37.50. Call 202-265-0930 or visit www.930.com.

Feinstein's 54 Below Redemption of a 90s Kid
Feinstein’s/54 Below: Redemption of a 90s Kid

SEAN STEPHENS: REDEMPTION OF A ’90S KID

Last summer, the all-male and frequently all-nude Camp Morning Wood: A Very Naked Musical was one of the first shows up and running with live, in-person performances in New York since the pandemic. The hit Off Broadway show was, unsurprisingly, an easy sell with ticket-buying spectators, but had a much harder time finding the right actors and mix of body types to bare all.

Sean Stephens was among those who did grin and bare it, portraying Kincaid, “the Britney-inspired gay sugar baby wannabe” in both the original 2019 production as well as the 2021 revival. In the end, Stephens was rewarded for stepping up, earning a BroadwayWorld nomination as Best Actor in an Off Broadway Musical.

Now, after years of performing in occasional group cabarets at Feinstein’s/54 Below — including 54 Sings Kesha, The Howard Ashman Celebration, and An Evening with Dolly Parton — Stephens is preparing to make his New York solo show debut at Manhattan’s leading cabaret venue. He will premiere an original cabaret he’s calling Redemption of a ’90s Kid.

“Travel to summer 1997, crack open a Surge, and take a journey of loss and discovery with the songs Sean typically belts out in his own home,” reads the official synopsis. Those songs include vulnerable numbers from Reba McEntire, Annie Lennox, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “and a full out A Goofy Movie showstopper.”

Robbie Rozelle directs the cabaret with featured vocalist/performers Marti Gould Cummings, Sean Doherty, Walter Graham, and Emerson Steele. Music direction by Mason Griffin with accompaniment by Ashley Baier on drums, Najee Gabay, and Beda Spindola. Thursday, March 3, at 9:45 p.m. 254 W. 54th St., New York, NY. Cover charge is $25 to $35, plus a food and beverage minimum of $25. Call 646-476-3551 or visit www.54Below.com.

The Henri, Washington DC -- Photo: Joy Asico / Asico Photo
The Henri, Washington DC — Photo: Joy Asico / Asico Photo

THE HENRI

It’s a rather unusual name, and a rather unusual restaurant concept in D.C., one that has the potential to be a rather unusual dining experience all around. Actually, Executive Chef/Owner Frederick De Pue intends The Henri to be “a unique experience for everyone as the possibilities are endless.”

Previously known for D.C. restaurants including Table in Shaw and Menu MBK in Penn Quarter, the native of Belgium, who got his start in D.C. as an Embassy Row chef, has focused much of his time in recent years on running his own catering business as well as overseeing the bistro Flamant in Annapolis — with any spare time devoted to planning for his ambitious return with The Henri. At first blush, when viewed from the street, the venue looks like the stylish, inviting modern bistro that it partially is, featuring a 60-seat dining room with an open floor plan and a central kitchen whose star appliance is a high-end French Bonnet rotisserie, along with a sizable bar area with high-top seating and room for more than 50.

The Henri, Washington DC -- Photo: Joy Asico / Asico Photo
The Henri, Washington DC — Photo: Joy Asico / Asico Photo

However, that’s only half the story of the new two-concepts-in-one business. Further back, past that public-facing restaurant, there’s a culinary-focused event space only accessible via host and private entrance. This interior half of the 8,000-square-foot establishment is a sleek warren of modular private dining rooms, which can be combined to accommodate gatherings of four to 80 guests, all of them surrounding a separate central kitchen, bar, and butcher block, allowing for completely custom food and beverage menus, and furnished with insulated acoustics and full A/V systems to make everything as private as possible.

The culinary attractions at the establishment, situated down the block from the National Theatre, prominently include the rotating daily specials from the Bonnet rotisserie, both meats (such as half-chicken, lamb T-bones, and venison sausages) and vegetables. Other main course options include Butter Poached Atlantic Cod, Wild Boar Lasagna, and Coq Au Vin-Inspired Root Vegetables Braised in Red Wine. Notable starters include Cappuccino-Style Mushroom Soup, Prawns (whether flambéed or broiled), and Belgian-style fries. The Henri is at 1301 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Call 202-989-5881 or visit www.thehenridc.com.

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