Stage and Screen: September 2018

Through Sunday, September 23

Small Mouth Sounds
Six people sit in silence, escaping city noises and distractions in favor of necessary self-reflection. Cell phones? Not allowed. But then again, the retreat is led by a guru who can’t quite stick to the rules. Small Mouth Sounds serves as an adult edition of The Breakfast Club with a minimal set and sound. As you put your phone on silent and immerse yourself in the story, you might be surprised by your own self-reflection. Tickets are $51-$60. Round House Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD;

Monday, September 3 – Sunday, September 30

As a journalist, writing about the lives of others becomes second nature. But when tragedy strikes a New York-based magazine, who gets to tell the story? After stories from iconic newsrooms have hit the big screen (Spotlight, The Post), Gloria acts out a contemporary journalism story – especially in light of the recent horror faced by staffers at the Capital Gazette. Tickets are $20-$41. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC;

Tuesday, September 4 – Sunday, September 23

Step away from the toil and trouble of daily life and get into the spooky season with this adaptation of Macbeth. Witches promise him a future of riches and royalty, but Macbeth is too hungry to wait. A hero turns into a murderer, and the psychological aftermath spirals him and others involved into madness. Under director Robert Richmond, the timeless tale takes on a more modern life with some newly added scenes. Folger’s production features music performed by the Folger Consort, and is adapted and amended by Sir William Davenant. Adapted or not, one lesson remains the same: don’t trust a witch. Tickets are $42-$79. Folger Theatre: 201 E. Capitol St. SE, DC;

Thursday, September 6 – Sunday, September 16

DC Shorts Film Festival
Experience 10 days of film with more than 130 movie options at the 2018 DC Shorts Film Festival. These indie films from around the world are also competing for titles like Best Local DMV Film, Best Animation and Best International Narrative. You’ll watch up to nine films in each 90-minute screening session, so attending just one or two sessions will expose you to many new perspectives from talented filmmakers. After watching, mingle with fellow film buffs at the various festival parties with cocktails, food and music included. Tickets prices vary. DC Shorts Film Festival: Various locations around DC;

Friday, September 7

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope Discussion
Politics and Prose hosts a conversation removed from the Twittersphere on politics, culture and the Black Lives Matter movement with activist DeRay Mckesson. He was there at a pivotal moment for modern day civil rights – 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri – and now all of his experiences are bound in his new book On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope. The book “offers a new framework and language for understanding the nature of oppression,” according to its summary. Share in the discussion or come to learn. Each event on Mckesson’s tour will feature a special guest. Tickets are $10 for students, $26-$28 for non-students. Book included in ticket price. GW’s Lisner Auditorium: 730 21st St. NW, DC;

Saturday, September 15

Kevin Hart: The Irresponsible Tour
Work hard, laugh hard. Except Kevin Hart’s the one working to make you laugh. The actor and comedian is stopping in DC for The Irresponsible Tour with all-new material. Twitter users have applauded the show online, saying the show’s worth every dollar. Hart also has a new movie with Tiffany Haddish out this month, Night School, making you wonder if he ran his jokes with her and was influenced by a fellow comedic genius. Despite his stature – the punchline to many jokes – Hart is only getting bigger in the comedy world. Tickets are $34 and up. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC;

Tuesday, September 18 – Sunday, November 11

When 75-year-old Alex gets a surprise smooch from a comparatively younger stranger named Georgie, it’s not exactly what he expected when boarding the train on this average day. Even less expected was her finding him at his butcher shop sometime after the encounter. Georgie is confusing. Alex is confused. And so is the audience – left in suspense as the play’s runtime begins to unravel her true intentions. This unlikely duo with romantic relations is just another experiment conducted by Tony Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens. He’s just letting the audience in on his conclusive results. Tickets are $40-$89. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA;

Friday, September 21 – Sunday, October 21

Born Yesterday
For DC natives, Born Yesterday may seem like an all-too-familiar story about gaining political power in the hub of the power hungry. But this satire set in the 1940s is more of a comedic retreat from the current stressful affairs, and the winnings don’t go to a who but to a what: the truth. Ford’s Theatre calls this production directed by Aaron Posner “political satire meets romantic comedy,” but all good stories are grounded in reality. Watch this for an entertaining mashup of unlikely allies and girl power to fight corruption. Tickets are $20-$62. Ford’s Theatre: 511 10th St. NW, DC;

Wednesday, September 26

Welcome to Night Vale Live Show
First-time visitors and regular listeners of the Night Vale podcast have a chance to experience a brand-new storyline with a live show tour. The alternate reality podcast production “promises to find unexpected ways to bring the audience into the performance,” according to the Welcome to Night Vale site. Live music by Disparition and special surprise guests will get you totally immersed in the mystery and spooky wonders of the small desert town brought to the Lincoln Theatre stage. In Night Vale, anything can happen. Prepare by tuning in to past episodes online. Tickets are $35. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC;

Photo: Courtesy of Slate

Dick Cavett Takes the Cake at The Watergate

Slow Burn begins with a story that you’ve likely never heard, according to show host Leon Neyfakh. A few days after the Watergate break-in in 1972, Martha Mitchell was held as a prisoner for several days by Nixon acolytes for knowing too much.

When she did share her story, she was dismissed as deranged, and it wasn’t until years later that she was vindicated. Thus we now have the “Martha Mitchell Effect” – the process by which a mental health clinician labels a patient’s accurate perception of real events as delusional.

Slow Burn is a podcast about Watergate produced by Slate, and on it, Neyfakh shares this and other such stories. The show gives a sense of what it was like to live through Watergate – not knowing that it would lead to Nixon’s disgraceful resignation.

To that end, Neyfakh talks with those who experienced it firsthand, and incorporates some of these interviews into the show. This has included his interview with comedian and eponymous talk show host Dick Cavett.

“I must say, I miss it terribly,” Cavett said.

He compared the Watergate era to a trip you might get to take to Paris when you’re young that you’ll never get to relive.  

“You can never get back to that wonderful feeling.”

On February 8, Cavett joined Neyfakh at The Watergate Hotel itself for a live taping of the podcast, during which they had an open conversation about that wonderful and often scary feeling.

The two were joined by Susan Glasser of Politico, Elizabeth Drew, who reported on Watergate at the time for the New York Times, and Evan Thomas, the author of the Nixon biography Being Nixon: A Man Divided. Of course, in the case of Neyfakh and Glasser, what it was like to live through Watergate was more of a speculative question.

Each had their salient points and insights to share; however, Cavett’s stories and one liners tended to steal the show. Cavett, on his show, was one of the first people to begin talking about Watergate, and Nixon came to despise him for it.

Nixon’s malice toward Cavett even comes out on the White House tapesand Cavett said that now whenever he’s feeling down, he goes and listens to that snippet of Nixon asking, “How can we screw him?

Cavett also shared contemporaneous jokes.

“Nixon was the kind of guy that if you fell overboard and were 20 feet from shore, he would throw you a 15 foot line. And [Henry] Kissinger [Nixon’s Secretary of State] would announce that Nixon had met you more than halfway.”

On the show, Neyfakh, excluding one or two asides, steered the conversation away from parallels to life under Trump; however, at the Watergate, the panel openly discussed the extent to which Nixon and Trump could be compared.

Slate certainly knew their audience, for the turn in discussion was well met by the crowd. Neyfakh also described a sense of relief in being able to talk about it openly. I think on both sides, it felt like getting to the heart of the matter.

But some of the comparisons drawn were more superficial (e.g., the contrast between Nixon’s reading habits and those of Trump). Nixon read whole libraries whereas Trump, as Cavett puts it in a tweet:

“A: Imagine Donald Trump’s library.”

“B: You’d have to.”

Cavett also didn’t miss a beat when Glasser began to discuss the contrast between the linear progression that was Watergate and the upside down world of life under Trump.

“Trump came in like an asteroid,” Glasser said.

“I’m sorry, what kind of an ass?” Cavett asked.

“I’ll play your straight man,” Glasser responded.

Perhaps some of the strongest points had to do with the extent to which Nixon and Trump are both insular, and those who have their ear might stand even further outside the norm. 

The emphasis on what it was like to live through Watergate felt germane as well. I was able to speak with Neyfakh over the phone several days before the event, and he said much the same.

“The extreme tension and frankly despair for the country paired with a sense of curiosity, of amusement, the fact that those two things could coexist and be felt in equal measure – I think that’s something that people today can identify with.”

In our conversation, Neyfakh also described the impetus for making the show.

“We were all overwhelmed with the news and with the feeling that we were living in objectively precarious times – when you feel like you can wake up and not know what’s going to happen or what the alert on your phone is going to say. And so Watergate is the last time the country went through this on this scale. So we thought that going back and capturing that experience would give us some perspective on our own experience, and I think that’s panned out.”

When I asked him what the most surprising thing he encountered in his research was, he had two answers. The first of these I’ll leave for the end, but the second had to do with another point emphasized at the live show: Watergate never necessarily had to become Watergate.

“I think the bigger thing I had no appreciation for was how long it took. I knew the dates, but I didn’t have an appreciation for how many steps there were along the way, and how many forks in the road there were in which the country went one way and it could have gone another. And to realize that this story did not have a foregone conclusion, that it was never inevitable that Nixon would have to resign under pressure with the threat of certain impeachment looming over him if he didn’t.”

The other surprise Neyfakh left me to chew on was Nixon’s breakfast of choice: cottage cheese and ketchup. Yuck. Add some aspic next time, Dick.

You can listen to Slow Burn on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. And keep an eye open for season two; Neyfakh revealed at the live event that it will follow the impeachment of Bill Clinton.