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Photo: courtesy of The National Theatre

Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries

On the eve of his birthday, complete with a surprise birthday cake presented after his encore (with an enlightening reprise of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday”), Mandy Patinkin’s performance on November 29 was reflective and introspective, sparse and somber. 

At 67, Mandy Patinkin is not slowing down, evident by the 30-city Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries tour celebrating Patinkin’s four decades as a multiple Tony-winning Broadway performer, and presenting the diversity of songs covered on the quartet of Diary albums, recorded and released during the last year.  

Produced by Thomas Bartlett, probably better known to many as a songwriter, producer, and musician for artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Yoko Ono, and The National (amongst many others), the covers of American standards, Broadway classics, and contemporary troubadours of the Diary albums are touchingly melancholic, evocative and rich in their understated simplicity.

At DC’s rose-colored National Theatre on Friday night, however, the depth and richness of the recordings were replaced by a sense of haunting, nostalgia, and a preoccupation with loss. Patinkin entered in all black, with his curly hair longish in back and slicked back from his expressive face and greying beard. The stage set was simple: a piano, a stool, a chair (all in black), a single dangling Edison-style bulb on an extended cord. 

Patinkin’s impressive vocal range, too, remained stubbornly baritone, though still expressive in his distinctive phrasing, his breathy run-on pacing (the delightful “Trouble in River City”) or lowered and growly in many of the more somber covers, making his occasional higher register that much more thrilling but missed.

 Accompanying Patinkin was Adam Ben-David on piano, a little more prosaic than Bartlett but also more playful, emphasizing the lightheartedness of Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat” or the impishness of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the most operatic of rock anthems, pared down to Patinkin’s single baritone voice rushing through the usual competing melodies. 

These lighter moments were occasional, as many of the covers, including Randy Newman’s doleful “Wandering Boy,” to the keening of Joshua Rayzner’s “Refugees/Songs of the Titanic,” and Rufus Wainwright’s apocalyptic “Going to a Town” (with a transposition of Wainwright’s “America” with “Jerusalem” in the refrain “I am so tired of …”) took the celebration of Patinkin’s storied career on a dark turn.

 The title of the tour “Diary” implies a vulnerability, as in Patti Smith’s recent speaking tour/concert about a year of loss and rebirth for her new book The Year of the Monkey, Alan Cumming’s bawdy, cheeky, and political cabaret Legal Immigrant, or the bare confessional of Conversations with Nick Cave, but Patinkin lets his choice of songs tell his story. 

There are glimmers of his affable storytelling during an extended anecdote about accidentally eating a THC-infused chocolate bar while on an extended road trip, or a first date with his wife, actress Kathryn Grody. But his most telling anecdote was the tragi-comic death of comedian Dick Shawn who died onstage while reclining on a sofa during a bit, prompting Patinkin to joke that he would like to go out the same way. 

Having just finished filming his final episodes of the Showtime Original Series Homeland, recording four albums with a new producer after the retirement of his longtime musical collaborator Paul Ford, and embarking on a tour in support of these new releases, Patinkin’s pace of artistic output as acclaimed actor, singer-songwriter, and concert performer is impressive and invigorating. The tour concludes in February 2020, as the final season of Homeland premieres, giving Patinkin time to kick up his feet for a bit, enjoy a chocolate bar, and dream up his next project.

For more on the work of Mandy Patinkin, visit www.mandypatinkin.org.

The National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, DC; (202) 628-6161; www.thenationaldc.com

New York Premiere LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS Written and performed by John Leguizamo Directed by Tony Taccone In a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre Scenic Design: Rachel Hauck Lighting Design: Alexander V. Nichols Original Music and Sound Design: Bray Poor

Stage & Screen: November 2019

THROUGH SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22

Disney’s Newsies
Seize the day and see Newsies at Arena Stage. The musical, based on the popular Disney film, follows the charismatic Jack Kelly and his fellow newsboys. When newspaper tycoon Joesph Pulitzer decides to raise the price of papers, Jack and the newsies decide to go on strike. Teaming up with enthusiastic reporter Katherine, this ragtag group shows standing up for what you believe in can prove victorious. Various dates and times. Tickets $66-$115. Arena Stage: 1101 Sixth St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, JANUARY 5

A Chorus Line
Signature Theatre is known for bringing big, dazzling musicals to the DMV and this production is no exception. A Chorus Line is the story of the talent and passion it takes to make it in the world of professional dancing. Step inside the audition room as 17 hopeful dancers put their dreams on the line through elaborate displays of jazz, ballet and tap. Featuring classics such as “What I Did for Love” and “At the Ballet.” Various dates and times. Tickets start at $66. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22

Amadeus
How does friendship between two esteemed composers end in murder? In Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus, Antonio Salieri cannot let the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart outshine him. Because of this internal drive, Salieri’s mission in life becomes ruining Mozart’s career. Now in 1823 Italy, Salieri tells the tale of how he murdered Mozart 32 years prior. Various dates and times. Tickets $27-$85. Folger Shakespeare Library: 201 E. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10

2019 Alexandria Film Festival
The Alexandria Film Festival is back for its 13th year. Come and check out films from both local and regional filmmakers. This four-day fest will feature more than 50 free and ticketed films. Several films will be premiering including Daddio from Alexandria native and Saturday Night Live alum Casey Wilson. A special “veteran’s showcase” will include films such as Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Various prices, dates and times. AMC Hoffman Center 22: 206 Swamp Fox Rd. Alexandria, VA and Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library: 5005 Duke St. Alexandria, VA; www.alexfilmfest.com

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8

The NPR Politics Podcast Live: The Road To 2020
Looking for a fun way to be informed on all thing elections 2020? NPR has you covered. Join their live podcast and gain political insight from Tamara Keith, Scott Detrow, Asma Khalid, Ayesha Rascoe and Domenico Montanaro. This is an opportunity to get an up-close view of the nation’s top political podcast and ask the burning questions you have for the pundits. Doors open at 7 p.m. Podcast at 8 p.m. Tickets $34-$54. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC; www.warnertheatredc.com

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8 – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 30

Airness
You don’t need an instrument to be a rock star. For instance, Nina intends to become one by entering an air guitar contest. After meeting a group of nerdy air guitar enthusiasts, she realizes this childish activity may not be as easy as it seems. Does Nina have what it takes to rock the competition? Find out in the 2017 Humana Festival favorite. Various dates and times. Tickets $41-$51. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; www.keegantheatre.com

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12 – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17

Rent
La Vie Bohème! Johnathan Larson’s Rent has been inspiring audiences for 20 years. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals. The National Theatre is bringing this story of struggle, loss and “Seasons of Love” to DC. Join Mark, a filmmaker capturing his friends as they navigate life in the late 90s, New York City under the AIDS epidemic. Various dates and times. Tickets start at $54. The National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.thenationaldc.com

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20 – FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Step inside the mind of Christopher John Francis Booth. Christopher is a 15-year-old boy who sees the world in math and puzzles. He might have some “behavior problems” but his brilliant mind is just what’s needed to solve a neighborhood mystery. Playwright Simon Stephens brings the awarding-winning book by Mark Haddon to life with stunning visuals and projections. Various dates and times. Tickets start at $32. Round House Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD; www.roundhousetheatre.org

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21 – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23

John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons
If you’ve noticed the lack of diversity in American history textbooks, you’re not alone. If you’ve created a one man show about Latin History for morons, you’re probably John Leguizamo. Prepare to get educated in the most entertaining way. This performance was Tony-nominated for Best Play in 2018, Leguizamo will hilariously take you through Latin History all the way from the Mayans to Pitbull. Various Times. Tickets start at $59. The National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.thenationaldc.com

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21 and SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23

Venus and Adonis at The Corcoran
Opera Lafayette takes opera to the next level. As the only period-instrument opera in America, the orchestra uses old or modern replicas to pay homage to composers from the 17th-19th century. For more than 20 years, Opera Lafayette has been bringing its new take on old compositions to DC, New York and France. For only two performances, they are bringing John Blow’s tale of Roman Gods and mortals, Venus and Adonis, to the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University. Times TBA. Tickets $60-$105. Flagg Building at The Corcoran Gallery of Art: 500 17th St. NW, DC; www.operalafayette.org