What I Saw at Capital Fringe

fringe-logoI took buses, cars, Metro trains, streetcars, and even walked to the H Street corridor where most of this year’s Capital Fringe Festival took place in Northeast D.C.

As part of the team reviewing shows for The Washington Post, I saw quite a range from good to bad this year.

Here’s what I saw:

  • A fascinating, tuneful and sometimes poetic look at one man’s life through folks songs, devised in the N.W.A. — Northwest Arkansas.
  • A well-wrought portrait of the acerbic writer Dorothy Parker.
  • A riveting report from the front lines of the Israeli Occupation, crafted from the words of disillusioned soldiers.
  • A less-successful reading of postings following the last Presidential Election.
  • Staying with the political theme, a one man show about a comedian’s run for town commissioner.
  • A music
Posted in Other Writing, Review, Theatre | Leave a comment

Saturday TV: Hanging with Julian Assange

AssagneEven while profiling Edward Snowden in the first rate documentary “Citizenfour,” director Laura Poitras had been following Julian Assange down his particular wormhole to Wikileaks. There was even crossover between the films. Her resulting “Risk” (Showtime, 9 p.m.) begins in 2006 with Assange trying to get a hold of Hillary Clinton to give her information about a huge Department of Defense document dump that somebody else was going to do. It follows the accusations of sexual assault in Sweden, which he fears may lead to his extradition to the U.S., and his move into the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

We learn a lot about the mumbly, white-haired guy. We even see him get a haircut and talk to his mom. There are some startling footage from internet freedom conferences and the aftermath of the Arab Spring. But Poitras reassesses her own impressions of him change as his activities begin to influence the 2016 election and there is a falling out with the filmmaker. He seems insulted though that people think the Russians were behind it (though he doesn’t announce his source).

Coincidentally, there is also “Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies” (CNN, 9 p.m.), a new series looking at a variety of spy cases.

Yet another documentary tonight, Joe Berlinger’s “Gone: The Forgotten Women of Ohio” (Spike, 9 p.m.), follows a case of a half dozen dead women near Chillicothe, Ohio, who were found dead over an 18 month period starting in May 2014.

Read More »

Posted in What's On TV | Leave a comment

Friday TV: New “Ozark’ ‘Descendants 2′

OzarksThe good will that Jason Bateman and Laura Linney have built up through their careers compels you to give their sudden new series a chance. “Ozark” (Netflix, streaming), despite its name, is about a Chicago financier and secret money launderer who gets in deep trouble with a cartel. Easi Morales is on Bateman’s case and he has to move the family to the Lake of the Ozarks where he can more quietly do his work out of the glare of feds who are still after him. The series, whose first episode is directed by Bateman, has the dark feel of “Breaking Bad,” and its initial episode is packed with twists. But how it plays out will remain to be seen. Still, it’s a solid midsummer surprise.

Disney tries to make the biggest splash possible with its anticipated sequel to its 2015 musical about the offspring of various Disney villains, debuting it on six networks simultaneously. In “Descendants 2” (ABC, Disney, Disney XD, Freeform, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, 8 p.m.), Dove Cameron plays Mal, daughter of Maleficent; China Anne McClain is Uma, daughter of Ursula; Booboo Stewart returns as Jay, son of Jafar. Uma’s cohorts are Thomas Doherty as Harry, Captain Hook’s son, and Dylan Playfair as Gil, son of Gaston. The Kenny Ortega musical will be followed by “Descendants 2: ABC Afterparty” (ABC, Disney,  10:30 p.m.).

This is so Raven: Raven-Symone, star of her own long running kids series, is now at the top of the bill on “Raven’s Home” (Disney, 10 p.m.), in which she is now a single mom.

Condoleezza Rice and Tony Blair are featured in “VICE Special Report: A World in Disarray” (HBO, 10 p.m.).

Read More »

Posted in What's On TV | Leave a comment

Thursday TV: Parole for O.J. Simpson?

O.J. Simpson watches his former defense attorney Yale Galanter testify during an evidentiary hearing in Las Vegas“Today the day.”

Such were the memorable words of a guy on the street in Key West, Fla., 22 years ago. Nobody had to ask what he was talking about: It was the day the O.J. Simpson murder trial began.

Back then, it was the stuff of all three networks’ wall to wall coverage. Something similar happens today as the O.J. Simpson Parole Hearing (ESPN, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, 1 p.m.) gets coverage just about as wide. He’s spent nine years of a 33 year sentence for armed robbery, trying to reclaim sports memorabilia at a hotel. In recent years, it was the murder trial that were the subjects of award winning miniseries and documentary series. Today, some of its figures, from chris Darden to Mark Fuhrman, will provide commentary on today’s hearing.

A new film in the documentary series “30 for 30” (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.) concentrates on Manchester United player George Best, a huge star in the 60s who needed police protection from the IRA and women in pursuit.

It’s followed by Manchester United vs. Manchester City (ESPN, 9:30 p.m.) in the international champions cup.

Comic nerds have landed in San Diego for the annual conference to pump up new superhero movies and, increasingly, TV shows. Zachary Levi hosts the first of a three night special reporting “Live from Comic-Con” (Syfy, 11 p.m.). His first guests are Adam Scott and Craig Robinson of the Fox TV show “Ghosted.”

Opposite that coverage is “Conan” (TBS, 11 p.m.) also originating from Comic-Con.

Read More »

Posted in What's On TV | Leave a comment

Steve Earle & the Dukes at the Birchmere

IMG_4224It’s a brash move to close out a show on one of the hottest days in the D.C. metro with a song called “Christmas in Washington,” but Steve Earle’s career has been one of brash moves.

He started his generous show at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday with a handful of songs from an album that’s only been out a month, beginning with its title track, “So You Wanna be an Outlaw.”

The collection followed an all blues and a lighter approach with Shawn Colvin on a duet album, he returned to ringing outlaw country, inspired by old Waylon Jennings and a couple of songs he had written for TV’s Nashville.

Backed by a stomping version of the Dukes that was sweetened by pedal steel and fiddle, he eventually brought in those early career anthems like “Guitar Town” and “The Galway Girl” (its bagpipe sounds courtesy of the keyboards).

The Christmas song was less about the season and more about the chorus, “”Come back Woody Guthrie, come back to us now.”

He had just lead a singalong “This Land is Your Land,” with its own new Trump Tower verse and Guthrie’s spirit was hanging in the air.

Read More »

Posted in Music, Review | Leave a comment

Wednesday TV: Caribou, Migration Champs

Nature's Great Migrations: Ep 002Let’s hear it for the caribou, who take the longest land migration of all the species on the series “Nature’s Great Race” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings). It involves 2,000 miles through the frozen Arctic wilderness of Canada and Alaska and conquering frozen rivers, rugged mountains and a few ravenous bears and wolves.

It follows the finale of “Big Pacific” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings), which pauses to take a look at how they filmed the ocean series.

The premiere of “Salvation” (CBS, 9 p.m.) attracted 4.8 million viewers last week; it’s still not too late to get on board (the asteroid is still coming).

Jessica and Dominique are up for eviction on “Big Brother” (CBS, 8 p.m.), but tonight is the power of veto competition.

Read More »

Posted in What's On TV | Leave a comment

The Zombies Come Alive at Birchmere

IMG_4221Half a century ago this summer, the Zombies were in Abbey Road studio, working on an album that would both break up the band and bring them back together decades later.

Fifty years later, they were winding up another U.S. tour whose center point was a group of songs from that album that only grew in stature over the year, Odyssey and Oracle.

In a show at the Birchmere in Alexandria Monday, the songs soared as lovely chamber pop concoctions — “Care of Cell 44,” “A Rose for Emily” and “This Will Be Our Year,” leading into their biggest hit, “Time of the Season.”

Read More »

Posted in Music, Review | Leave a comment

Tuesday TV: Photographing Every Species

photoARKNational Geographic photographer Joel Sartore has a big ambition: to document every species on the planet in a project he calls the Photo Ark. Each is shot, if possible, in high resolution 4K on a black background. And some are farewell portraits.

That’s because “We stand to lose half of all species to extinction by 2100,” he told reporters at a press conference earlier this year. “That’s a conservative estimate, because the human populations are on our way to going to 11 billion, and we’re already in pretty tough shape at 7 billion. So we see what could happen if people don’t stop and pay attention. So beyond just preserving these things for posterity, whether it’s in 4K video or high resolution stills, we really want people to be moved to the point where they will take action.”

The project is featured on the new three part series “Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings).

Also tonight on public television, Jail is hard for people but is parole. A new documentary on “Frontline” (PBS, 10 p..m.) concentrates on four people just released from the Enfield Correctional Institution in Connecticut and follows their progress, or lack of it. For some, it’s easier to slip into old habits, while others succeed in the documentary shot over an 18 month period by Matthew O’Neill.

Read More »

Posted in What's On TV | Leave a comment

Rock Review: NRBQ Sustains at Amp

IMG_4215It was a shock six years ago when the newest incarnation of NRBQ was actually something that had been touring as the Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet. Adams had been been the mainstay of the Q since the start, more than 50 years ago now, but still. NRBQ had been on a hiatus for a couple of years because of Adams’ stage four throat cancer. Longtime fans were still ready to object to his seemingly arbitrary claiming a new group of younger musicians under the venerable name.

And then it turned out, hey they were pretty good. And the new version of Q that played the Amp by Strathmore in North Bethesda Saturday night were able to conjure up the spirit of daffy joy and unpredictable musical tangents for which the band has always been known.

Adams, at 69, is still the center of this musical maelstrom, calling out songs and attacking his keyboards with fists and karate chops with an electric fan blowing back his trademark bangs and hair, now turned grey. It looked like he was riding a horse more than playing an instrument half the time.

He wasn’t singing quite as much, either because of the bout with throat cancer or because this was the end of a tour that included a swing through California But he was full of music, playing more than 30 tunes that included Q favorites, catchy newer ones from the new lineup and oddball covers.

Read More »

Posted in Music, Review | Leave a comment

Monday TV: ‘Presenting Princess Shaw’

PrincessShawHere is an internet story for our time: A woman in New Orleans posts videos singing a cappella for fun in her spare time and goes nowhere. Someone she doesn’t know in Tel Aviv finds the videos and adds backing tracks that make her a star in some online circles. She’s not sure how to adjust to the newfound status. Samantha Montgomery had been recording under the name Princess Shaw and is suddenly finding herself treated like a real one. Ido Haar’s documentary film of her unexpected fame, “Presenting Princess Shaw, debuts on “POV” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings).

In another adjusting to success story,  four British techies (Nick Helm, Jim Howick, Jonny Sweet and Samuel Anderson) become super rich when they sell their video game company to an American company in the brash new comedy new “Loaded” (AMC, 10 p.m.). As smart was they are with apps and such, don’t know quite what to do with the loads of money. Mary McCormack plays their new American boss.

It’s hometown visit time for Rachel and her final four on “The Bachelorette” (ABC, 8 p.m.).

“Preacher” (AMC, 9 p.m.) flashes back to Jesse and Tulip’s past.

The first round of callbacks come on “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox, 8 p.m.).

Read More »

Posted in What's On TV | Leave a comment