From my most recent report:
We are up to 8 boxes with eggs, 4 Hooded Merganser and 4 Wood Duck — although it is doubtful that anything more will happen in box #2 (one egg for the past 3 Sundays). Two boxes are incubating.
Cameron spotted a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana); Kat reported a Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata); we saw tight little flower buds of Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica).
We have a few people who will be out next Sunday, so I’m calling that a Free Parking space and our next work day will be Sunday, 31 March.
Aaron Posner’s enjoyable riff on the life of John Quincy Adams, sixth U.S. President (and here, perhaps the last adherent of the Enlightenment), would slide easily into the family-friendly, history-inflected programming at Ford’s Theatre, were it not for several outbursts of salty language. The play unfolds as a series of imagined one-on-ones between Adams and various figures in his life, spanning the years 1776 to 1847; indeed, much of what we learn about Adams comes not from what he says and does, but rather from what his interlocutors say and tell him to do.
What keeps this dialogue-heavy play afloat is a clever bit of double-cross-casting: by turns, each of four actors, of various genders and colors, portrays Adams, with the remaining three taking on all the other roles of the play. Thus, for instance, Joshua David Robinson, an African-American man, gives us a populist pro-slavery Andrew Jackson, and then in a subsequent scene, Frederick Douglass, who makes an effective appeal to Adams’s abolitionist tendencies. Most effective at this multiple role-playing is Eric Hissom, with a masterful rendering of the profane Henry Clay, who tells the still-idealistic Adams that his only paths to an effective Presidency are finding legislative compromise or raising fears in the populace. When Hissom later plays Adams, there is a touching passage in which he contemplates his legacy and looks out on the people whose lives he’s touched, people who are yet to be.
There’s a nice structural pattern to the play, as it is framed by its opening scene in a public park between a young Adams (Jacqueline Correa) and George Washington (Phyllis Kay)—with some fun anachronisms like takeout coffee cups and a Secret Service detail—and its closing scene between an elderly Adams (Kay again) and freshman congressman Abraham Lincoln (Correa again). Costume director Joseph P. Salasovich has given the four Adamses four variations on a formal frock coat, each in the same rich burgundy color. There is a very fine moment each time an actor passes the role, and the coat, on to the next actor—an inauguration ceremony in miniature.
My favorite unseen character from Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, Mr. Hardtacks, makes a repeat non-appearance.
- JQA, written and directed by Aaron Posner, Arena Stage Kogod Cradle, Washington
Aziza Barnes’ play is high energy, often played at farce tempos. Often cartoonish, the script is redeemed in part by a nuanced portrayal by Shannon Dorsey as Imani; Justin Weaks also does well as Justin, a rather weedy fellow who just wants to do the right thing.
The play calls for several playing spaces: a Brooklyn apartment, a seedy neighborhood near a club, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the apartment set is not up to the task of supporting all the door slamming required. The wobbly walls recall the worst of community theater construction.
- BLKS, by Aziza Barnes, directed by Nataki Garrett, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington
From my first report for the season from the nest box monitoring team at Huntley Meadows Park:
The birds are still too early for us! Kat reports 8 Hooded Merganser eggs in box #7. This is one of the boxes that needs some repairs; I will bring some tools and materials next week so that we can attempt a field repair while the box is in use.
Other than that, Sunday’s activity was the usual first-of-the-season chips and removal of wasp nests. You may have already noted this: the fence at the end of the berm, meant to discourage pedestrian traffic, has a significant breach (caused by four- and/or two-footed animals).
At the edge between forest and stream, I spotted a Golden-crowned Kinglet foraging quite close to the ground.
Water levels were VERY high. At the old beaver dam at the entrance to the main pond, water was cascading over it.
My materials and tools checklist for next week: drill and bits, pliers, screwdriver, filler foam, staple gun, duct tape.
Mikhail Bulgakov’s Stalinist-era novel, as adapted by Edward Kemp, is a tart borscht of intertextual satire, black comedy, and magic realism. The first half finale, with ruble notes flying everywhere, is reminiscent of the closing moments of The Magic Christian (by Terry Southern, Joseph McGrath, et al.). Of particular note are Emily Whitworth’s Berlioz, owner of the kick turn exit, and Ben Lauer as Rimsky, an eager theater manager who would have felt at home in Matt Weiner’s Sterling Cooper ad agency.
- The Master and Margarita, based on the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, adapted by Edward Kemp, directed by Allison Arkell Stockman, Constellation Theatre Company, Washington
I was up a little too early for the drippy, clearing weather, and I had other commitments so I only spent half an hour birding. Ten species, and no RSHA this year (although I did hear and see one patrolling the meadow at Riverbend Park later in the morning).
This Chilean troupe brings us a wordless story of scenes from the life of a fisherman, from the drudgery of dragging a small boat onshore to a harrowing major storm. Their medium is a blend of puppetry and dance: generally five performers are on stage at one time, but not all of them are involved in the manipulation of the pudgy fisherman puppet or his tiny skiff at any given moment. The others may tumble across the stage, or bang into one another as the seas get rough. The team is most effective and energetic when it is maintaining the rolling rhythm of a boat on the ocean, whether it be crossing offshore breakers or navigating the calmer waters of a feeding ground.
- Pescador, performed by Silencio Blanco, directed by Santiago Tobar, Kogod Theatre at the Clarice, College Park, Md.
Probably not. Use some common sense, people. As Jacob Fenston explains, reduce and reuse is often the best choice.
In passing, David George Haskell mentioned the “news teller bee” in The Songs of Trees. Eric R. Eaton has the deets on this syrphid dipteran.
Scouting a field trip for later in the spring, exploring bits of Rock Creek Park that I don’t know. This is the view upstream from Rapids Bridge.
Beautiful photographs by Kieran Dodds/Panos Pictures of Ethiopia’s “church forests.”
Two recent posts by Shorpy caught my attention, both of them photos taken by Jack Delano in 1940: House of Fleas and Mystic Manor.
Earlier this week, test trains began running on the section of track from Innovation Center to west of the airport, as reported by Max Smith.