Local Commentary

Our Man In Arlington

Last week, we attended a an intense new theatrical experience at Signature Theater and an equally intense new exhibition at the Arlington Arts Center that were at once intimately related yet unique.

Thursday evening we went to Signature’s world premiere of The Word Begins written by the two actors Steve Connell and Sekou (tha misfit) and directed and developed by Robert Egan in a series of workshops. This trio has created a unique theatrical experience that will challenge, enrage, amuse, dispirit, and lift you.

The two actors are the only ones on the stage, along with a mélange of television screens that glitter with the images of the moments they are describing. It is a series of monologues and dialogs on religious conflict, racism, sexism and sexuality, prejudice in all its forms, political irrationality and reason, and finally, love and hope.

In other words, it is a stunning depiction of humankind in all its ugliness and beauty. Do not see this if all you want is an evening of light entertainment. And do not go if you are content and comfortable with life as it is. The Word Begins raises many more questions about the human condition than it answers.

Peter Marks, in his Washington Post review, eching my wife’s comments, generally reviewed the show favorably, but said that the show at times was too preachy and wordy. That is true, but this is apparently a work in progress, and much of that will probably be corrected. It is still a stunning show on the cutting edge of modern theater. I strongly recommend it.

The show opening at the Arlington Arts Center was equally intense and illuminating on the same aspects of the human condition as dramatized in The Word Begins.

The focal point of the Arts Center show is The 0 Project, a 300-foot long, 15 foot high banner printed on DuPont Tyvek. The banner consists of a crowd of thousands of silent screaming faces based on a drawing by Rosemary Covey, who also assembled the banner. The faces bear an eerie resemblance to Edvard Munch’s Scream. The banner will remain on the building until February.

At the opening reception, there was a performance featuring BosmaDance on the side lawn. Audience members surrounded the troop dressed completely in black holding one of the faces aloft on a stick. As the dancers concluded, the crowd closed in upon them, presumably screaming about the world’s injustices.

The O Project will hold an “open mic” on Saturday, November 17 from noon until five in the afternoon, inviting members of the community to speak for the voiceless, whether to starving in Darfur or the Arlington homeless. You can see all of this on the center’s Web page – www.arlingtonartscenter.org.

Inside the Arts Center, several solo exhibits also opened. While not directly connected to The O Project, the exhibits examined the human condition in various formats – abstract paintings, video formats, sculptures, mixed media installations, and an installation of reductively rendered figures on magnets that can be manipulated and repositioned by viewers. You need to see it to figure out what I just wrote.

Signature Theater and the Arlington Centers are two vibrant leaders in their respective media that go way beyond Arlington in their cultural influence. I strongly recommend that you see both The Word Begins and The O Project and make your own comparisons and judgments. I promise that you will be fascinated.