Local Commentary

Our Man In Arlington

It has been a remarkable week culturally for the Bartons, and another reason why Arlington is such a great place to live.

We had a string of cultural events that we had to attend and a bunch of committee meetings, too. Retired life can be remarkably busy!

The first was Signature’s production of Kander and Ebb’s “Kiss of the Spiderwoman” on Thursday night.

It was a spectacular production. The remarkable set is the first sign of what is to come. A prison in an unnamed South American country consists of stacks of cages, one on top of another. They are the dark cells of the inmates and the offices of their guards and torturers. The center of the stage is the cell of Molina (Hunter Foster), a gay man in jail for having sex with an underaged boy and Valentin (Will Chase), a political prisoner from whom his captors expect Molina to get some vital information in return for his release. The basic story is about the deepening friendship between Molina and Valentin.

Molina is a major movie buff, and fills the bleak hours telling Valentin the tales of great movies, starring the alluring Spider Woman (Natascia Diaz). The music and the energetic dancing drive the show to its tragic, but emotionally satisfying, ending.

Friday, we went to see the new Arena Stage production of “Death of a Salesman,” another upbeat play! Arena is currently housed in a former Crystal City movie theater while its theater complex in Southwest Washington is undergoing a major expansion. Again, we saw another Broadway quality production.

There probably is no educated person in America who does not know the tragic tale of Willy Loman and its impact on his wife, Linda, and sons Biff and Hap.

The play belongs to Willy Loman, played well by Rick Foucheaux. But to me, the really tragic figure is his wife Linda (Nancy Robinette) who loves Willy while recognizing all of his weaknesses and delusions. The final scene where she is kneeling, crying, by his grave telling Willy that she has just paid off the mortgage and they are “free and clear” will tear your heart out.

On Saturday afternoon, we trekked over to the Regal Theaters in Ballston Common to see a live Metropolitan Opera simulcast of “Peter Grimes,” Benjamin Britten’s dark opera about a fisherman who is driven to his death by suspicious and narrow-minded villagers who suspect that he has murdered two boy apprentices. The chorus and the orchestra were magnificent, as were the stars.

And finally, Sunday evening we had a wonderful respite from the gloom and doom by going to the cabaret performance of the great cabaret singer Karen Akers, again at the Signature Theater. We sat in the black box theater at small round tables, sipping wine and munching quietly on hors d’ouevres marveling in one of the great cabaret singers of all time as she sang Kander and Ebb songs. It was mesmerizing.

Arena’s production is part of an Arthur Miller festival running for the next few months. Signature’s production is part of a Kander and Ebb festival also running for the next few months. And the Metropolitan Opera’s live webcasts are shown periodically in some six hundred movie theaters all over the world. You can see them all, and you should, right here in Arlington. Isn’t that great?