Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Metro Notes #?

On a cold wet gray day I am in a Metro car reading from a library book that I like so much I cannot bear to leave it at home. A few minutes extra to be absorbed in the text is all I expect so I hunker down, concentrate. But it never is possible to stay isolated on a subway car. The man in front of me is slaked out, deadbeat, mumbling to himself as he slides into a soporific pose. The woman across  the aisle looks wide awake by contrast. Even more so, it would seem, when she looks me over and reads the title of the book in my hands. Before long, she has moved over to the empty seat beside me, asking  abruptly "How do you like that book?" ('Lila,' by Marilynne Robinson, 3rd in a trilogy set in the mythical Gilead, in Iowa. The book's dedication reads" To IOWA.) She is casually and warmly dressed, and has an easy manner about her. No introductions are necessary, I feel.. Had I read the other two books, she wonders. I answer at once and say, smiling in response,  how it might be possible to have a reading group in the subway somewhere, how there once (DC or NYC?) had been lines of poetry spelled out in the cars or on the billboards spread out on platforms, and whatever happened to those? Oh, yes, it was New York, she asserts. I continue with my idea (still sure I saw some similar effort on Metro), imagining how Metro's any book readers might connect through a bulletin board, or a sign in a station, recommending or not various titles. Then suddenly we are at  Metro Center.  Up on our feet and out the door, doing in two different directions. No goodbye. No need for one.

Curious how the same night on a return trip from downtown, I decide to study my fellow passengers shoes. As though it is possible to tell a person's background or personality by what they wear on their feet. A couple waiting on the platform in front of me look vaguely familiar - at least enough so I let my eyes linger on both their faces and feet. He has on sturdy brown shoes of no particular distinction. The woman, whom he draws close in a slight brief embrace, is in sturdy stylish black flats secured to her feet by broad velcro bands. The shape of the shoe is entirely familiar to me: they are a mirror image of the same style I am wearing at the moment. I follow the feet until we arrive at our stop, then lose them in the crowd.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Boundary Matters

Yes, boundaries matter. Especially when it comes to planning the original District of Columbia. Originally, it was  a 100 square mile federal territory stretching across the Potomac River into Maryland and Virginia, with marker stones in place every ten miles. A geographer's dream, or maybe nightmare. although the first survey was led by a major (Andrew Ellicott -  think Maryland's Ellicott City)  with the help of astronomer and surveyor Benjamin Banneker - namesake of one of the modern city's major academic public high schools. Of the original 40 milestones on four lines, 36 remain: most of them sturdy sandstone blocks behind iron railings -  the oldest federally placed monuments in the US, claims Wikipedia. They are worth a look, often entailing a colorful walk to out-of-the-way places. Or accessible at unusual places that few passersby would bother to notice. Look on the southwestern side :
-At a cornerstone now in a seawall of Jones Point Lighthouse, 1 Jones Point Drive, Alexandria, Va. Not far from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge traffic streaming overhead over the square's south corner. River view guaranteed.
-Southwest No. 3 boundary marker in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church, 2952 King St. Don't bump into it while backing up...
- Southwest No. 6 in a grassy lane divider on So. Jefferson St., south of junction with Columbia Pike, on your way to REI and Gold's Gym. (Pull over and park, then  carefully cross the road while cars go whizzing by honking at you.)
One could joke and say the stones mark the only time when Washington DC really was attuned to order. given that its citizens are 'stateless," their home officially a disenfranchised 'federal district,' since their federal election votes don't matter. Stuck inside the boundary.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pyramid Complex

Guess what, and where?

A piece of public art in a provocative place. The angle may be confusing, but the idea is to tease those who consider themselves fervent cityscape lovers and who may have recently walked the Southwest turf by the sea. Look around  and you may stumble upon a sculpture of familiar proportions  - so much of Washington seems built on pyramid schemes - literal and figurative, the hierarchical mode being a common pattern.  Rankings are rife, to say the least. This probably wasn't Byron Peck's idea when he produced the colorful tile piece in 2011. A plaque says it is to honor 'Diamond Teague and the other Earth Conservation Corps volunteers who devote their lives to the restoration of the Anacostia River."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A House In Chania

Chania is the largest town in western Crete and the island's former capital, a village more than a city. We were  seven women visitors, ages 50 to 85,  during the last weeks of September, witnessing  a change of seasons with the sirocco winds blowing in  to herald the beginning of autumn.  Our 'perch' above the harbor gave us an unparalleled view of the workings of the town - sights, smells, sounds - throughout the day, into night. What we couldn't see from windows or a roof terrace we easily spied in short trips foraging  in the streets and surrounding countryside.
What makes a village is being able to become familiar with the patterns of people in only a few days.  We were lucky to be staying in one of the old Venetian buildings overlooking the iconic lighthouse and mosque that mark the port - symbols of past centuries. Ruins are everywhere, in progress of being charted. It was a humble reminder of history's broad sweep to see in one of the stately shipbuilding edifices open to the public along the harbor  a copy of a 16th century BC Minoan ship made to order for Greece's 2004 Olympics.
Our perspective was providentially skewed as temporary denizens of Dorothy's Dream House www.dorothys-dream.com, which has a special history of its own. The duplex  available for rental for groups of six (or more) was named for an American woman artist who made Chania her home for decades, cementing friendships with many of the people who still live there. (The mosque one night was the venue for a show of resident artists' works but no longer does a muezzin send out his call.) Back streets, beyond the more overt commercial  byways - surprisingly full of brand names in English - artisans sell their wares in small shops under bougainvillea trees.
 The hills above town are wonderfully forested  - row upon row of olive trees in differing shapes - between open areas where livestock roam. In one  minuscule village we feasted the afternoon away on locally grown food cooked solely on wood in large decorative clay pots. Customers eat what host Stellios and his wife made that day, accompanied by homemade wine. Pork and goat, greens and salad - traditional Cretan fare - served under palapa-like shelters in a hearty breeze.  On hot days we could walk to a town beach only minutes away for a swim in clear waters. Or stay secluded and cool in Dorothy's living room, feasting on a splendid library collection. Other excursions took us to Balos on the island's far western peninsula, where dreamy blue-green waters curling on white sand drew all too many others like us willing to take a rocky hike down to - alas, the all too busy beach. (A curse of sorts: the site is often found on the cover of Greek tourist brochures.) Another time we hiked at one of the area's famed monasteries where we could then buy homegrown oil, honey and wine. Crete is country unto itself, and Chania one of its  treasures.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Mighty Merger

Merger isn't the most apt word. since what's happening is more of a temporary partnership between two leading arts institutions in the most institutionally minded city in the country. To wit, the National Gallery of Art www.nga.gov and Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts www.kennedy_center.org have combined forces to celebrate  Edgar Degas' iconic sculpture "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen." An original musical based on the piece debuts in Washington (at Kennedy Center) Oct. 25 at the same time on ongoing exhibit is open at the former big league venue.
What lay behind the collaboration is a sequence of largely unheralded events, beginning with director/choreographer Susan Stroman  asking the show's writer Lynn Ahrens "What was she thinking, do you suppose?"
That was five years ago. The woman these two Broadway power women had in mind was the teenage ballerina named Marie van Goethem who first posed for the artist in 1878. The statue (or statuette, the Gallery's term) that Degas labored over for many years may be the only one of his works that never travels, its unorthodox materials a mix of beeswax, clay, metal armature, rope, paintbrushes, human hair, linen, silk and rubber, cotton and silk. She might be brooding or bored but the low forehead, jutting chin, outstretched leg, arms behind her back is a compelling stance.  Stroman and Ahrens couldn't let go of their question. (Marie was dismissed from the Paris Opera Ballet in 1882 and her fate is unknown; long live American musical  as a revival forum.)
Deborah Ziska, NGA's press head, one year ago broached the possibility of timing the current NGA exhibit ('Degas's Little Dancer")  with the  world premiere of the musical (which the Kennedy Center is producing) and rallied the gallery's marketing team along with Dodge Thompson, the chief of exhibits who oversees gallery curators.  Deborah Rutter, Kennedy Center's new president, in describing the musical as "a little bit of history and a little bit of magic,"  hailed the cooperative effort  as "an example of what institutions ought to do."
Let's have more.
The gallery's exhibit runs from Oct. 5 to January 11 and is presented with several other objects from their collection, including an oil painting and a pastel from the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
October 5, 2014–January 11, 2015

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thinking thing on 8/16/14 in Wash Post

So what does constitute an ideal 'urban experience'? Journalist Philip Kennicott raises the question today in the Washington Post by tackling the aesthetics and  effects of a new sterilized downtown 'City Center' complex replacing the old moribund Convention Center site. This one comes with the backing of Qatar money and may be the vision of a British architect (Norman Foster) imagining what Washington is or should be. The upshot does not look good for our fair DC city: bland, impersonal, slick, copycat modernity. Worth a thought or two...

Thursday, July 31, 2014


The subject is routine: differences in 'quality of life' between Washington, D.C., and New York (meaning Manhattan and/or Brooklyn). From whose perspective, you may ask. Take a genial 35-year-old single man earning minimal income: where is he to find housing in 'hot' neighborhoods in either place? He once lived in the upper reaches - black and Hispanic - of Manhattan and now resides in a decidedly - but probably only temporarily - 'uncool' outlying D.C. neighborhood without a car. He walks 20 minutes to Metro, where previously in New York he sat on the stoop of his close-packed Manhattan dwelling and was the only white man on the block. Compare 'quality of life?" He was never mugged until he came to DC and lived for a time in the still-developing Shaw - and lived through the experience three times, the last time with a mugger who shook his hand after robbing him, saying 'Have a great day.' What does he conclude? That he never feels really safe in DC; that hostility by darker skinned people towards him is much more prevalent in DC. In New York, he actually was warned by his stoop fellows to be careful. In a way, they looked after him, feeling one of them since police assumed he was a downtown whitey coming uptown only for drugs. What explains the disparity? Southern blacks with a more vivid history of slavery in their ones populate DC, where Caribbean natives or offspring are more common in NY? The population density in Manhattan lends  itself more easily to familiarity, hence even family feelings? Who knows...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ah, Portland

Portland, Oregon -  at last. High anticipation  from one who never had seen the satirical show on TV- or I might otherwise have seen "the city that works'  (its favorite slogan) through cracked lenses (as it were).  I had newbie's eyes wide open, ready to be charmed. Which was easy, given  the first day's sunshine and low humidity, the abundance of cafes and smiles. Chalk one up to the airport bathrooms, first of all: toilet handles painted green with a sign saying they are treated against germs. Handle up for liquid; down for solid waste. What could be more sanitary and efficient and environmentally sound....
Then there was the comfortably solid looking man behind the Info desk in the lobby of the Portland Building, David Muir by name. (Read on to see why this is the one building in Portland I had on my list to visit.) He had received a plaque for being some sort of superior citizen in his role of greeting visitors and directing them around what is a 15-story municipal office building next to city hall and headquarters for the city's service agencies. I wanted the day's New York Times and the newsstand in the lobby was closed for some reason that afternoon. He wasted no  time reaching for the phone and dialing up the nearest  Starbucks, asking them to put aside a copy for me. That led to a conversation about why all the tragedies of the week were being portrayed so graphically on front pages of newspapers.

Ah, Portland, the last holdout of the sanctified.
But it was the sight of a crew in blue on trams marshaling riders in person to see who was a registered voter and, if not, why not - sign right here. Young friendly faces patiently approaching strangers who, like as not, looked up in annoyance. It was a contract job, conducted by FieldWorks (see the web please). Nonpartisan, bipartisan, what have you. The first of its kind I've ever witnessed in any city in the world.
One free bus later my friend and I are deposited outside Portland's famous rose garden: masses of them, even bluish purple blooms, lined up in squares across rolling acres on the north side guarded by tall stately pine trees. Another welcome face, only a bronze statue this time: model of a man called a Rosarian, the official greeters for the city who traditionally turn out in white suits. Why white? Who knows. And the jolly bus driver so willing to put all us tourists straight about the what and why and where. Public restrooms in Pioneer Square, the open center for visitors to mingle or simply rest on stone steps while perusing the next sight on their itinerary. Ok, so back to Michael Graves' magnificently eclectic Portland Building with its landmark status. It cost $29 million to build, opened in 1982, has a green roof installed in 2006 (so goes Portland) but workers there are said to hate the place.  It works on the outside: a colorful range and variety of surface materials and decorative touches that made its mark as one of the early and most successful Postmodernist structures of this century.  Anything but gray steel and predictable straight lines.Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of contemporary blandness. Ah, but there was apparently not enough money to ensure its functioning features. A debate currently rages (as debates are said to do) whether it is a tear-down or a remodeling job. My vote, probably the majority now, is for the latter. Keep Portland green but not boringly so.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Star Spangled 200th at LOC

You had to hear it to believe it, the July 3rd tribute to our national anthem at the Library of Congress, celebrating a very rich 200th  birthday. Spokane-born baritone Thomas Hampson was the man in charge, more or less, humorously and tunefully assisted by University of Michigan musicologist/professor Mark Clague ( a former bassoonist, these are really talented men), for a two-hour program - free to the most eager  as most of these things are and, equally free, now on the Web under various headings. Do check especially www.loc.gov/collections/songs-of-america. Our  often-maligned patriotic verses began in 1775 - the music anyway - as a tribute to the sixth century BC Greek court poet Anacreon by members of London's Anacreontic Society (yes, keep reading, it gets better). The  ancient  poet had apparently "entertained his tyrannical patrons with lyrics celebrating wine, women and song" - BUT the society varied its interests, by having two hour symphonic music to head up its meetings. It was a musical society, the tune composed by one John Stafford Smith, presumably a member.
Oh, it gets better. The program of "Poets and Patriotism," included renditions of the anthem in German and Spanish, as well as the Abraham Lincoln 'Letter to Mrs. Bixby" set to music by contemporary composer Michael Daugherty. And anyone wishing to know why this most 'athletic melodies" (i.e. Star Spangled Banner) took root should consult LOC.  History is as complicated as the humans who make it happen. Hampson is a marvel, his voice a miracle of nature. He stood tall and commanding to the end when the entire audience stood for the final rendition, hands over hearts, fronting the University of Michigan men's alumni choir.  I may never have or see a better holiday/anniversary celebration.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New Yawk

Only in New York, you might say (Yawk, Yowhk, etc.), how a lone woman sitting on the stoop in Greenwich Village waiting for the restaurant to open reads intently from a large paperback book. She looks blessedly content. So much so that a stranger also hoping to get an early seat at the restaurant (the impeccably popular Pearl's Oyster Bar, even for people who don't do oysters), can't help but wonder at the title. Aha! It is the latest edition of Moss Hart's autobiography ("Act One"), the title of the dramatic adaptation that just closed at Lincoln Center, the very same book the stranger (myself) holds in her hand. Only my edition is dog-eared, decrepit, undoubtedly a 'first edition' paperback of the classic first published in 1959. "Have you got to the part yet where he joyfully escorts his family out of their old apartment, telling them to 'leave it all behind ...we're rich'"....? she asks me. We settle in together at the bar while she waits for a friend to join her.
Of course, this being The City, the woman could not help herself - she had given away the ending, something of a surprise, towards which Hart had been building throughout its 383 pages. Typically, too (generalization?), his final words: Intermission. Always another saga to come.

Always in this gem of a city, a labyrinthine metropolis, is a Next Best Thing. Sometimes the best is some of the oldest, most venerated - as in the 101-year-old Woolworth Building, sanctified now with landmark status and thus, presumably, a public monument. Only it is not. A developer has in mind to build fancy residences (yes, in that tower!) above the office space now let and the building these days is off limits to passersby. The only way to view its imposing interiors - lobby, basement and mezzanine  - is by signing up online for the Woolworth Building Lobby Tour WoolworthTours.com and pay $45. It's worth it just to see the sculpted face in limestone of Mr. Woolworth himself,  counting his money, just one of the many surprising features available to the quick of eye (though guides explain all this of course). The entrepreneurial merchant from Watertown, NY, grew up enamored of French Renaissance styles and strove to make his headquarters an epic recreation of the European art.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Down At the P.O.

A Post Office isn't just a service stop, it is now a convenience store. Buy that pretty picture envelope you never knew you needed or wanted; pick up a remembrance card of a kind you might like to receive  yourself. The variety of never-before-thought-necessary purchases is presumably to help keep the mighty mail distribution machine in operation.
What chance? I've yet to see many people actually buy the pretty colored things being offered. The sight of these accessory items fills me with guilt: maybe that's the point. Like looking at puppies for sale, alone without their mother in a store window. Buy Me, they cry out. Please help, find us a home, plunk down a few extra dollars so the P.O. can live. The items are no bargain, as far as I can tell.
And then there are all those picture stamps. Endless variations on topical themes. "But no global stamps at all!' says an exasperated friend, accustomed to sending mail across the oceans. "The round stamp you can find everywhere else but not here." Not here, as at that moment but the issue gives her an outlet for her frustration, this fury of such dimension as to seem life-shaking. Instead, she is given three different stamps to make up for the amount ($1.15 and growing, for Europe anyway) needed.  The global stamp was plentiful there the next day: Curiously enough, it is the image of a red ribbon bedecked pine wreath. Another enticement fairly new to these outposts of a redundant civilization: a customer service concierge, yes the very word.
Where detritus of a changing civilization is concerned: note, too, the existence on sidewalks virtually everywhere behind the walking postal delivery person is a trail of rubber bands. They are thrown to the ground helter skelter as soon as each delivery is made and left to rot. Would someone like to tally up the cost of these items - bought wholesale, one hopes - and estimate what a recycling program could do to defray further costs to the cash-pressed USPO? Male carriers do it more than female carriers, or so it can be deduced from a pointedly inauthentic survey when a young woman in uniform on a city street was asked 'why' so many are tossed away like this? 'I don't know. I don't do it. They can be recycled.'
PS The great MOMA in New York, I'm told, sells or has on display a round ball of multi-colored rubber bands for a nifty price cheerfully confident that it is a winning design.

Friday, March 14, 2014

City Treasures

of the mid-March week: the sun comes out, the wind dies down, and the inner city resident has a free afternoon thinking to join the two-hour long Drawing Workshop at the National Gallery of Art www.nga.gov, free for first comers. (offered monthly, several days at a time, through May, in the West Building, East Garden Court).
It was Friday in tourist season (spring break, etc.) the museum was alive with visitors. Alas, I arrived too late to sign, all 35 spaces had been taken earlier. They would become part of a class on "Point of View: Cezanne's Landscapes" using two kinds of charcoal, a chamois cloth, and large sheets of paper, under the instruction of a museum staffer and a practicing artist. The session began with an earnest lecture  on Cezanne in the busy noise-impacted gallery while participants adjusted to the portable stools supplied by the gallery, juggling drawing boards on their knees. Then artist Dan  did a brief illustration of how to look at the shadings of light in a typical quite visible and beautiful landscape - modulated planes, mostly pastels, a concentrated assembly of houses in Provence.  Next, the impromptu class of avid art aspirants - a mix of ages, mainly female - had 20 minutes to try to recreate on paper what they saw.
I grew tired of watching  - shunned by numbers, forced to standby position - and wandered off into the sunshine, finding myself stopped on Constitution Avenue by a Presidential motorcade making its way from Capitol Hill to the White House in  full regalia, ambulance included. All traffic in downtown Washington was arrested for at least one half hour though I hear not a single protesting horn; we natives may not be amused but we certainly are conditioned. And the procession, at least for visitors, is spectacular , with the gaggle of police cycles fore and aft the shrouded funereal black vehicles,  flags flying. It almost seems as though the Marine Band - 'the President's own"! - should be regular accompaniment on this ritual drive.
Headed down F Street, thinking to buy a pound of coffee beans from MS Swing's emporium a ways over at 17th and G NW, I duck into another local venue - one that tourists often miss. It is Fahrney's (www.farneyspens.com) famous pen shop, marked by an outsized green fountain pen suspended over the street. Within are some of the most exotic - and expensive - hand toys  anywhere. It's almost pornographic, so enticing the tools. I eyed celebrity-named versions of the MontBlanc (blue cartridges available for lawyers' needs when signing original documents, etc.) now 30 percent off its $900 price. What would Jonathan Swift say - the namesake on one of the sleek black and silver models? And with matching cuff links, a bit more. I settled instead for an slim $18 stylus ballpoint in purple, buying a second one in white (both useful when handling smartphones with greasy fingers) that the obliging clerk volunteered to wrap in either green striped or red paper. "It's a birthday present," I had mentioned. Back came a handsome package encased in a mountain of carefully arranged twirling ribbon. It slipped neatly into a green-on-white bag - "Fahrney's Pens: The Write Place Since 1929," noticeably bereft of the usual web site marker.
 Swing's was in full motion as usual: customers chatting over cups of various sizes at plain chairs and tables, the smell of fresh roasted coffee drawing people in like a drug. The pastry isn't much; besides good caffeine, the lure most days is Loraine, longtime employee dressed handsomely in glinting jewelry and TV-ready makeup. Such bliss, this sense of belonging in the bureaucratic kingdom and, then, the shock, a necessary one:
In front of the White House, outside the gates, two women with microphones call out   the names of all the Syrians killed to date in that country's ongoing civil war.
The world is always with us in this town.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More Metro Soundings

 Abroad underground: That was the lot of a group of British tourists encountered at Metro's Metro stop during the  latest snow day to stop Washington in its tracks. But not, fortunately, the subway tracks. (The trains have to be kept running in bad weather to keep tracks from freezing.) Buses were out of operation and no sensible car owner drove anywhere except on 'urgent business' - i.e. subway and hospital personnel. This high-spirited troop of visitors were on their way to the only museum open in the city - by a fluke, or perhaps because security guards made it in - the Air & Space Museum. With a guide's help, they had figured their chances of actually seeing something other than their Roslyn hotel room. Escaping the last weeks of steady rain at home may have contributed to their giddiness and make snow seem a blessing.
 That's when their Metro train got stuck; it would not, could not move. A joke of the transportation gods, perhaps. They were on their way to a quilting exhibit at the Lancaster County Convention Center - by way of whatever diversions Washington and Philadelphia offer. The women were quilters (cotton only, three layers) who entice husbands to go everywhere with them for quilt manifestations. A D.C. native popped into their locked Metro car when a trainman had manually opened half a door for a few minutes. Loud guffaws ensued: this local woman trying to be clever by jumping aboard   found herself a prisoner, just as they were. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Two Super Photo Shows

Go quickly before the spring rush to the National Gallery of Art www.nga.gov where a splendid eye-popping new exhibit opens next week that is sure to warm the heart of all urbanophiles : A first-time ever - in terms of depth and content - of the black and white photographs of Garry Winogrand, late of New York, Texas, Arizona and California. Feast on the loving but often wicked eye of this 'street-smart' urbanite who could also put the soul of rural towns memorably in a viewer's head. There is little sentiment and a  lot of soul in his work. "An epic picture of American life" from the '50s until his death in 1984, in words of guest curator, Leo Rubinfien, a longtime friend of Winogrand.  He portrayed "the spirit of the nation"  and "a set of values that had to do with living itself." There was a love of the immediate experience, and a rejection of the idea of someone 'out to make good photos.' He probably invented the genre of street photography but not as a voyeur or exploiter. "The core theme is freedom itself," Rubinfein noted in a press preview. Don't miss either the long video of Winogrand teaching and smiling - but hardly "lecturing' -  included in the show.
Everything here is cool in the very best sense of the word - a word that has many dimensions and declensions.
Luckily, the National Portrait Gallery has recently mounted its own take on 'cool' with an exhibit of close-ups of Americans living and dead who best embody cool. (Credit goes to jazz musician Lester Young for coining the word in the context that most people seldom question today.) Jimi Hendrix is the poster 'boy' while Madonna is one of the first women portraits to catch the eye as you enter the building's upstairs hall. Who doesn't want to be cool or, at the very least, enjoy images of famous Americans whose very faces alone show us its meaning.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Winter's Discontent

Shakespeare's 'Richard III' - now in a splendid new production at Washington's Folger Shakespeare Theatre - www.folger.edu/theatre - says it best in his ominous opening lines about winter being the time of 'our discontent,' thereby labeling his own and England's (read you and the USA)  political and atmospheric situation as something less than ideal.
Indeed, we are now fully into the current season's unpredictable blasts of weather and woe. But why lose heart when there are such inventive and absorbing stagings of the classics to be seen locally? The staging of the play, which runs through March 9, 2014, is magnificent - on a par with the performance by New York actor Drew Cortese in the title role. For the first time in its history, the Folger is transformed into a theater-in-the-round with fantastic light and sound in an innovative design that gives Arena Stage a tough competitor. (It led one critic to state off-the-cuff, how Arena now looks "more suburban" than urban - ie a bit old-fashioned and staid.) Audiences should rally to this work to marvel at the scene while they ponder the grim moral of the gruesome tale. Do unto others as they would do unto you, at least in these historic royal precincts, and you end up quite dead.