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Cabaret explores D.C. intern life

‘Two Guys’ returns to Black Fox with new storyline

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Mikey Cafarelli (left) and Paul Scanlan in ‘Two Guys Become Interns,’ a gay-penned cabaret act at Black Fox. (Photo by Mark Braswell)

The cabaret show “Two Guys,” which premiered at Black Fox Lounge in June, is back but in a substantially different incarnation. Conceived as a musical revue, it now has a storyline and new players.

Gay composer/playwright Mark Braswell, a local attorney by day, came up with the premise while observing interns at his own federal office.

“I just realized it’s kind of a Washington institution,” he says. “It’s filled with potential humor and I don’t think that anyone has ever written about it.”

Going by their own first names in the show, local actors Mikey Cafarelli and Paul Scanlan, both straight, play interns who swap war stories at a bar. One is interning at the White House, the other on the Hill. The show is fleshed out with Braswell’s original compositions, which he began in 1995. Braswell saw Scanlan at a Signature Theatre open house this summer and offered him the part. The two actors are friends so once cast, Scanlan brought Cafarelli onboard.

“His songs, especially his ballads, are really heartfelt and come from a real place,” Cafarelli says. “And the more up-tempo ones are fun and light and provide good contrast to the more dramatic material. I think it’s pretty good musical theater.”

Pianist Jason Solounias will accompany. Braswell is self-financing the production and also directing. He’s also written several musicals that have been produced both here and in other cities such as “Love Notes,” “Private Love Notes,” “That Funny Kind of Feeling” and “Paying the Price.”

Braswell, 53, says his day job has given him the means to pursue his creative side in his spare time.

“People say all the time, ‘How do you have time for this,’” he says. “I just say, ‘While you’re out on the golf course or playing bridge, I’m writing musicals.’”

He enjoys theater and cabaret for its chance to gauge immediate reactions.

“It’s live and immediate and I guess if I were to write a short story or something like that instead, then I’m not around to see the impact of how it unfolds. Plus live theater is a little different every night. … There’s a closeness and a warmth that everybody seems to enjoy so much.”

Songs include some, such as “Before Tomorrow,” that the composer has used in other productions. Others are new and were written to propel the “Interns” storyline.

For more information or to reserve tickets, go to truenote.com.

BOX INFO:

‘Two Guys Become Interns’

Black Fox Lounge

1723 Conn. Ave., N.W.

Monday at 8 p.m. and the following three Mondays as well (Sept. 26, Oct. 3 and Oct. 10)

$15 in advance; $20 at door; $10 for interns

truenote.com

 

 

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Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride in the Park

Annual celebration featured vendors, performers

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(Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

Baltimore Pride in the Park was held at Druid Hill Park on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Linus Berggren)

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PHOTOS: “Portraits”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs at the Kennedy Center

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A scene from "Portraits," as performed in a technical rehearsal at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, June 15. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performed “Portraits” at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Sophie Zmorrod embracing life on the road in ‘Kite Runner’

First national tour comes to Eisenhower Theater on June 25

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Sophie Zmorrod (Photo courtesy of Zmorrod)

‘The Kite Runner’
June 25 – 30
The Kennedy Center
$39-$149
Kennedy-center.org

Newly single, Sophie Zmorrod is enjoying life on the road in the first national tour of “The Kite Runner,” Matthew Spangler’s play with music based on Khaled Hosseini’s gripping novel about damaged relationships and longed for redemption. 

“It’s a wonderful time for me,” says Zmorrod. “I’m past the breakup pain and feeling empowered to explore new cities. A lot of us in the cast are queer, so we figure out the scene wherever the show goes.” 

What’s more, the New York-based actor has fallen in love with the work. “I love how the play’s central character Amir is flawed. He is our antihero. He has faults. As a privileged boy in Kabul, he bears witness to his best friend’s assault and doesn’t intervene. He lives with that guilt for decades and gets that redemption in the end.” 

“He does what he can to right wrongs. For me who’s regretted things, and wished I could go back in time, it resonates. Watching someone forgive themselves and do the right thing is beautiful.” 

Via phone from Chicago (the tour’s stop before moving on to Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on June 25), Zmorrod, whose background is Lebanese, happily chats about sexuality, ethnicity, and acting. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Looking at your resume, I see you’ve been cast in roles traditionally played by men. And have you played queer characters? 

SOPHIE ZMORROD: Oh yes, both. Whether or not they’re written on the page as queer, they sometimes turn out that way. And that holds true for this show too.  

With “The Winter’s Tale” at Trinity Rep, I played Leontes — the king who banishes his wife — as a woman. So, in that production it was about two women and touched on the violence that women sometimes inflict on other women.

And there was Beadle Bamford in Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” also at Trinity Rep; I played him as a woman who was masculine and wore a suit. It was a great opportunity to explore myself and gender expression. That was a really good experience. 

BLADE: Are you an actor who’s often be called in for queer roles? 

ZMORRAD: Not really. I’m what you might call straight passing. Sometimes I’ve had to advocate for my queerness. To be a part of something. 

Similarly with my ethnicity. I’m called in to audition for the white and Arab roles. It gets tricky because I’m not the exactly the white girl next door and I’m not exactly Jasmine from Disney’s “Aladdin” either. 

This is one of the reasons, I really want people to come see “The Kite Runner,” Audiences need to experience the reality of the wide diversity of Middle Eastern people on the stage. We’re all very different.

And not incidentally, from this 14-person cast, I’ve met some great people to add to those I know from the Middle Eastern affinity spaces and groups I’m connected to in New York.

BLADE: In “The Kite Runner” what parts do you play?

 ZMORRAD: Three characters. All women, I think. In the first act, I’m an elderly eccentric pomegranate seller in the Afghan market, waddling around, speaking in Dari [the lingua franca of Afghanistan]; and the second act, I’m young hip and sell records in a San Francisco market; and at the end, I’m a buttoned-down American immigration bureaucrat advising Amir about adoption.

BLADE:  Your training is impressive: BA cum laude in music from Columbia University, an MFA in acting from Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company, and you’re also accomplished in opera and playwrighting, to name a few things. Does “The Kite Runner” allow you to flex your many muscles? 

ZMORROD: Very much. Playing multiple roles is always fun for an actor – we like malleability. Also, there are instruments on stage. I like working with the singing bowl; it’s usually used in yoga as a soothing sound, but here we save it for the dramatic, uncomfortable moments. I also sing from offstage. 

We are creating the world of the play on a very minimal set. Oh, and we do kite flying. So yeah, lots of challenges. It’s great. 

BLADE: It sounds like you’re in a good place both professionally and personally.

ZMORROD: It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable. But I’m on the journey and excited to be where I am, and who I am. 

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