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Marriage of convenience?

Lunt-Fontanne hit farce revived in darker translation

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Finn Wittrock, Sarah Wayne Callies, The Guardsmen, Kennedy Center, Gay News, Washington Blade
Finn Wittrock, Sarah Wayne Callies, The Guardsmen, Kennedy Center, Gay News, Washington Blade

Finn Wittrock and Sarah Wayne Callies in ‘The Guardsman,’ in production now at the Kennedy Center. (Photo by Scott Suchman; courtesy Kennedy Center)

‘The Guardsman’
Through June 23
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
$54-$95
202-467-4600
kennedy-center.org

For more than 50 years, legendary husband/wife acting team Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne charmed audiences with their onstage sophistication and offstage happy marriage. But little did fans know that the English-speaking world’s most famous theatrical couple was a union sprung more from ambition than passion. Theirs was one of the all-time, great lavender cover-ups.

Lunt and Fontanne began their post-nuptial collaboration on Broadway in 1924 with a hit production of Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár’s 1910 play, “The Guardsman.”  It’s the story of an actor who disguises himself as the Emperor’s dashing guardsman to test the fidelity of his actress wife. The ’24 adaptation was light and breezy, well suited to the stars’ comedic style.

Now playwright Richard Nelson’s new and more discerning translation of Molnár’s original darker version is playing at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. Nelson’s script successfully blends the humor and pathos of its source, balancing the best of farce and drama. There’s the funniness of the handsome Actor (Finn Wittrock) hiding behind a Van Dyke beard, wild wig and nonspecific Mitteleuropa accent as he woos his own wife. But there’s also the frustration felt by the Actress (Sarah Wayne Callies) at being caught in a disappointing marriage, and the Actor’s insane jealousy that even extends to the noble guardsman he’s invented.

Set in early 20th century Budapest, the play is deceptively simple. Not long married, the young couple is already quarreling. Prior to marriage, she had a string of six-month-long affairs prompting the Actor to fear that their once passionate relationship has reached its expiration date. His solution is to tempt her with a new man of his own creation. Whether or not she goes for the forbidden fruit in counterfeit officer’s duds, the Actor reasons, he’ll know exactly where he stands.

Callies (best known as ill-fated Lori Grimes from TV’s “The Walking Dead”) is perfectly cast as the inscrutable thespian beauty and Wittrock is equally effective as her hot-blooded, tortured mate.

Witnessing the charade are the Actress’ longtime companion Mother played by the terrific Julie Halston who cut her acting teeth in downtown Manhattan performing in gay playwright Charles Busch’s campy classics. Curmudgeonly Mother despises her employer’s husband almost as much as her recent demotion to glorified housekeeper. Also on hand is the Critic (the wonderfully low key Shuler Hensley), the couple’s trusted friend who carries a long unreciprocated torch for the Actress.

Rounding out the excellent cast is Annie Funke as the green chamber maid, John Ahlin’s stage-struck bill collector and local favorite Naomi Jacobson as a tip-hungry opera usher.

Skillfully staged by Broadway’s Gregory Mosher, the action unfolds lucidly in just two days. The Actor claims he’s leaving town for work, but instead is using his makeup and acting skills right at home where he’ll pay a visit to wife at their home and later meet her at the opera. Even if farce isn’t your cup, it’s done incredibly well here.

And it’s a gorgeously designed production. John Beatty has created surroundings befitting a rich, young golden couple — their apartment is an Ottoman-influenced art nouveau bijou with strewn pillows, dark red walls, a secret door, low seating and hanging lamps. He’s also created a sumptuous opera box. Jane Greenwood has supplied the tall and slender Callies with a wardrobe of chic dressing gowns and a scene-stealing silvery number for the Actress’ evening out.

Could she seriously be fooled by a wig and phony accent? Or does she know it’s her husband all along? He’ll never know, nor shall we. But that’s all part of the fun and it makes for good post-show chatter.

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DC Center to host Alzheimer’s awareness event

‘Seniors & Cognition’ talk to explore warning signs, healthy brain practices

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The DC LGBTQ+ Community Center, the DC Department on Aging and Community Living, and the Alzheimer’s Association are joining forces to host “Seniors & Cognition with the Alzheimer’s Association” on Thursday, July 25 at 2 p.m. on Zoom. 

Guest speakers will walk the audience through understanding Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, their warning signs, healthy brain practices, and more. The lecture series will consist of three 1.5-hour sessions, with the others set to take place in August and September. 

To register, visit the DC Center’s website

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Sports

Brittney Griner and wife celebrate birth of their son

Cherelle Griner gave birth to healthy baby boy earlier this month

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Brittney Griner (Screen capture via Instagram)

It’s a boy for Brittney and Cherelle Griner. The Phoenix Mercury center revealed the news in interviews with CBS Sports and NBC News. 

“Every minute I feel like he’s popping into my head, said Griner. “Literally everything revolves around him. And I love it.”

The couple officially welcomed the baby boy on July 8. He weighs 7 pounds, 8 ounces.

“That’s my man. He is amazing,” Griner told CBS Sports. “They said as soon as you see them, everything that you thought mattered just goes out the window. That’s literally what happened.” 

Griner, 33, corrected the CBS News correspondent who said, “You’re about to be a mom!” She told her Cherelle, 33, had already delivered the baby and that she preferred to be called,“Pops.” 

Griner told NBC News correspondent Liz Kreutz they chose to name their newborn son, “Bash.” 

The WNBA star said she is Bash’s biggest fan and is constantly taking photos of him. “My whole phone has turned into him now,” Griner told CBS Sports.

The baby comes as Griner gets set to play in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game and then head to Paris with Team USA to compete for their 8th straight gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games. 

“It kind of sucks because I have to leave, but at the same time, he will understand,” said Griner. 

Her time in Paris will mark the first time since the basketball star was released from a Russian gulag, where she was held on drug charges for nearly 10 months in 2022.

“BG is locked in and ready to go,” Griner told NBC News on Friday. “I’m happy, I’m in a great place. I’m representing my country, the country that fought for me to come back. I’m gonna represent it well.”

Griner also spoke with NBC News about her hopes the U.S. can win the freedom of imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian maximum security prison on Friday. 

“We have to get him back,” she said. 

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Calendar

Calendar: July 19-25

LGBTQ events in the days to come

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Friday, July 19

“Center Aging Friday Tea Time” will be at 2 p.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of choice. For more details, email [email protected].

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Community Happy Hour” at 7 p.m. at Puro Gusto. This event is ideal for making new friends, professional networking, idea-sharing, and community building. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Saturday, July 20

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Community Brunch” at 11 a.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

“LGBTQ People of Color Support Group” will be at 1 p.m. on Zoom. This peer support group is an outlet for LGBTQ People of Color to come together and talk about anything affecting them in a space that strives to be safe and judgment free. For more details, visit thedccenter.org/poc or facebook.com/centerpoc.

Sunday, July 21

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Dinner” at 6:30 p.m. at Federico Ristorante Italiano Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. Guests are encouraged to come enjoy an evening of Italian-style dining and conversation with other LGBTQ+ folk. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Funday Social and Games” at 3 p.m. at Moxy. This event is ideal for making meaningful new connections and informal community building, or just to unwind and enjoy the group happy hour. There will be Monopoly, chess, checkers, Jenga and many other games. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

AfroCode DC will be at 4 p.m. at Decades DC. This event will be an experience of non-stop music, dancing, and good vibes and a crossover of genres and a fusion of cultures. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Monday, July 22

Center Aging: Monday Coffee & Conversation will be at 10 a.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of their choice. For more details, email [email protected].

“Queer Book Club” will be at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. The club meets on the fourth Monday of the month to discuss queer books by queer authors. This month’s read is yet to be announced. For more details, email [email protected].

Tuesday, July 23

Pride on the Patio Events will host “LGBTQ Social Mixer” at 5:30 p.m. at Showroom. Dress is casual, fancy, or comfortable. Guests are encouraged to bring their most authentic self to chat, laugh, and get a little crazy. Admission is free and more details are on Eventbrite.

Coming Out Discussion Group will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a peer-facilitated discussion group and a safe space to share experiences about coming out and discuss topics as it relates to doing so. For more details, visit the group’s Facebook page.

“Genderqueer DC” will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a support group for people who identify outside of the gender binary, whether you’re bigender, agender, genderfluid, or just know that you’re not 100% cis. For more details, email [email protected].

Wednesday, July 24

Job Club will be at 6 p.m. on Zoom. This is a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking — allowing participants to move away from being merely “applicants” toward being “candidates.” For more information, email [email protected] or visit thedccenter.org/careers.

“Asexual and Aromantic Group” will meet at 7 p.m. on Zoom and in person at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. This is a space where people who are questioning this aspect of their identity or those who identify as asexual and/or aromantic can come together, share stories and experiences, and discuss various topics. For more details, email [email protected].

Thursday, July 25

Virtual Yoga with Charles M. will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a free weekly class focusing on yoga, breath work, and meditation. For more details, visit the DC Center for the LGBT Community’s website.

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