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Pinter double bill

Unexpected alliances, role playing enliven ‘60s minis

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Shakespeare Theatre Company, gay news, washington blade

Patrick Ball (left) and Jack Koenig in ’The Collection.’ (Photo by Carol Bosegg; courtesy STC)

‘The Lover’ and ‘The Collection’
 
Through Oct. 29
 
Shakespeare Theatre Company
 
Lansburgh Theatre
 
450 7th St., N.W.
 
202-547-1122
 
Shakespeare.org

Six seasons ago, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s out artistic director made a great success with Harold Pinter’s 1971 mesmeric exploration of memory “Old Times.” Now he’s returned to Pinter with a double bill of one acts from earlier in the British playwright’s career, “The Lover” and “The Collection.”

Penned in the early 1960s originally for television broadcast, the plays are poised on the precipice of the swinging ’60s. It’s not about free sex, but rather a darkly funny examination of characters (gay and straight) who are involved in games of one-upmanship and dominance, and constructing their own truths.

“The Lover” is about Sarah (a perfectly pressed Lisa Dwan) and Richard (the excellent Patrick Kennedy), a young married couple living in a London suburb who initially seem totally average, humdrum and a bit stuffy. But then, just before Richard heads off to the office, he calmly asks Sarah if she will be seeing her lover later in the day.

She replies affirmatively. Soon it becomes clear that the husband is in fact the lover and the couple are engaged in some serious ongoing role playing. In the afternoon, Richard — in the guise of a rumpled Beatnik — returns home for a heated tryst. Awaiting his arrival, Sarah doffs her sensible day frock and slips into an alluring lace cocktail dress. But all is not of fun and games and their meetings become increasingly spiteful. Where this will lead is unclear as are their true feelings.

“The Collection,” the second of the night’s offerings, involves couples Stella and James (again Dwan and Kennedy) who have been married for two years; and prickly, middle-aged Harry (terrific out actor Jack Koenig) and his seductive, much younger boyfriend, Bill (a perfectly cast Patrick Ball). None of the four seem happy in their relationships.

Convinced that Stella and Bill had a one-night stand while away on business in Leeds, James decides to confront the competition: “You’re not a film star, but you’re quite tolerable looking, I suppose,” says James to Bill who seems gay but is presumably bisexual. Their meeting, the first of several, is a mix of menace and attraction.

Meanwhile Harry pays a fact-finding visit to Stella. What’s actually happened between Stella and Bill is confirmed and denied. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what is true or isn’t.

At an about an hour each and separated by an intermission, the pieces are finely acted and expertly rendered. Kahn has assembled a talented quartet of actors (all except Koenig new to STC) who ably handle the rhythm and silences of Pinter’s particular language. With well-timed Pinter pauses, they impart more meaning into the work than what the spoken words alone convey.

The all-woman design team is stellar. Jane Greenwood’s costumes expand on the characters’ personalities, wants and stations. Bill’s memorably form-fitting plaid trousers and Harry’s black tie and smoking robe are all spot on. Debra Booth’s remarkably serviceable set of three households impeccably reflects its respective inhabitants’ aspirations to bourgeois comfort, tidiness or cool. Mary Louise Geiger’s lighting technically clever shifts the actions from home to home while imbuing the scene with an element of mystery and suspicion.

For fans of Pinter’s unreal realism, Shakespeare’s latest is satisfyingly good. For those new to his work, it’s the perfect introduction.

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PHOTOS: Not Another Drag Show

‘Blackout Edition’ celebrates musical artists of the 1990s

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Drag performer Tiffany D. Carter hosted “Not Another Drag Show: Blackout Edition” at Dupont Italian Kitchen Bar on Monday. Performers included Carter, Nubia Love-Jackson, Uju Betta and Echinacea. The show featured the songs of Black artists popular in the 1990s.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson doc premieres this weekend

Remembering 10 times iconic singer was there for LGBTQ community

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Janet Jackson’s two-part, four-hour documentary debuts this weekend. (File photo by Shilla Patel)

Iconic singer Janet Jackson, a longtime LGBTQ ally, unveils her long-awaited documentary simply titled “Janet” on Friday, Jan. 28. It concludes the following night; each installment is two hours long. 

Jackson has said she spent five years compiling footage and creating the documentary, which airs at 8 p.m. both nights on A&E and Lifetime networks. It was produced by Jackson and her brother Randy Jackson and it’s timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her 1982 debut album. 

An extended trailer for the film reveals Jackson will talk candidly about her brother Michael and the 2004 Super Bowl incident, including the news that Justin Timberlake reached out and asked her to join him during his widely panned 2018 Super Bowl return performance. 

Prior to the pandemic, Jackson announced a new studio album and tour titled “Black Diamond,” but both were postponed due to COVID. No official word about the status of either, but speculation is rampant that she will finally release the new album once the documentary airs.

“Musically, what I’ve done, like doing ‘Rhythm Nation’ or doing ‘New Agenda’ or doing ‘Skin Game,’ creating those bodies of work with Jimmy and Terry, I feel like I’ve laid a certain foundation,” Jackson tells Allure magazine in a new cover story this month. “I would hope that I’d be able to continue if I choose to. You know what I mean? But only time will tell.”

As Jackson’s legion of queer fans awaits this weekend’s premiere, the Blade takes a look back at 10 times Janet was there for the LGBTQ community. 

1. “The Velvet Rope” project. In 1997, Jackson released her critically acclaimed sixth studio album “The Velvet Rope,” an introspective and deeply personal collection of songs that touched on her depression, but also tackled LGBTQ issues. On the track “Free Xone,” she spoke out forcefully against anti-LGBT bias. She also covered Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” without changing the pronouns in the love song, prompting speculation about her sexual orientation. But it was her international No. 1 hit “Together Again” that continues to resonate with LGBTQ fans. An upbeat, joyful dance song, it was conceived as a tribute to Jackson’s friends who died of AIDS.

2. GLAAD award. In 2008, Ellen DeGeneres presented Jackson with the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD’s president said, “We are delighted to honor Janet Jackson at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles as such a visible, welcoming and inclusive ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant.”

3. Ebony magazine interview about her sexuality. In 2001, Jackson gave an interview to Ebony magazine in which she was asked about her sexual orientation. “I don’t mind people thinking that I’m gay or calling me gay,” she said. “People are going to believe whatever they want. Yes, I hang out at gay clubs … I go where the music is good. I love people regardless of sexual preference, regardless of race. No, I am not bisexual. I have been linked with dancers in our group because we are so close. I grew up in a big family. I love being affectionate. I love intimacy and I am not afraid to show it.”

4. Video support for It Gets Better, Trevor Project. In 2010, Jackson recorded a video for the Trevor Project and later appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” to promote awareness of youth suicide. “If you’re LGBT you’re probably thinking you’re all alone, but you’re not,” she said in the video. “I can relate because I was one of those kids who internalized everything.”

5. “State of the World Tour.” Jackson’s LGBTQ support continued in 2017. Her tour’s opening sequence highlighted a range of problems facing the world, from famine and war to police brutality and included a call for justice and for LGBTQ rights.

6. “The Kids.” Jackson has always employed a diverse crew of professional dancers for her videos and tours. Some of her closest friends and collaborators over the years have been prominent out gay and lesbian choreographers, singers, dancers, makeup artists and designers. She lovingly refers to her backup dancers as “the Kids.”

7. NYC Pride performance. In 2004, Jackson performed for a packed audience at Pride Dance NYC at Pier 54.

8. “Will & Grace” cameo. In 2004, Jackson made a memorable cameo on “Will & Grace,” judging a dance-off between Jack and another dancer.

9. HRC, AIDS Project Los Angeles awards. In 2005, Jackson was honored by both the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los Angeles for her work raising money for AIDS charities.

10. Janet’s Blade interview. In 2006, Jackson granted an exclusive interview to the Washington Blade. It was one of the rare times she touched on the Super Bowl controversy and her brother Michael’s acquittal on child molestation charges, telling Blade Editor Kevin Naff, “I got all of that out of my system, that’s not what I’m feeling right now. I wrote about [those controversies] but I didn’t choose to put it out there on the album.” In the interview, Jackson also reiterated her support for marriage equality, said she’d never had a sexual relationship with a woman and revealed that she’d never met Madonna.

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Out & About

International Women Club set for Jan. 24

Event at National Harbor

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International Women United Organizer will host “Multicultural International Women Club” on Monday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at National Harbor.

The goal of this event is to bring together women from different countries and cultures for friendship, support and community. Guests will get to share interesting facts about their country, talk about their culture, values, styles, and differences with others while learning from others and making friends from all over the globe. Those who speak English as a second language are welcome to attend.

This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

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