Capitol Hill hogs the news spotlight

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • January 10, 2006

by Karen Feld

Capitol Hill – with the Alito hearings, fears about fallout from the Abramoff scandal and the leadership fight in the House for DeLay’s majority leader post – is the center of attention this week. That gives the already frustrated White House press corps – since presidential press availability has been cut back – more downtime. As a result, the press are getting real good at playing Sudoku on their BlackBerries. Many have become samurai (top-level) experts.

White House press by the numbers

Sudoku is all the rage right now, and a convenient pastime for the bored White House press corps. For those readers who haven’t tried the brain-stretcher, the goal is to get the numerals 1 to 9 across and down without duplicating any number in any row. In addition, a player must make sure that no number is duplicated in any nine-box row or column.

The laughter of Muslims

At the American premiere – the worldwide premiere was in Dubai – of Albert Brooks’ “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” in D.C. the other evening, Brooks kept the audience laughing during the post-screening Q-and-A emceed by John Podesta when he said his experience on the Mike Dukakis presidential campaign is the reason he stays far away from political campaigning.

When Brooks, who owns an apartment in Dubai, was asked which audience had a better response to the film, he responded: “Audiences in Dubai got the jokes faster.”

Jokes as weapons of peace?

Both sides of the political spectrum were represented – former Sen. Fred Thompson and Sen. John Kerry, sans Teresa, and tax reform leader Grover Norquist – at the screening, sponsored by Warner Independent Films and the Center for American Progress.

Thompson, who prepared then-Supreme Court nominee John Roberts for his confirmation hearings, had a cameo role in the beginning of the film.

Brooks wrote, starred in and directed the satire, taking on a politically charged area and leaving no holds barred as a Jew investigating what makes Muslims in India and Pakistan laugh. This is no Golden Globe winner. But, if music soothes the wild beast, then maybe laughter will encourage people to turn guns into plowshares.

Losing Paula

The Washington theater community is sorry to have lost Paula Gruskiewicz to breast cancer on New Year’s Eve. At the time, she was preparing for the role of Bessie in Arena Stage’s revival of “Awake and Sing!”

A memorial service is planned by local theater folks for Jan. 16 at Theater J, one of the many stages on which Gruskiewicz had performed.

… Robbins steps in

Fortunately, Broadway’s Jana Robbins came in to save the production, scheduled to open Jan. 20. Washington audiences may remember Robbins, who joined this cast mid-rehearsal, from “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” at the Kennedy Center. The multitalented Robbins – a singer, actor, dancer, producer and director – says she came in because of “the opportunity to work with the legendary Zelda Fichandler,” the Arena’s founding director who, at 76, has returned after a 10-year hiatus to direct this production.

A Campari audition?

Robbins, whom I knew from Los Angeles, accompanied me on Sunday evening to the Studio Theater’s opening of “Fat Pig,” part of the (Neil) LaBute Festival. She saw my pocket pup, Campari, and exclaimed: “Oh, my God, Campari should play the poodle Tootsie [in ‘Awake and Sing!’].” Casting agents, did you hear that “woof, woof”?

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