To thine own Washington be true

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • February 10, 2006

by Karen Feld

Washington-based attorney and Tony-nominated playwright Ken Ludwig (“Crazy For You,” “Lend me a Tenor”) calls his annual Congressional Night at the Shakespeare Theatre, “Much Ado About Washington” on Monday, “By Guess and By Golly.” The show mostly remains a surprise even to the performers until Monday, but he did leak to me the premise and a few of his casting picks while he’s still adding the finishing touches to the script.

Ludwig’s plays within a play

It takes place during the two-hour rehearsal for the show just before curtain time. Ludwig and the theater’s artistic director, Michael Kahn, are putting the show together – tearing their hair out to make sure it’s not partisan and not controversial. Shakespeare Theatre Company actors Daniel Breaker and Floyd King play Ludwig and Kahn respectively. It’s a behind-the-scene look at them telling the well-known cast of not-so-well known actors how to be “witty, topical and Shakespearean and, of course, have fun for 45 minutes before a big dinner,” Ludwig said. “We’ll try to portray controlled chaos.”

To be or not to be in this cast

This evening, a benefit for the theater’s artistic, education and outreach programs, is a big deal even if you’re not a Shakespeare fan. After all, this star-studded cast is predictably unpredictable. They’re doing “bits and pieces and limericks” says Ludwig, who has done some surprise casting: two sets of identical twins (D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Irish journalist Andrew Cockburn; and Carl Bernstein and Michael Barone) for “The Comedy of Errors.” Jan Donaldson plays the courtesan in the same skit. Chris Matthews will be playing Bottom (complete with donkey’s head) to Kathleen Matthews‘ Titania (the fairy queen) in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Ben Bradlee plays Theseus (Duke of Athens) to Sally Quinn‘s Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons and Theseus’ betrothed) also from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg will play Cleopatra from “Antony and Cleopatra” – “The most alluring, dangerous woman of the ancient world!” Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Ca., and Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., will play the Mechanicals (a group of men rehearsing a play in the woods) from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Also cast: Reps. Jim Leach and Bill Tauzin and businessmen Mark Ein and Jim Kimsey.

Getting a bead on wearable art

Stylish D.C. newcomer Laura Lee, carrying one of her own uniquely designed handbags at the Ralls Collection the other evening, got my attention. It’s created from 5,000 colorful beads from Japan and snake skin, which she assured me is water snake not python. Lee lived most recently in Hong Kong where she worked in the high-tech field until she discovered her artistic talent. Henri Bendel in New York will be selling her Asian-inspired one-of-a-kind bags.

Four-star Batali cooking in Barbados

Washingtonians David and Beth Lawson have lined up New York celebrity chef, Mario Batali of Babbo and the new Del Posto in Manhattan’s trendy Meatpacking District, to visit and cook his innovative and gutsy cuisine for them and guests at their home in Sandy Lane, Barbados, during the first week in March. We hope they’ve arranged for a personal trainer as well after that delicate but calorie-stuffed pasta.

Bit of Istanbul on the Potomac

There’s a new romantic inn hidden away in Georgetown. The Georgetown Hill Inn opened just in time for Valentine’s Day. It has eight state-of-the art contemporary suites above Divan, the four-year-old Turkish restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue in upper Georgetown. Some of the embassies have already discovered this walk-up to house guests.

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