Mar 182014

DC Theatre Scene

March 17, 2014 by 
Ambassador Theater’s latest production has just opened at Mead Theatre Lab. Happily Ever After’s three scenes explore the landscape of loneliness and aloneness experienced in various stages of “relationships.”  Whether it’s a misunderstanding that causes a couple to inadvertently stand each other up, a one-night stand with emotional possibilities, or the inner turmoil of a couple “celebrating” their 30th anniversary, the pieces reflect how relationships are tricky, tenuous, and can turn on a dime, or as in one case, a well-executed tango twirl.
Doug Krehbel and Karin Rosnizeck (Photo: courtesy of Ambassador TheaterDoug Krehbel and Karin Rosnizeck (Photo: courtesy of Ambassador Theater 

Karin Rosnizeck  and Doug Krehbel as the main characters “She” and “He” play off of each other with familiarity and grace. Cristina Colmena’s playful script eases us into the characters’ conflicts while their interior dialogs describe what is, was, or could be. Director Hanna Bondarewska has a deft and steady hand in orchestrating the emotional dynamics that can see the underneath or explode in histrionic despair. Even the scene change where the actors convert a large dining table into a cozy bed helps to reflect the co-dependent interplay between characters—we need each other no matter how badly we might get along.

Rosnizeck has a blast plummeting the emotional depths of her characters.  I last saw her as the tumultuous artist Camille Claudel in a new work several years ago and she covers swatches of emotional terrain throughout all three scenes here, too.  The first scene, Misunderstanding, is everyone’s complete nightmare of missed opportunity.  What would have, could have, should have happened if only this had been said or that done.

Rosnizeck is captivating from her first wordless entrance, biding time by nervously exploring the contents of her purse, looking around impatiently for someone who is obviously not going to show up.  Across the table from her, Krehbel portrays a character just as perturbed waiting for his own no-show.  Nicely directed by Bondarewska, the two are oblivious to each other’s presence but cross into each other’s physical space and connect to portray their sides of the story.  Periodically, both actors look behind them at the large clock placed prominently back center stage, an obvious (maybe too literal) representation of the passage of time.

In Don’t Take It Personally, the actors convert two tables into a bed, crawl in, and begin to intriguingly unravel who they are to each other.  Of the three scenes, this one has the most dramatic appeal because of the full range of possibilities between these characters—they’re obviously attracted to each other, and could possibly relate for more than a quickie, if they could escape their own self-imposed emotional barriers.  Choreography by Francesca Jandasek and Dan Istrate embellishes the moments with a flourish using the tango to reflect passion, escape, and embrace…TO READ MORE


Closes March 30, 2014
Ambassador Theater at
Flashpoint/Mead Theatre Lab
916 G St NW
Washingtonm DC
1 hour with no intermission
Tickets: $20 – $40


Mar 172014


Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Ambassador Theater Happily Ever After

By David Siegel • Mar 17th, 2014 • Category: Reviews

What a drag it is trying to find and keep love. Really, is it just helplessly hoping, even if there are apps to help find true love? Add some unhealthy doses of cynicism, lousy communication skills and a slew of phobias, and voilà, you have the premise behind the new production of Happily Ever After by Spanish playwright Cristina Colmena now at the Ambassador Theater.

Happily Ever After is a set of three short acts, each about 20 minutes in length, about terribly lonely people. It is best classified as a very dark drama-comedy that chronicles struggles in three vastly different relationships. Whatever chemistry there once was has been depleted into either verbal recriminations and brick-bats or fears of flying into a relationship with tiny hints of happiness peaking through.

The play, written in 2013, is receiving its première at the Ambassador Theater. Colmena is a writer and playwright born in Spain, now living in New York. She writes film reviews, articles and short stories. Her play Happily Ever After was included in the New Plays from Spain series as part of the PEN World Voices Festival 2013.

Happily Ever After is directed by Hanna Bondarewska, Artistic Director and Founder of the Ambassador. In program notes, Bondarewska mentioned that Happily Ever Afterprovides an opportunity “to discover new work from Spanish contemporary repertoire” and for “unveiling the richness of human nature.” The production features Karin Rosnizeck as “She” and Doug Krehbel as the characters “He.”

Each of playwright Colmena’s scenes provides snapshot-like observations of often irritating characters of different ages sorting through what they want and what they have. The dialogue is simple, direct and spare; full of set-ups and verbal responses. There is a one night stand with modest potential to last longer, a passive-aggressive break-up of a six-month relationship after the early romantic blush has faded, and a one-note Virginia Woolf-like, older married couple bickering as they celebrate 30 years of marriage with the purchase of a new bed.

A pleasing musical underscore for the production is the preshow songs selected by David Crandall. There are about eight pop songs from the 1950′s-2010′s. The titles and lyrics set a mood for the evening. The music flows through Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers doing “Why do Fools Fall in Love,” The Shirelles with their “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” Melanie Safka’s “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller-skates” and others. There is also fitting music selected for the three scenes.

The set by Jonathan Rushbrook is effectively minimalist. At scene one, there is a long table placed lengthwise to the audience with bar stools. In later scenes, the two actors move the table, transforming it into a bed with side tables. There are projected video images of different clock faces for each scene. The clocks have moving hands and ticking noises, also from David Crandall. The ticking provides for passing of time along with some ominous expressions of foreboding.

The first act is entitled “Misunderstanding.” It is early evening. Each of the two characters, “She” and “He” has the opportunity to speak in monologue of the spark being gone. She arrives as if late. She is in a cocktail dress and heels, immediately beginning to fix her lipstick and brush her hair. She is waiting for someone as she gulps a beer. He saunters into the scene wearing sneakers, jeans and a backward-facing baseball cap. He sits at the other end of the table. He has a coffee. And waits. They speak to us jabbering about their annoyance with the other. We learn that they are waiting for each other, but are in different places waiting. What we learn from all their talk is that what was once exciting is now boring. They have cell phones. Neither makes an effort to call the other. The relationship ends with a whimper. It is a chilly scene; two people very much alone.

“Don’t Take it Personally” is the second act. A couple is waking up at 5 AM in bed. Neither seems sure of the other’s name. She wants him to go. It is her bed. Not that he is a bad man, but well, she is very protective of herself. She has been hurt before, no need to get involved again. She doesn’t want to give real romance a chance, even as he tries, well tries a little. A bit of protectiveness lifts with cute comedic lines and the chemistry between Rosnizeck and Krehbel. Little sparks appear in the night’s darkness. The sparks are made visible with a sensual tango (choreographed by Francesca Jandesek and Dan Istrate). But she is aggressively unwilling to go beyond the encounter. Her fear’s overtake her. He does not push the matter. Cue Randy Newman’s “Better Off Dead.” If only one or the other could push beyond their regular reactions they might have been two together and not alone.

Scene #3 is “Melodrama.” This is the least successful of the trio of stories. Two grumpy people married for three decades have forgotten what brought them together. They have just purchased a new bed. They pick at each other in monologues and directly. Words are like viscous stilettos for him. She wants to be held and cared for; that is beyond him. He will only take photos of her with a fake smile to send to their daughter and grandchild. Thought empty they would rather be alone together than alone without someone breathing next to them. What emotions that exist are her feigned and real melodramatic efforts to be held. It is an attempt at foreplay without reciprocity. Is the new bed to sleep on, for romance, or just a new place to watch television?

Accomplished with economy, Happily Ever After is an intermission free hour gazing at three unhappy couples; each unhappy in their own ways [thank you, Tolstoy]. Happily Ever After is a tongue-in-cheek title waiting for a comma with a next phrase starting with “if.” Ah, what a mess it is finding and keeping love fresh. Still we try our best to find that special one.

For your reviewer let us end with this Randy Newman song title as a final coda, “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today.”


Doug Krehbel and Karin Rosnizeck Karin Rosnizeck and Doug Krehbel
Doug Krehbel and Karin Rosnizeck
Karin Rosnizeck and Doug Krehbel

Photos provided by Ambassador Theater


  • She: Karin Rosnizeck
  • He: Doug Krehbel


  • Directed by Hanna Bondarewska
  • Choreography of Tango: Francesca Jandasek and Dan Istrate
  • Lights: Stephen Shetler
  • Costumes : Basmah Alomar
  • Sound and Visual Effects Design: David Crandall
  • Stage Manager: Madelyn Farris

Disclaimer: Ambassador Theater provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.


Mar 152014

Woman Around Town

by  on Playing Around

Love; either you cringe or you perk up. Marriage; either you get it or you don’t. Divorce; the inevitable if the first two aren’t completely grasped, in no particular order. This is Cristina Colmena’s play Happily Ever After, and although there wasn’t actually a divorce, the realization is simply that you can be with a person day after day, month after month, year after year, and be divorced mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

Set in a dark theater amongst four rows of chairs, sat a table, two beers, two lamps, and two chairs. The first scene, called “Misunderstandings” focused around two people and a clock. Obviously some type of chemistry between the lovers is shared, but through a simple misunderstanding of time and place due to a lack of communication, both ultimately lose out on the opportunity to further explore the infinite possibilities. I pity the fool.

Next, a bed, two nightstands, two cigarettes, a clock, a one night stand; absolutely scandalous. Waking up afterward with the awkwardness of not exactly knowing the person next to you; and though they sense there may be something there, the shame of what has occurred outweighs any possibility of sensibility to move in the right direction. He wanted her; she thought she would get hurt. She pushed him away, and so he left.

DSC00556 (2)The final scene called “Melodrama” brought attention to a married couple, who after 30 years had lost their spark due to a lack of expression, in the form of speech. To their family, they appeared happy, to their friends, perhaps the same; yet, to each other, the words just weren’t there. The separation happened early in their marriage, but the schism continued to deepen. Only quiet sighs and an unrelenting frustration remained. So 30 years later pretending became the best thing to do.

Karin Rosnizeck and Doug Krehbel who play the communication challenged couple in all three acts make sure that Colmena’s points are well delivered as each time the scorned lover fails to find the words to express his or her feelings. There were times when the audience snickered, or outright laughed at their antics. Nonetheless, underneath the banter and expletives, a seriousness harbored, almost sadness. As we have all had our heart broken, or maybe reflected on a fleeting expression, or a misunderstanding that ended badly. And in that moment, it is here you find yourself instead of laughing, connecting with the actors who are lost in their thoughts, but don’t have the words to say what is truly in their hearts.

Each situation’s outcome could have been different; however, a lack of patience, articulation, and vulnerability kept each from ending Happily Ever After. The gist, say what you mean, and mean what you say so that you too can experience that ridiculous song from childhood, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” I digress.

Happily Ever After
Written by Cristina Colmena
Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint
916 G Street, NW
Through March 30, 2014


Mar 142014
Play associated audio
Happily Ever After is presented in partnership with SPAIN Arts & Culture. Karin Rosnizeck and Doug Krehbel co-star as She and He, respectively.
Ambassador Theater
Happily Ever After is presented in partnership with SPAIN Arts & Culture. Karin Rosnizeck and Doug Krehbel co-star as She and He, respectively.

March 14 to 30: “Happily Ever After”
Ambassador Theater presents the world premiere of “Happily Ever After“ at CulturalDC’s Flashpoint Gallery in Northwest. Spanish playwright Cristina Colmena says the show is about love, the struggle to be happy, and the gaps in communication that often occur in relationships.

“Because of the movies and the novels, we have that image of what love should be, and finally life is not so easy. It’s like a struggle,” Colmena says. “You have to try one day and another day and sometimes there are disappointments and sometimes there is loss.”

The play is directed by Hanna Bondarewska and runs through March 30.


Mar 142014
Un momento de la obra 'Happily ever after', de la española Cristina Colmena y estrenada en Washington.Un momento de la obra ’Happily ever after’, de la española Cristina Colmena y estrenada en Washington.Magda Pinkowska Gorman

Ampliar fotoLa escritora y dramaturga Cristina Colmena.

EFE 14.03.2014 – 12:41hLa escritora y dramaturga española Cristina Colmena ha estrenado en Washington Happily ever after, una obra en inglés en la que, a través de las historias de tres parejas de diferentes edades, reflexiona sobre cómo cambian el amor y el desamor a lo largo del tiempo.

Tras su debut este jueves en el teatro Ambassadorde la capital estadounidense, la sala seguirá acogiendohasta el próximo 30 de marzo representaciones de la obra, dirigida por Hanna Bondarewska y en la que un dúo de actores, Karin Rosnizeck y Doug Krehbel, interpreta todo el reparto.

Una pareja joven que parece no entenderse del todo, un hombre y una mujer de mediana edad que se acaban de conocer y no tienen claro si iniciar una relación y un matrimonio de ancianos hastiado tras treinta años de convivencia conyugal son losdesdichados personajes que buscan la felicidad en sus relaciones en Happily ever after.

“Todos queremos ser amados, dormir junto a alguien, ser felices y, al final, parece que es bastante complicado”, explica a Efe Cristina Colmena, quien asegura que la obra trata “de lo difícil que es el amor”.

La evolución de las discusiones de pareja

Con una escenografía que va cambiando, la obra transcurre alrededor de una mesa que después se transforma en cama, con un reloj proyectado en una pantalla como elemento unificador de las tres escenas en que se divide la obra, una para cada pareja. En esta austera puesta en escena, los supuestos amantes, que no se acaban de aclarar con sus sentimientos, piensan en voz alta, bailan y se besan, incluso se torean, pero, sobre todo, discuten….TO READ MORE


Mar 132014
March 12, 2014                                                                              Happily Ever After, a thought-provoking play at the Ambassador Theater chronicles the relationships of three male-female couples of different ages, features Doug Krehbel and Karin Rosnizeck.
Washingon, D.C. — The world premiere of Happily Ever After, a thought-provoking play by Spanish playwright Cristina Colmena, opens Thursday at the Ambassador Theater’s Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G Street NW.Happily Ever After grapples with relationships of couples – love, marriage and the battle of the sexes — and how they struggle and stagnate over time despite the best of intentions. But are all relationships doomed?

The play chronicles the relationships of three male-female couples of different ages. The audience observes the couples through relationship periods where the characters want to be happy but they do not know how. The audience finds young lovers bound by a powerful attraction yet destined to part; cynical middle-aged one-night standers failing to act on a promising encounter; and an older, deeply unhappy couple keeping up appearances after 30 years of marriage…TO READ MORE


Feb 012014


February 1, 2014 by 

Rarely does theatre make you feel educationally illuminated and shamelessly entertained at the same time, but such are the charms of Ambassador Theater’s production of the ancient Greek comedy Dyskolos by Menander.  Dyskolosfeels like a genetically combined blend of Moliere’s The Misanthrope, Italian commedia dell’arte (complete with masks), and The Three Stooges.  It is broad fun, broadly and expertly rendered in a short run at the Anacostia Arts Center.

Connor Hogan and Lily Kerrigan (Photo courtesy of Ambassador Theater)Connor Hogan and Lily Kerrigan (Photo courtesy of Ambassador Theater) 

Ambassador Theater is in its fifth season of presenting theatrical works from across the globe and, in this case, across a considerable period of time.  Menander was a leading writer of the Greek “New Comedy” era (about 2,300 years ago) which focused on finding humor in the lives of everyday characters.  He had a considerable impact on Roman playwrights, but most of his work was lost in the Middle Ages.  Dyskolos is his only work to have survived almost entirely intact.

The god Pan sets the scene by explaining that he has caused a wealthy young man to fall in love with the innocent daughter of a grumpy old farmer.  One wonders if this is where all of those jokes about the proverbial “farmer’s daughter” started. The farmer becomes enraged if any stranger steps onto his property or tries to talk with him. (Dyskolos can be translated as The Grouch, The Misanthrope, The Curmudgeon, The Bad-tempered Man or Old Cantankerous).

The young man goes through various strategies first to persuade the farmer to allow his daughter to be married and then to persuade his own father to allow the marriage to occur.  As sometimes happens in classic comedies, a second betrothal results as well.

Four actors play roughly a dozen roles with the aid of expressive masks that each prepared with the assistance of master mask designer Tara Cariaso.  Connor J. Hogan demonstrates great comic gifts as the painfully lovestruck young man, as his father’s cook who runs afoul of the farmer, and even as the young man’s mother.  Nick Martin makes the farmer both impressively disagreeable and intimidating.


Lily Kerrigan is at her charming best playing a clever and mischievous young slave who enjoys tormenting the farmer.  She also has considerable stage time as the farmer’s older stepson who lives separately with his mother and who aids the young lover in his quest.  Sarah Collins completes the versatile quartet by playing multiple roles ranging from the farmer’s old slave to a contrary sheep.

Director Stephen Shetler keeps the action high-spirited and the acting appropriately broad, often happily verging on slapstick.  The action is pleasantly broken through scene changes that feature the actors in stylistic movements choreographed by Julia Tasheva.

At times, it may take a few moments for the audience to follow the new scenes.  A short synopsis in the program and/or a character list would have proven useful. The characters, however, set up the actions in an understandable manner soon enough.

Ancient Greek comedy may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or perhaps glass of ouzo).  Yet these standard characters and their all too common desires are readily accessible.  The play is appropriately subtitled “An Ancient Greek Comedy with Modern Sensibilities.”  If you are seeking a theatre experience that is both novel and yet familiar enough to be entertaining, Ambassador Theater’s production of Dyskolos is only playing for this weekend only.

Dyskolos Written by Menander Translated by Vincent J. Rosivach . Directed by Stephen Shetler . Produced by Ambassador Theater . Reviewed by Steven McKnight.

Closes Sunday, February 2, 2014
Anacostia Arts Center
1231 Good Hope Road SE
Washington, DC.
1 hour, 20 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $35
Saturday and Sunday
Details and Tickets


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Dec 032013


Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Ambassador Theater Protest

By  • Nov 25th, 2013 • Category: Reviews

Protest by Vaclav Havel; Translated by Vera Blackwell
Ambassador Theater: (Info) (Web)
Flashpoint-Black Box Theater, Washington DC
Through December 15th
65 minutes without intermission
$35/$20 Seniors, Students
Reviewed November 23rd, 2013

The Cold War and the Berlin Wall have disappeared from the front pages. They are no longer recent memory. The Ambassador Theater has brought back those days of duplicity and intrigue when East and West meant the Soviet Union and the United States were at odds. The time is the mid-1970s. And the production is Protest a probing work by Czech playwright and often jailed dissident Vaclav Havel, who later with the break-up of the Soviet Union, became Czech Republic President.

Protest is a compact production with a script built around self-deception and the power of language to confuse in a very murky world. It is built around characters representing two poles of how people can react to artistic censorship and cultural oppression. It is a small-cast, rather literary work in nature, rather than an action adventure. It has calibrated arguments as the weapons of choice.

Havel’s work paints a world composed of two stark opposite positions; either dissident or compromiser. He raises question to ponder. Who can you trust when your own freedom is at stake? What will you do to survive? How far will you go to prevent the loss of your own livelihood, or a risk a prisonterm for speaking out against the State?

For the Ambassador Theater, Protest is “an indictment of individuals who refuse to protest corrupt political systems and collude for their own personal advantage.” Protest is a pocket-sized, 65 minute intermission-less event that begins with a dissident (Vanek played with cool, upper-class manner by Michael Crowley) who returns home from prison after a protest against the government. Vanek is called by an old friend (a slimy, nervously talkative Stanek played by Ivan Zizek). Stanek is a compromiser who has much to lose including a well-off life.

Director Gail Humprhies Mardiosian has added theatrical flair in her chess match conception for the play. She has brought a twist by including two female “counter egos” to the Vanek and Stanek characters. There is an icy cool, inward-looking Sissel Bakken as Vankova, the counter ego to Vanek and a boundlessly animated, outward-looking Hanna Bondarewska as Stankova the counter ego to Stanek.

With the Ambassador staging, the audience becomes a witness to a duplication of dialogue delivered by the various female and male pairings. It is a deconstruction of the text and reconstruction. It asks if there is a substantive difference with a gender switching of roles. Or is it just unnecessary confusion?

The production pivots on what is to be done for a jailed young musician who has connections to the compromiser Stanek/Stankova. How far should someone go to help; sign a public protest document that risks negative consequences?

The set design by Jonathan Rushbrook immerses the audience into the production as eavesdroppers. There are 15 or so small round tables in the intimate Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint. The audience is in a low ceiling underground café where political debates are thought possible without prying eyes and ears.

The set has an alley down the middle on which the characters pass, bumping into each other. At either end are risers where much of the narrative of the play transpires. Over time the swiveling needed to keep up with the change of direction of the action and dialogue was disconcerting even with Zachary Dalton’s helpful lighting.

Music by Jerzy Sapieyevski is a score with electronic synthesizer. It is a key ingredient to the production’s overall experimental styling. And playwright Havel was known for his interest in music as a subversive device. And as aside, with the recent death of Lou Reed the media made mention of Havel’s interest in Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground and the term “The Velvet Revolution” for the Czech actions against the Soviet Union in the late 1980′s.

Protest is fascinating, but it may not be for everyone. It may have greater allure for those with awareness of Vaclav Havel’s remarkable life and his development as an artist and a dissident. It will also be an attraction to those with a historical absorption with the Cold War.

But then again, as one of Havel’s Protest characters suggests, “The more you’re exposed, the more responsibility you have towards all those who know about you, trust you, rely on you and look up to you, because to some extent you keep upholding their honour, too!” Those are timeless words not connected to a particular time and place.

Note: For mature audiences. The performance of Protest is part of the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2013, celebrating Vaclav Havel’s life and legacy as a former president, playwright and human rights advocate.


  • Vanek: Michael Crowley
  • Vankova: Sissel Bakken
  • Stanek: Ivan Zizek
  • Stankova: Hanna Bondarewska


  • Directed: Gail Humphries Mardirosian
  • Music: Jerzy Sapieyevski
  • Set Designed: Jonathan Rushbrook
  • Costumes: Sigrid Johannedottir
  • Sound Design: George Gordon
  • Light Design: Zacarhy Dalton
  • Stage Manager Jim Vincent
  • Technical Director: Joseph Walls

Disclaimer: Ambassador Theater provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.



Nov 272013

In one corner, Michael Crowley is a study in stoicism as Vanek while Ivan Zizek shows the firmness and barely-contained desperation of Stanek, the writer who knows he has become a success at the expense of his reputation among his peers. But whereas these male characters generally display a typical male reserve, their poker-faces stand in contrast to the more demonstrative, edgy performances on the distaff side of the arena. Sissel Bakken, as Vankova (Havel’s part), bristles at the treatment she gets from her hostess, “Stankova,” (Hanna Bondarewska), who becomes increasingly panicked and paranoid as their conversation proceeds. As Stankova, Bondarewska makes explicit the tortures suffered by those who know what is right but who cannot or will not do it-the price any artist pays when they sell out to the authorities. Bakken meanwhile, is free to reveal the truly conflicted nature of this encounter, and from her we get the strong impression (not even hinted at among the boys) that this was not a free visitation, but was in fact somewhat coerced…To Read More

Nov 272013

MD Theatre Guide

November 26, 2013 by 

Before The Ambassador Theater’s inventive rendition of Vaclav Havel’s Protest even begins, the set transports you to another place and time. Café tables are scattered around the black box theater, leaving only enough space for the actors to bustle through. A small stein of pilsner and a dish of pretzels and nuts give theater-goers something to sip and nosh as they get their bearings. Moody music pipes in over the speakers as chatter from the audience rises. Before you know it, you’ve arrived. It’s circa 1978, and you’re about to foment revolution in a coffeehouse in Soviet Prague. Even black-and-whites of Havel—Czech dissident turned president—line the wall; smoke-filled air is the only thing missing…To Read More