Jan 042014


January 3, 2014

DIONYSIA: Celebration of Greek Culture

PLACE: The George Washington Masonic Memorial Theatre, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria VA 22301

DATES: Sat., Jan. 18, 2014 at 7:30 PM and Sun., Jan 19,  2014 at 5:00 PM and Jan. 30 – Feb. 2 (Anacostia Arts Center)

The award-winning Ambassador Theater is presenting the second in a series of annual cultural festivals at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Old Town Alexandria. The performances take place on January 18th and 19th and feature traditional Greek dancing by the Georgetown-based dance company Dynami along with a performance of the ancient Greek comedy, Dyskolos. The performances are sponsored in part by a grant from the City of Alexandria and are presented in association with the Embassy of Greece.  Following the performances in Old Town, the play will be staged at the Anacostia Arts Center in Southeast DC.

The first cultural festival hosted by Ambassador Theater, Hopa Tropa Kukerica, featured Bulgarian culture and won the 2012 best family show award from MD Theatre Guide. This year’s Dionysia festival follows in the successful footsteps of Hopa Tropa Kukerica by bringing together Greek dance, theater, and culture in an enjoyable event for a wide audience. The auditorium of the George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple, with its Greek and Roman influenced style, is a fitting venue for this festival. Dynami showcases the best of Greek dance through their authentic and engaging performances. Truly pan-hellenic, Dynami performs an assortment of diverse dances, accompanied by music and costumes from all across Greece and its many islands.

Ambassador Theater proudly presents its own production of Menander’s Dyskolos, an ancient Greek comedy of romance, fools, and schemers. Menander, although not well know to general audiences today, is considered by many scholars to be the most influential writer of antiquity after Homer, and the inventor of modern comedy. The play was first performed at the Festival of Dionysus in Athens in 316 BC where it won first prize. Despite Menander’s popularity, his works were all lost by the end of the Roman era and not discovered again until, amazingly, a papyrus of some of his plays was discovered in the sand of Egypt in 1957. Everyone from Shakespeare and Moliere to the Marx brothers and the Three  Stooges owes a debt to Menander and Dyskolos. The play follows the adventure of a wealthy young man who falls magically in love with a poor farmer’s daughter. With the help of friends and servants he struggles to overcome the objections of her misanthropic father. Meanwhile, servants try to prepare a feast nearby, but are met with endless difficulties. Full of slapstick comedy and light-hearted jokes, Dyskolos is just as fun today as it was thousands of years ago.

In addition to the performances in Old Town, Dyskolos will travel to Southeast DC for shows on January 30th to February 2nd. The performances will take place in the beautiful new Anacostia Arts Center at 1231 Good Hope Rd, SE.

DYSKOLOS at Anacostia Arts Center Jan. 30 – Feb. 2, 2014

Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00 PM, Matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM


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If you would like more information, please contact Hanna Bondarewska at (703) 475-4036 or email at ambassadortheater@aticc.org.


Oct 212012

‘Trespassing’ at Ambassador Theater by Jessica Vaughan


Ambassador Theater takes on trespassers and unexpected visitors with two madcap one-acts by Egyptian playwright Alfred Farag.

The first, The Visitor, tells the story of an actress and the policeman who comes to her apartment because a well-known serial killer has said he is coming after her. It’s tense and yet funny as the two discuss justice, fate, acting, and coffee, and wait for him to appear. It becomes clear quickly that all is not as it seems and ends with a fun twist. As the play went on, it was tough to tell if it was a thriller, a comedy, a philosophical treatise, or a farce, but it also didn’t matter. It was fun.

Hanna Bondarewska (Negma Sadiq) and Ivan Zizek (Mahmud Suliman) in ‘The Visitor.’ Photo by Magda Pinkowska.

The set design by Greg Jackson changes for each one-act, but both sets are sumptuous and beautiful. The Visitor features the artwork of prominent artist Agustin Blazquez. (He is from Cuba, but specializes in Egyptian art). His pieces, including an Egyptian mummy’s case, are complimented by fun things like a gilt stand telephone and a beautiful coffee set. In the second one-act, The Peephole, the set becomes more modern but no less stylish with slightly naughty hieroglyphs on the walls – and a couch set I wish was in my living room.

The Visitor, directed Gail Humphrey Mardirosian, makes full use of the stage and the set since at several points, the actors are sent around the stage searching frantically or hiding out. She keeps the pace up and the tension building admirably. Hanna Bondarewska (Negma Sadiq) revels in the role of the diva who is not to be cowed but is drawn to the killer and Ivan Zizek as the visitor makes an excellent foil. For the vast majority of the play, they are alone in that apartment and they and the director and the actors work hard to keep the audience mesmerized and involved, and everything moves quickly.

Costume Designer Elizabeth Ennis chose some great pieces. Both plays’ protagonists’ costumes do not disappoint. In The Visitor, Negma Sadiq wears sheer fabrics with endless sparkles and gold. In Peephole, the main character’s more modern wardrobe includes a shiny silver shirt and a fabulous leather jacket. It was obvious a lot of thought went into each character’s wardrobe.

After intermission and the transformation of the set, Hanna Bondarewska takes over as director for the second one-act, The Peephole, which is the story of another famous actor Hasan (Ivan Zizek), as he arrives home to find a murdered woman in his bedroom. He calls his neighbor, the lawyer Husayn (Stephen Shelter or James Randle on alternate dates) who calls a psychiatrist Hasanayn (Rob Weinzimer) and a criminal (Adam R. Adkins) who can take the body away. Why they need both a criminal and a psychiatrist is because the murdered woman keeps disappearing and reappearing throughout the play. Bondarewska also plays the woman in a suitably gory, gorgeous costume.

This one-act got more and more surreal as it went on.The actors just threw themselves into their roles and seemed to relish the zinging one-liners they lobbed at each other – and the possible mental breakdowns happening all over the stage. What was fun though was how it echoed the other play.The evening is called Trespassing, and between the frantic searches, the murderer in the first play and the murdered in the second, and the central role of a telephone, it was fun to see what they included and echoed in each act.

James Randle, Rob Weinzimer, and Ivan Zizek. The cast of ‘The Peephole.’ Photo by Magda Pinkowska.

Lighting Designer Marianne Meadows did a great job, especially with the more surrealThe Peephole. A large part of the plot rested on her design to let us know whether the ghost (real woman? Hallucination?) was there or not. Also, in the first one-act, her warm lighting design complimented the artwork beautifully.

Playwright Alfred Farag was born in the 1950s and wrote dozens of plays still known and studied in Egypt for their dialogue and use of Arabic. Translator Dina Amin has managed to capture some of that joy of language. Both plays had some good exchanges and running jokes, like the psychiatrist answering many queries with, “In your childhood or adolescence…”

The Ambassador Theater International Cultural Center’s mission is to build international cultural awareness and succeeds with these plays, not because they showed us such a different and strange world, but because the world Farag wrote about is so familiar. The laughs work on every level and two stories about famous actors and their insecurities, lawyers, and shrinks are so universal.

If you are Egyptian or American or from any other part of the world you will enjoy these two quirky and funny one-acts. Their universal messages will hit home.

Running Time: Approximately two hours with 15 minute intermission.

Trespassing plays through November 3, 2012 at Ambassador Theater at Mead Theatre Lab’s Flashpoint – 916 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.