Charging Ahead

British philosopher Herbert Spencer--who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest" (our current theme)--considered progress an inevitable part of nature. We'll test that hypothesis on Tuesday, January 16, when we discuss "Rhinoceros" (1960), by French-Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco, "godfather of the theater of the absurd" (Los Angeles Times). In a small town, a rhinoceros suddenly appears. Soon all the townsfolk are following the new fashion & turning into rhinos. The Nation called "Rhinoceros" "brilliant," the New Yorker called it "hilarious," & the New York Post found it "surprisingly moving." Ionesco's plays "overturned conventions of contemporary theater and profoundly influenced a new generation of playwrights" (New York Times). "Rhinoceros" is his "absurdist masterpiece" (Boston Globe).

Our discussion will feature two guest speakers. Director & playwright Genevieve Brunet Smith teaches regularly at the Smithsonian, directs frequently at the French embassy's Maison Francaise, & was a personal friend of Ionesco. Professor Aurelia Roman teaches at Georgetown University & wrote her dissertation on Ionesco's monologues.

Make reservations by contacting Mark Gruenberg (202-638-0444 & [email protected]). Trap a "Rhinoceros" at Backstage Books, 545 8th St., SE, & for a special Footlights discount at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW; & Olsson's Books & Records, 1307 19th St., NW & 7647 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda.

Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. & our discussion takes place 7:30-9:30. We will meet this month at a new location, Cafe Midi Cuisine, 1635 Connecticut Ave., NW (202-234-3090), just north of Dupont Circle. Cafe Midi provides self-serve gourmet cuisine at reasonable prices. After 6:30 you can park on 18th St. near R St., NW, & on R St. on either side of Connecticut Ave.

Staying Behind

When does survival compel change, & when does it require remaining behind? We'll explore that question Wednesday, February 21, when we discuss "Taking Sides" (1995), by British playwright Ronald Harwood. "Taking Sides" depicts the American military's postwar investigation of Hitler's favorite symphony conductor, Wilhelm Furtwangler. "Fierce" (Chicago Tribune), "powerful" (Guardian), "riveting" yet "often witty" (Financial Times), "Taking Sides" presents a "gripping moral challenge" (London Sunday Times) that "takes on new depths and shadows as the play progresses" (New York Times). We will discuss "Taking Sides" with Professor Rebecca Boehling, research fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, & music critic Richard Freed, program annotator for the National Symphony Orchestra. Make reservations after January 16 by calling 202-638-0444 or e-mailing [email protected].


Tuesday, January 16, 6:30 p.m.: "Rhinoceros," Cafe Midi Cuisine
Wednesday, February 21, 6:30 p.m.: "Taking Sides," Delray Viet Garden
Monday, March 26, 6:30 p.m.: "The Old Lady's Guide to Survival," site TBA
Thursday, April 19, 6:30 p.m.: "After Darwin," site TBA
Tuesday, May 22, 6:30 p.m.: "The Homecoming," Delray Viet Garden
Monday, June 18, 6:30 p.m.: "Lulu," Delray Viet Garden
Wednesday, July 18, 6:30 p.m.: "The Andersonville Trial" site TBA