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Will Sanders Do the Right Thing in 2020?

March 31, 2020

In 2016, when it was clear Hillary Clinton had the required number of delegates to win the nomination and Sen. Bernie Sanders had lost he refused to accept the result and pushed on to the convention continuing to incite his supporters against Clinton. Let’s hope he will not do the same in 2020 to Joe Biden.


There were times before when a losing candidate’s supporters threatened not to work for the nominee but in 2016 it was the candidate himself who made things worse. In 2020, let’s hope Sanders will talk to his supporters and convince them how important it will be to unite behind the nominee of the party in the general election.


In 2008, I was an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton and was an elected delegate for her to the convention in Denver. It had been a hard fought campaign and contrary to the 2016 primary campaign, which Hillary won by four million votes, the vote count was about equal between she and Barack Obama. Nevertheless he won the delegates needed for the nomination. Hillary called a meeting of her delegates at the convention and told us what she would do and asked that we enthusiastically support her when she stood on the floor to ask the convention to make the Obama nomination unanimous.


Just prior to the convention when it was clear Obama would have the needed delegates for the nomination I wrote a column for the Washington Blade pledging my support for him and urged everyone to do the same. I was pilloried by a large group of Hillary supporters who called themselves PUMAs, which stood for ‘Party Unity my Ass.’ The difference between 2008 and 2016 was Hillary not only spoke to unity, she and Bill campaigned enthusiastically with and for Obama across the nation. In 2016, Sanders did the opposite. He kept Hillary waiting for 30 days leading into the convention refusing to endorse her and actually kept inciting his supporters against her. Then after the convention, when Sanders did travel the country to ostensibly support Hillary, you only had to listen to realize all his speeches were about him. We later learned he was already taking notes for his book, which would make him one of the millionaires he had spent his campaign railing against.


Now with the Democratic primary in 2020 all but over, Sanders has a chance to make up for that. As I write this column, it is already clear Biden will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. If the results of the Tuesday primaries match the polling in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona (Ohio postponed due to coronavirus) and prove anywhere near to being correct they will have been the nail in the coffin of Sanders’s campaign. So Sanders will have the opportunity to make a quick endorsement and pledge to truly campaign for the nominee and move to unify the party.

His role must focus on urging his supporters, particularly those who stayed home or voted for a third party in 2016 in a protest against Clinton to understand if they do that again they are helping to reelect Trump. After four years of Trump they now know how dangerous that will be to any of their dreams and aspirations and to democracy as we know it.

Sanders can remind them if Democrats don’t take back the presidency and the Senate, Trump will continue to nominate, and the Senate will confirm, lifetime ultra-conservative judges who will rule against all they believe in for generations. In 2020, Sanders has to control his ego and accept he will never be president of the United States. If he is able to do that he will have that major role in electing a Democratic president and defeating Trump. While he and Biden may differ on many things I do believe Sanders will fight for our country and fight to protect the Constitution. Defeating Trump may just depend on his doing that.

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'Timon of Athens' is a Stunning Production

February 26, 2020

Simon Godwin makes his directorial debut at the Shakespeare Theatre with a stunning production of Timon of Athens. Godwin shows himself to be a creative and exciting director with this production. It is visually stunning and keeps you enthralled from beginning to end.

Now there is another reason you are enthralled from beginning to end and that is the incredible Kathryn Hunter in the role of Timon. Kathryn is not new to cross-gender casting as she was the first woman to play King Lear which she did in 1997. Godwin has described her as a ‘force of nature’ and after seeing her in this role you know why. She commands the stage. The only thing I can find small fault with is often when she is not toward the front of the stage you miss some of her words. She is speaking Shakespearian English so fast and there is a kind of rasp to her voice so some of the words are missed which is a shame because when she is stage center you realize you don’t want to miss a moment of her performance. Her physical performance is as captivating as her spoken word. 

Yonatan Gebeyehu (Photo by: Gary Goodstein) Yonatan Gebeyehu

Timon of Athens is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays and I would suggest you may want to familiarize yourself with it before going. It could heighten your appreciation of the production. Historians have suggested it was co- written with Thomas Middleton. The main plot of Timon is he is a generous benefactor to many who call themselves his friends. Upon losing his money and approaching them for help he is turned away and they are all unmasked as ingrate sycophants who willingly and happily supped at his table and boasted of being his friend when he was rich.

The subplot is made clear in this production when Timon loses his money and ends up supporting a civil insurrection. It is easy to see today’s world in this production. How money plays such an important role in trying to maintain the status quo for the rich and those born to the manor. How corrupt to their core many can be with an utter lack of scruples in their effort to maintain their lifestyles and power. The play forces you to think about the incredible economic inequality in the world today and the dramatic differences of those in the 1% from the rest of the world and the struggle that causes.

Godwin has taken the liberty of not only casting a woman as Timon but also to cast women in the roles of many of the other characters who were written as men. But through all the struggle of this play and the interactions between wealth and poverty the play ends on a high note which leaves you feeling there is some hope left for the world. As Godwin has said “He hopes in this production to activate a wilder satirical energy in the playing of it. There is a great deal of savage humor in the first half of the play which then helps make the tragic turns the play takes in the second act feel shocking yet also appropriate.” You will feel he has succeeded in this effort superbly. 

Kathryn Hunter (Photo by: Henry Grossman) Kathryn Hunter

In addition to Kathryn the rest of the cast is all wonderful. Some standouts are Yonatan Gebeyehu as the Poet, Arnie Burton as Apemantus, Zachary Fine as the Painter, and Kristen Misthopoulos as the Greek Singer. But they are all able to command the stage in turn and you will surprised at the staging as they are not always speaking from the stage. 

But what adds immeasurably to making this production so riveting are the sets, costumes, lighting and music. Costumes and Sets are by the incredibly talented Soutra Gilmour. The Lighting Designer is Donald Holder, music composer is Michael Bruce and sound design is by Christopher Shutt. 

This is a production you should see for many reasons. As I have said it is stunning but it is also a fine celebration of the talent of Simon Godwin the new Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Timon of Athens will be at the Michael R. Klein Theatre, formerly the Lansburgh, through March 22nd. 

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The King’s Speech – An Enjoyable Night at the Theatre

February 13, 2020

This production of The King’s Speech is definitely worth an evening in the theater. Many know the story or have learned it from watching the great movie of the same name. But in case you don’t know it a short synopsis is helpful before you go.

The play is written by David Seidler and this production is directed by Michael Wilson. It is about a difficult time in England. King George V dies and David (Jeff Parker) his older son is to become King. But David falls in love with a Baltimore socialite Wallis Simpson (Tiffany Scott) who is twice divorced and rather than give her up as the government demands if he is to become King he abdicates the throne leaving it to his younger brother Albert (known as Bertie) and played to perfection by Nick Westrate. England is about to enter the war and Bertie is shy and fragile with a stammer and seemingly not well equipped to lead the nation on the brink of war. 

The story is about how Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Maggie Lacey) helps him to find a speech therapist to overcome his stammer, which has held him back all his life, as he is thrust onto the world stage after the abdication of his older brother. She finds an unconventional Harley Street speech therapist, Lionel Logue wonderfully and believably played by Michael Bakkensen who becomes not only his speech therapist but his friend. Their success or failure as therapist and patient and as unexpected friends, will seal their destiny, the destiny of England and perhaps the world, in this compelling true story. 

(Photo by: Courtesy Liz Lauren for National Theatre)

The play revolves around the interactions with the famous personages of the time in England including Winston Churchill (Kevin Gudahl) who brings strength to his performance and always commands the stage and the Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang (Noble Shropshire) who brings humor and a dose of reality as we follow the interactions between the Church of England and the monarchy at the time. We find ourselves cheering for Bertie as he finally speaks up and confronts the Archbishop. 

The sets are beautifully conceived by Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet with interesting and effective by Lighting Designer Howell Binkley. The costumes are beautifully imagined by David C. Woolard.

I question a little of the direction as when Bertie is having one of his arguments with Lionel and he is first talking to him from a box in the theater and then comes down into the audience and walks down the aisle back to the stage. There seems to be no benefit to the production for this to happen and my only thought was once they got him in the box maybe that was the only way to get Bertie back on the stage. But again that is a minor quibble. 

The entire cast is good but I found the play does drag a little in the first act. But then all the big action takes place in the second act and the pace picks up dramatically and you leave the theater glad you came to see this show. 

The King’s Speech will be at the National Theatre through February 16th. 

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