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The real red, white and blue in Washington

By Jeremy Walsh
ArtsPost staff writer

While walking up to 11th green on the Blue Course at East Potomac Park, it’s hard to imagine any golf course having a more beautiful backdrop.

With the Jefferson Memorial directly ahead, the Washington Monument just past that, and the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building peeking over the tall buildings to your right, and considering you’re on a magnificent, lush golf course in the first place, there is certainly no better view in all of Washington D.C.

Located minutes from the Jefferson Memorial (roughly two minutes by car, 10 minutes by foot), the East Potomac Park golf facility offers memorable experiences to golfers of all skill levels.

There are 36 holes of golf on three differently styled courses, a driving range with 100 stalls, several practice greens, and even a miniature golf course.  That alone is pretty remarkable for a public facility.

But the exceptionality of East Potomac is most noticeable while playing on the full-length, headliner Blue Course

Playing to a par-72, the Blue Course is a flat course that isn’t particularly long but does require accurate shot-making, offering a challenging and enjoyable experience to golfers of most skill levels.

Keeping the tee shot in the fairway is imperative, but not for typical reasons.  While there are only few marked hazards and several holes do run next to out-of-bounds areas, the real danger preventing golfers from finding their balls is the rough.

Many of the par-4 holes have thick rough, in the range of three to five inches, and if your shot drifts into this grass, it can take you the full five minutes allowed by the rules to find the ball.  This can get frustrating golfers who easily lose shots either direction off the tee (which is no doubt most golfers).

The thicker rough provides a unique opportunity compared to other public courses, which tend to have sligh

tly shorter rough.

The course is easily characterized as an open course, considering there aren’t many trees, almost no fairway bunkers and most of the holes run parallel to one or two other holes.  As a result, the ball tends to stay in-play, which frankly makes the experience more fun – nobody likes to go out to a course and lose 15 balls because the each shot requires almost professional precision.

Another reason most golfers should enjoy the Blue Course is the greens, which roll at a fair speed and are in great condition.  In fact, the lush color of the greens does as much for the beauty of the course and setting as do the n

ational monuments.

The two nines are fairly similar to one another, though the back nine does play slightly longer than the front.  The first few holes of each side away from downtown, while the closing holes play directly toward the Washington Monument.

On the front nine, the par-4 holes are all manageable, playing less than 400 yards for the men and around 275 for the women.  But the side makes up for it with two long par-5 holes.  The long third hole comes in at a massive 590 yards for the men, requiring three huge and accurate shots just to get on the green in regulation.

The par-3 eighth hole is the most picturesque spot on the course.  No matter what day you play that hole, the flagstick always seems to be directly in line with the Washington Monument.

The back nine features shorter par-5 and par-3 holes but the par-4 holes are longer, averaging nearly 375 yards, with two over 400 yards long, for the men and around 300 yards long for the women.  Because of the increased length of these holes, the back nine presents more of a challenge, but is still quite manageable.

Overall, the Blue Course is an excellent full-length public course, helping make the whole East Potomac facility be the most popular in Washington.  Though this popularity is a gift for management, it can be a curse for the patrons.  The course gets crowded on nice weekdays and jam-packed on the weekends, so be prepared for a slow-paced, potentially five-hour round.

Still, the entire facility is great for all golfers.  The Red Course is a nine-hole par-3 course, all of which are around 100 yards and ideal for beginning golfers.  The White Course is also a nine-hole course, with normal length par-3 and par-4 holes and presents a good test for average players.

All three courses at East Potomac Park, like the two other public course in Washington, are owned by the U.S. Park Service and managed by Golf Course Specialists Inc.

The facility has been an important part of the city’s history since the 1920s.  The first nine was built in 1921 and the subsequent three nines were constructed in 1923, 1924, and 1930 respectively, all by different, little-known course architects.

Despite its age, the course managers keep the facility in great shape, with the Blue Course being the best conditioned course in Washington.  With rounds moderately priced, at $27 on weekdays and $31 on the weekend, the Blue Course offers an affordable, enjoyable experience for all amateur golfers.

Scoring Redgate: Is it remarkable?

Redgate's par-5 14th hole

By Jeremy Walsh
ArtsPost staff writer

Redgate Municipal Golf Course is a challenging par-71, public course managed by the City of Rockville, Md., designed by local golf course architect Therman Donovan. Since its opening in 1974, Redgate has become a well-known opportunity for local golfers to test their skills.

But is the course really worth your 4 1/2 hours and $50?

Let’s evaluate the Redgate experience, scoring each hole individually, to see whether each part of the course is truly exceptional.

(The scoring system: decently designed holes, challenging and fair will be given a par.  Poor or below-average holes will get a bogey, and beautiful, exceptional holes will get a birdie. So, a good, worthwhile course would finish with a score right at par.)

1. Par-4, 376 yards

This uphill, dogleg-left hole is a good starting hole and sets the tone for the rest of the course.  There’s change in elevation, fairway bunkers and trees surrounding the green, all of which are constants at Redgate.  The hole requires two good shots to a manageable green, a solid test for a first hole.  Par

2.  Par-3, 168 yards

Players must hit over a small creek on this challenging par-3 that drops downhill significantly to a difficult, sloping green. The green looks beautiful from the tee, though the trees between there and the green are kind of an eyesore.  Par

3.  Par-4, 324 yards

Easily the most beautiful hole on the front nine.  The view from the tee box is simply magnificent, as some 100 yards of lake must be cleared before finding the fairway this short, uphill par-4.  Assuming you avoid the fairway bunkers and the trees, the second shot should settle nicely on an easy green.  Fun hole for golfers to all levels. Birdie

4. Par-5, 560 yards

A long hole featuring a lake between the fairway and a creek just in front of the green.  The approach shot is fun, as the fairway drops some 40 yards to the green.  The green is difficult, so try to stay below the hole to avoid a three-putt.  Par

5.  Par-4, 350 yards

Really nothing special.  The tee shot is blind and severely uphill with trees on either side.  The hole turns slightly to the left for the approach shot to a huge green.  Don’t miss the green to the right because the ground is hard and the grass is poor.   Par

6.  Par-3, 137 yards

Another picturesque hole.  This magnificent, short par-3 requires a simple shot in between three green-side bunkers.  Be careful with a green that slopes pretty significantly toward the front.  Birdie

7.  Par-4, 362 yards

This hole begins a short stretch of holes that straddle the line between average and poor.  The seventh hole squeaks by in the former, barely because it’s challenging and the fairway and green are in good shape.  The one knock is that it runs parallel to the parking lot, and average golfers don’t need the added stress of financial repercussions for their tee shot to the left.  Par

8.  Par-4, 423 yards

Again, here’s another hole that barely makes the grade.  Players can’t see the fairway from the tee on this long par-4 (not being able to see the fairway or green really takes away from a hole’s quality).  Once you reach that fairway though, the view of the green is exceptional, featuring an elevated putting surface surrounded by bunkers on three sides.  Par

9.  Par-4, 456 yards

The most challenging hole for the average golfer is also the least attractive.  The view to the green is what brings it down.  The fairway slopes awkwardly to the side on the left side and has a big, drooping tree blocking the right side.  The green is also needlessly big.  Overall, a poor way to finish a good-looking front nine.  Bogey

After nine holes, Redgate’s course design is pretty exceptional, and is sitting at 1-under-par.  Considering that par is a good score for all courses using this system, being better than that is awesome.  The two beautiful holes are much more memorable than the poor finishing holes.

10.  Par-4, 412 yards

This is the last in the aforementioned stretch of mediocre holes and like the others, is another long par-4 that demands two quality shots, though this green is the most challenging on the course so far.  The green is a slick beast, slanting drastically from right to left.  Here’s a case where challenge balances out unremarkable design.  Par

11.  Par-4, 309 yards

Just a remarkable, short par-4.  There are hazards on either side, but the tee box is some 20 yards above the green, tempting everyone to bring out the driver when a lay-up tee shot is the smart play.  For years, this green has had irrigation and disease problems but is finally in good shape.  Play smart and you’ll get the same score:  Birdie

12.  Par-4, 383 yards

Clearly the eyesore of the back nine.  The tee shot must carry up a slope of some 50 or 60 yards just to make to a part of the fairway.  The view to the green, surrounded by trees and out-of-bounds, is unspectacular, like the rest of the hole.  Bogey

13.  Par-4, 415 yards

This features yet another blind tee shot, with the green nowhere in sight.  From the fairway, you face another severe drop to the green.  Though blind tee shots are frustrating, there’s something beautiful about the view from above a well-manicured, bunker-surrounded green.  Par

14. Par-5, 507 yards

The 14th hole is the most spectacular on the course.  It’s a medium-length par-5 that plays downhill from the tee to a challenging green surrounded by long, deep bunkers.  The view from the tee box is simply stunning, with the nuances of the hole clearly visible.  Golfers know exactly the test before them; it’s a matter or being able to conquer.  Birdie

15.  Par-3, 138 yards

Here’s an average-looking, short par-3.  The shadows from the huge trees on either side disguise the green, throwing off one’s depth perception.  It’s tough to judge tee shot distance and the green is huge, making it a fun little hole.  Par

16.  Par-5, 498 yards

The most difficult hole on the course to judge.  On the one hand, it’s a short par-5 that presents the possibility for good scores.  On the other hand, there are awkwardly sloped areas of rough between patches of fairway and hazard that can make the hole unpleasant to play.  Still, everyone enjoys a short par-5; just keep it in play.  Par

17.  Par-3, 200 yards

The 17th is a difficult, uphill par-3 that is anything but scenic.  On the right is an area of ugly, dry trees and shrubs; and on the left is out-of-bounds and netting that guards an office building.  Not pretty, but it’s challenging and the green is in good shape.  Par

18.  Par-4, 437 yards

Probably the flattest hole on the course, tee-to-green.  Two long, precise shots are necessary for this slight dogleg hole.  The view from the tee is good; the view to the green is great.  The green is guarded by a man-made lake on the left and bunkers on the right.  In all respects, it’s a great way to complete the course.  Birdie

For the round, the design of Redgate scores a 3-under-par, which is remarkable.  Though the course hits a slight snag on the quality-meter between holes seven and 10, the course is excellent overall.

Many of the holes have elevation changes and well-kept, lush fairways and greens, which any golfer should love.  If you haven’t been out there, it’s time to grab your sticks and experience Redgate.

Where’s the windmill? Not even a clown’s mouth?

By Jeremy Walsh
ArtsPost staff writer

Miniature Golf at East Potomac Park:  fun for the whole family?  Not quite.

Simply put, the course isn’t fun.  It lacks a colorful and entertaining design and the holes are incredibly challenging for most adult players, let alone for children.

Built in 1930 and billed as the oldest running miniature golf course in the United States, the East Potomac course is not your typical amusement facility.  When most people think of miniature golf, they no doubt imagine colored carpeting, funny designs and fun playing conditions.  This course features none of those typical attributes.

The holes are all lined with bland, poorly conditioned green carpeting, giving the course a dreary feel.  The carpets have obviously not been replaced in a long time, considering the many little nicks and faded appearance.

As a result of the years of wear, every hole is extremely challenging.  Many of the holes seem to roll faster than the greens at Augusta National.  And most of the cups are placed just in front of little hills or slopes, so when if your ball barely trickles past the hole, it usually rolls five or more feet past the cup.

If the conditions are tough and irritating to an adult, it’s difficult to imagine little kids enjoying themselves (unless you’re raising a golf prodigy, in which case your kid will have better touch on the greens than Tiger Woods).

Even worse is the course design.  On the one hand, it probably closely resembles the original design, which adds to its historical value.

But parents and kids today rightfully expect a clown’s mouth, a windmill, or at the very least, a volcano hole.  Instead, many of the holes are bland, straight-ahead or winding shots that require players to guide the ball toward or away from curbs.                                The rest of the holes do have some elevation changes, where players hit toward a hole with a pipe, leading to other greens.  Holes like these are typical of any miniature golf course, but usually these holes with pipes are covered by a house or windmill.  At the East Potomac course, the holes are visible, without any sort of covering or decoration.

The front nine of the course is much more challenging than the back nine, mostly because the holes on the front tend to have shorter pars.  Also, the carpeting on the first nine holes is horrible, so the ball will roll about every direction except into the cup.  The unfair conditions are not as pronounced on the back nine – plus the bigger pars allow you more shots to get that little colored ball into the cup.

Unfortunately, this course is really the only family miniature golf course in Washington, and the only one in the surrounding areas that is Metrorail accessible, though you will need to take a long, but scenic 20 minute trek from the Smithsonian stop.

If you’re looking for a birthday venue for your youngster, you’ll be better off skipping the Miniature Golf at East Potomac Park experience.  The course is insanely difficult without offering any of the appealing visual elements of normal miniature golf facilities (there isn’t even an arcade, decent food shack or indoor seating).

If you happen to be a teenager or adult trying to hone your putt-putt skills to make it as a professional miniature golfer, then this might just be the perfect place for you.  Since you probably aren’t in that miniscule minority, you’re better off skipping this place.  Find a mini-putt game online instead.

Maybe wait for the next Train

By Jeremy Walsh

ArtsPost staff writer

Last train home

A performance of Last Train Home courtesy Wolf Trap

Had the audience craved a night of sitting down, listening to slow, repetitive country songs in a quaint venue, Last Train Home would have given a lifetime performance Feb. 27 at The Barns at Wolf Trap.

Unfortunately, it seemed the audience wanted to get up and dance to the band’s more upbeat, powerful country ballads.  As a result, the hour and a half show seemed bland, dragging agonizingly into the night.

Many audience members, predominately in their 30s and 40s at a sold-out performance, swayed back and forth in their seats, bopping their heads or waving their arms, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to jump up and really get into the show.

Lead singer and band founder Eric Brace acknowledged this desire midway through the show by saying he understood their pain, and declaring that the quaint design of The Barns almost required the band to perform its slower songs.

It was fair for Brace to argue that The Barns is designed for controlled concerts with artists who perform slower music, considering the venue seats around 400 people and hosts primarily jazz, folk and acoustic acts.

Still, it would have made the concert exciting and memorable if the band had broken The Barns trend and played some of its loud, emotional songs.  But Last Train Home didn’t take that chance, making their concert just another show.

One troubling aspect about their slow set was that most of their songs sounded too similar.  Most of the songs, such as “Sally,” “Last Good Kiss” and “Drinking from a Swimming Pool,” did not seem to differentiate themselves from one another, dragging down the show’s quality by not capitalizing on the variety of the band’s song collection.

Perhaps the bands most engaging song of the evening was “Tranquility Base,” which asks astronaut Neil Armstrong what it was like walking on the moon.  The song itself was another slow song, but the originality of the lyrics and song idea stood out.           Brace also gave a fascinating introduction to the song, explaining its inception and the research he did before writing it, which Brace said focused on understanding why Armstrong hasn’t often spoken publicly about his experience on the moon.

Other than with “Tranquility Base,” the band did not perform especially engaging songs.   This could be traced to the fact the band members had never performed together as a whole.

Last Train Home is comprised of several full-time members, who generally always travel with the band, and other regional players, who play with the band depending on a concert’s location.  The band this night appeared unfamiliar with each other at times, compelling Brace to walk around the stage giving instructions or suggestions to his band members.

Another addition to the band for the evening was Peter Cooper, who served as both opening act and occasional duet singer and guitar player during the main act.  Cooper and Brace are longtime friends, who both started as music journalists (Brace being a former critic for The Washington Post) before shifting interests to focus primarily on producing music.

As opening act, Cooper performed lively and engaging songs.  Some were fun, like “Sheboygan,” his ode to drinking in Wisconsin, and some were informative and heart-breaking like “715 (For Hank Aaron),” his homage to the former home run king’s difficult path to breaking Babe Ruth’s career home run record.

In truth, Cooper gave a more complete performance as opening act than Last Train Home gave as main act.  Cooper’s diverse song set activated the audience’s interest, getting them ready for a night of more engaging country music.

For some reason, Last Train Home was just unable to capitalize on the energetic crowd, and though they appeared entertained throughout the main set, it was clear the audience wanted and expected more from the band.

The out-of-control kid; the misguided film

By Jeremy Walsh

ArtsPost staff writer

Families be warned:  “Where the Wild Things Are” is not your typical children’s movie.

It doesn’t keeping you laughing, it won’t bring you to tears with a sentimental story, its protagonist isn’t a model kid and it doesn’t wow you with amazing special effects.  In fact, it might barely entertain your kid.

“Where the Wild Things Are” tells the story of Max (played by young Max Records), a lonely kid with a boundless imagination who demands being the center of attention.

One night, when his single mom (Catherine Keener) invites her boyfriend over for dinner, Max dresses in a wolf costume and stands on the kitchen table yelling at his mom, after she refuses to play with him.  They fight, once she demands he shapes up, and Max attacks her, runs out of the house and down several blocks.

While alone that night, Max imagines himself an explorer sailing to a distant island inhabited by strange, large, fury creatures, at which point the film escapes into Max’s imaginary world.

Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”), taking on directing and co-writing duties (along with Dave Eggers), spearheaded this adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s famed children’s book.  Though his story holds fairly true to the book, his film as a whole does little to live up to the book’s quality and reputation.

Jonze no doubt tried to depict Max as a misunderstood and lonely kid with whom the audience should sympathize.  But early on Max comes off as a real brat, almost unlikable, and the film does not rescue Max from this negative light because he’s just as selfish and uncontrolled on his imaginary island.

Like the book, the film also tried to be silly, considering Max wears his wolf costume the entire time in his daydream and his new fury friends look like big mascots, but this story and characters clearly wanted to be more serious and somber.

Max’s imaginary “wild things” do enjoy bouncing against trees and each other, but for the most part, they have pretty serious dialogue and generally don’t look like they’re having fun.

Physically, the creatures are slightly hunched over with sullen facial expressions, not typical traits of a child’s imaginary friends.

In actuality, the creatures were created using a smorgasbord of movie magic techniques.  The filmmakers combined computer generated imagery, animatronics and actors in costume to bring the wild things to life.  For the most part, this concoction works because the creatures look real, helping the interactions between them and Max seem natural.

Though the filmmakers’ effects team had some success in bringing these creatures to life, it was hard to ignore the odd casting choices for voice actors.  Noted dramatic actors James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”), Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”) and Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”) all deliver their clichéd sentimental lines well but whiff on many silly and comedic lines.

It’s perfectly fine to give imaginary creatures serious dialogue, but in a children’s movie, the voice actors must succeed with the amusing and silly moments to ease the tension.  Otherwise, the kids will get bogged down in the seriousness, making the film experience less fun.

The child actor Records falls into a similar trap because he nails almost every emotionally somber and sympathetic moment (despite wearing a wolf costume), but every time Max is supposed to be having fun, Records portrays a seriously out-of-control kid.

That may not be entirely Records’ fault because Max was written to be a wild child, who maybe learns something about himself while on his imaginary island.  That’s not the Max who really ever appears on-screen.

Instead, that Max is one parents hope like hell their kid never turns out to be.  At no point in the film is he a desirable character to parents or a role model for children, a mind-blowingly dumb idea for a family movie protagonist.

The filmmakers clearly set out to make an atypical children’s movie, a serious film for kids that included some silly moments.  But the film experience wasn’t fun, and even children’s movies that try to be darker than light or comedic (like “James and the Giant Peach” or “Coraline”) are fun.  “Where the Wild Things Are” is one to forget.

Leno’s inauspicious return to late-night

By Jeremy Walsh

ArtsPost staff writer

Comedian Jay Leno made an inauspicious return last week as host of “The Tonight Show” with a forgetful series of first three episodes, leaving NBC’s decision to switch back to Leno from Conan O’Brien look more and more unnecessary.

“The Tonight Show” had been off the air since O’Brien hosted his last show Jan. 22.  With all of the momentum NBC gained during the Winter Olympics, audiences deserved a strong return to late-night from Leno.  Instead, audiences were reminded why Leno left in the first place, and why his prime-time comedy hour failed:  Jay Leno is no longer relevant as a comedian and talk show host.

The first three episodes seemed to be aimed at making a seamless transition from O’Brien to Leno by featuring generic celebrity guests and performance while weaving in three Olympic gold medal winners, trying to keep some focus on NBC’s successful Olympics run and off of the well-publicized, unseemly context behind Leno’s return.

Leno’s first show back, airing on March 1, treated audiences to few memorable moments.  The episode opened with a mildly entertaining, though unoriginal, satire of “The Wizard of Oz,” with Leno in the Dorothy role, awaking after a strange dream.  But as audiences well know, Leno’s nine-month hiatus from “The Tonight Show,” including his experiment with prime-time, was no dream.

The opening monologue, performed on essentially the same set as his prime-time show, seemed awkward as Leno carefully avoided any serious comment about his transition back to NBC’s late-night, which would have been classy and could have eased viewers’ tensions about the unsavory host switch.

Leno relied primarily on Olympics jokes to get him through the monologue, and most of his jokes received what sounded like forced or obligatory laughs from his studio audience.  One memorable zinger from the opening monologue came when Leno said that actor Keanu Reeves had agreed to appear in a new sequel in the “Speed” film series, and like its predecessors, the new film would center on an out-of-control vehicle, this time a Toyota.

Jamie Foxx was Leno’s first guest, and who better to usher in Leno’s return than an outspoken ego-maniac whose only goal is to make sure the camera remains on him.  Upon his arrival, Foxx incited the audience to shout the host’s name and cracked open a bottle of champagne, spraying it in the crowd’s direction.  At one point, Foxx ran around onstage so uncontrollably that he knocked Leno’s cup of coffee onto the ground.

That being said, maybe Foxx was a perfect choice for first guest because he allowed the home viewers little time to focus on Leno.

American gold-medalist Lindsey Vonn followed as Leno’s next guest, easing the awkward feeling of Foxx’s overly exuberant appearance.  Still the banter between Leno and Vonn was far from funny.  Country music singer Brad Paisley ended the show with a lively performance of his hit single “American Saturday Night.”

All in all, Leno’s first show back seemed to fail for two reasons:  It was excruciatingly unfunny, and it did not ease the awkwardness of his transition back as host.

Night 2 had a similar feel, featuring more downs than ups.  Leno gave another forgettable monologue, but made a successful return to his classic “Headlines” bit in the second segment, taking advantage of hilarious misprints in the nation’s newspapers.

Former Governor of Alaska, and current Fox News correspondent Sarah Palin graced the stage as Leno’s first guest.  Their banter seemed forced and lacked any humor; Leno did not go at Palin for any memorable zingers like a younger, less polite (and frankly, more funny) Leno would have done.

Toward the end of her interview, Palin entertained viewers with a surprisingly funny, fake monologue, practicing the kind of material she might do if Fox gave her a talk show.  The best critique of the Leno’s second night could be that Palin’s mock monologue was much funnier than Leno’s actual opening monologue.

The show featured another American gold-medalist, snowboarder Shaun White.  Again, this appearance saw generally dull banter.  Recent “American Idol” winner Adam Lambert finished the evening with a poor performance of his new song “Sleepwalker,” emphasized by its unoriginal, pseudo-’80s sound.

The final episode in the trio of post-Olympics shows aired on March 3 and continued the trends of lackluster comedy and awkward interviews.  The highlight of this show occurred during a mock trivia game hosted by Leno and featuring six stars of the reality show “Jersey Shore.”

The laughs came easily while watching these real people show off their lack of cultural knowledge by answering basic questions incorrectly.  Perhaps the funniest moment came when Leno asked the panel who becomes President of the United States if the president and vice-president die.  Giving a response someone would be hard-pressed to make up, one of the guests answered somewhat confidently that the person who lost the election would be the new president.

One of the more awkward interviews occurred between Leno and his first guest, comedian and author Chelsea Handler.

At the end of her spot, Leno whisked Handler out of the studio and onto a helicopter (in broad daylight, reminding viewers that the show is taped during the day).  The two flew over the Universal lot in Los Angeles to view a huge copy of the cover of Handler’s newest book, which Leno had made.  The moment seemed pointless because neither comedian really attempted any jokes during the uncomfortable flight.

Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno appeared next in-studio, where the two discussed Ohno’s Olympic career and analyzed video clips of Ohno’s races only days earlier in Vancouver.  Some of Ohno’s insights were intriguing, but the interview lacked the humor necessary to carry a late-night comedy hour.

Singer Avril Lavigne ended the show by performing her new single “Alice,” a song she contributed to the soundtrack of the new “Alice in Wonderland” film.   Though the final guests of the three episodes were well-known music artists, the show would have benefited from booking at least one stand-up comedian to perform in that spot, helping to close one of the nights with much-needed laughter.

In the end, Leno’s return to late night left much to be desired.  He seems to have lost touch with the brand of comedy that made his first stint on “The Tonight Show” so memorable and successful.  It appears that the uninspired Leno America saw in prime-time is here to stay.

The best bet in Washington

By Jeremy Walsh

ArtsPost staff writer

Of the three municipal golf courses in Washington D.C., Langston Golf Course may not be the most exceptional facility, but it is certainly offers an affordable, unique golf experience, which is enough to satisfy almost any average golfer.

The 18-hole, par-72 course is divided into two nines that are different from each other in almost every recognizable way.  The front nine plays 200 yards shorter than the back nine for the men, and just under 100 yards shorter for the women.

As a result, the front nine presents the best opportunity for scoring, with two short par-5 holes and five manageable par-4 holes.  The most challenging hole on the side is the long, par-3 eighth hole, which forces all golfers to hit a long iron to a green guarded by out-of-bounds markers and a bunker on the right and a larger bunker on the left.

The front nine be characterized as an open series of holes because there are not many trouble spots for players.  There are few trees, only several bunkers, and the one hazard is a skinny creek running across the third fairway.  Still, right-handed golfers must avoid a slice on five of the holes lest they hit it out-of-bounds.

One glaring downside about the front nine is that the holes run back and forth and fairly close to one another without being clearly marked.  Cart paths do not run the entire lengths of holes and do not run from one green to the next tees, so if first time golfers aren’t paying close attention, they may end up hitting their second tee shot from the seventh tee box.

Such a problem would never occur on the back nine, as it is designed in the classic links style, with each tee box following each green as the holes curve around Kingman Lake like links of a chain.

Because of the links design, nearly every hole has a hazard or out-of-bounds running alongside the fairway, with five holes having such trouble on both sides.  Precise tee shots are a must.

The back nine plays more difficultly than the front, mostly because of its increased length.  While the front features easier and shorter par-5 and par-3 holes, the back presents challenging par-5 and par-3 holes that demand precise shots and calm putting if a golfer is to escape with pars.

Though the front nine also has greens with significant slope, the back nine has greens that roll noticeably faster, adding another test for the average golfer.

The difference in the structure of the two nines is no doubt attributable to the fact they were designed at separate times.  Most of the holes on the front nine were designed by little-known golf architect George Parish and opened in 1939, whereas the holes around Kingman Lake were designed in the 1950s.

Langston’s opening in 1939 was historically significant because it was the first municipal course in Washington that allowed African-Americans to play – though it was a segregated golf club.

Today, the course remains an integral part of the local African-American community in the city, as the course is played predominately by African-American golfers.

Langston also features a unique location for a golf course.  On the one hand, the course is in beautiful condition, with most of the fairways and greens appearing a lush green, perhaps due to its proximity to the lake.

Further adding to its magnificent condition is the fact the course, like its two sister municipal courses, is maintained by the National Park Service and managed by the group Golf Course Specialists Inc.  In fact, after the heavy rains early the past few weeks, Langston is remarkably dry and in much better shape than the other two courses.

And while Langston is mostly flat, the one elevation change on the course (the third green and fourth tee box being atop a hill) allows a scenic view north and east of the city.  Over the tree line north, FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, is visible, and RFK Stadium can be seen from almost any point on the course.

The course is also accessible by public transportation, with a Metrobus stop 200 feet from the clubhouse.  However, the bus ride, approaching the course from either direction, goes through a poorer part of the city.  Unfortunately, for the golf course, the sight of closed businesses, empty buildings and polluted streets makes clear that Langston is not located in an appealing part Washington.

Nevertheless, Langston is one of the best facilities in the entire DC-Metro area.  In terms of quality, the course is beautiful and challenging, the driving range and practice facilities are large and well-kept and the Langston Grille offers decent food and drink.   In terms of price, it’s the best bet in the area, as weekday prices, which start at $24 for adults, are the fairest in and around the district.

Overall, Langston offers good quality, great prices, and unique historical significance, making it a must-try for any golfer in Washington.

Following up a classic with a classic

By Jeremy Walsh
ArtsPost staff writer

Director Howard Hawks continues to impress audiences with his visual storytelling expertise, and his latest film, “Only Angels Have Wings,” serves as no finer example of his mastery of his craft.

Hawks has successfully followed up last year’s comedic hit “Bringing up Baby” by taking to the skies with a suspenseful love story at an airstrip in the far reaches of South America.

The film begins with American Bonnie Lee (played by Jean Arthur) disembarking her ship at a port in Colombia where she meets two American pilots.  Happy to hear the familiar sound of American voices, Bonnie accompanies the pilots to their airport’s restaurant.

She is soon introduced to the head of the airport, Geoff Carter (played by Cary Grant), a contentious and quick-witted man seemingly absent of common emotions.   Nevertheless, Bonnie becomes enamored with Geoff, and though the feelings appear to be mutual, Geoff consistently states that he does not want to be tied to a woman.

Hawks once again showed his mastery of the witty romantic comedy.  Much like “Bringing up Baby” centered on the banter between Cary Grant and his leading lady (then Katharine Hepburn), “Only Angels Have Wings” hinges on the exchanges between Grant and Jean Arthur.  The comedic exchanges are understated and hilarious while the intimate interactions are truly heartfelt.

Screenwriter Jules Furthman should be commended for balancing the film’s entertaining comedic lines with the emotionally pointed dialogue, a balance necessary for a memorable romantic comedy.

As Geoff, Grant gives a complete performance that really carries the film.  Grant reintroduces audiences to his sharp wit but adds an element of stoicism, resulting in a well-rounded comedic and dramatic performance.

Being the more experienced actor, Arthur easily keeps up with Grant, stride for stride, even though Geoff Carter is clearly meant to be the film’s centerpiece.  The comedic exchanges seem to come naturally to Arthur, as the one-liners roll seamlessly off her tongue.

The beauty of her performance lies in her ability to depict Bonnie’s inner turmoil while watching the daring aerial maneuvers of the pilots trying to navigate inconsistent weather or while waiting for Geoff to make up his mind about their relationship.

The story’s backdrop of an airport set near the base of the Andes Mountains is somewhat problematic because on the one hand, that aspect of the storyline is absurdist.  Having two Americans toil with love at an airstrip in South America comes off like a story that could only happen in Hollywood, giving the rest of the plot almost no root in reality.

On the other hand, the aerial shots are brilliant and breathtaking.  Hawks keeps the viewers on edge as they watch the planes try to navigate nearly impossible landings through rain and fog, crafting aerial scenes much like another Howard did earlier this decade, Howard Hughes.

In the end, the hilarious and heartfelt dialogue combined with the heart-pounding shots of the airplanes stand out much more than the manufactured backdrop.  Hawks has created another brilliant American comedy.

Muddied waters

By Jeremy Walsh
ArtsPost staff writer

Driven by the momentum of a recently extended run, The Studio Theatre’s rendition of “In the Red and Brown Water” continues to entertain audiences with its heart-wrenching story and intimate performance style.

The theater’s performance last Wednesday night was no certainly exception, as production had the crowd hanging emotionally by a shoestring, ready to erupt in laughter or jointly gasp in shock and sorrow when the moment called for it.

Though the performance entertained most of the crowd for the evening, Studio’s adaptation deviated too greatly from the original version, as written by 29-year-old sensation Tarell Alvin McCraney, losing some of the work’s true potential, thus leaving the show simply an evening’s entertainment instead of emotionally lasting experience.

McCraney’s play tells the story of Oya, an excellent runner who turns down the opportunity to run track at college to care for her ailing mother.  When her mother dies, Oya enters a destructive, though sexually fulfilling relationship with the neighborhood’s cocky hotshot, Shango.

As the second act begins, Oya finds herself trapped in her neighborhood projects in Louisiana, without any foreseeable future now that her position on the college track team has been filled and stuck in an unfulfilling relationship with another man, Ogun, now that her beloved Shango has gone off to war.

Making matters worse for Oya is the fact all the other women in the neighborhood, also fresh out of high school, have children or are pregnant, but she finds herself consistently without child, convincing herself that she isn’t conceiving because it isn’t the right time.  Oya soon spirals out of control, after being continually mocked as a childless outcast and after being unable to snatch up Shango upon his return.

McCraney’s story hinges on the audience’s personal connection to Oya, her disillusionment, and her agonizingly unalterable situation.  Studio director Serge Seiden made an important adjustment to the script increasing the intimacy of the performance, choosing to use theater-in-the-round as the presentation style.

In some respects, using theatre-in-the-round was a powerful and inventive decision, especially considering the extremely close quarters of Studio’s Milton Theatre, which seats no more than 200 patrons with front-row viewers sitting no more than a foot from the stage.

As a result, the actors are so close to viewers that their characters’ emotions are on full display for every viewer to clearly see.  Additionally, the nature of the adaptation forced the actors to run on and off the stage quickly, continuously passing patrons at the ends of rows.

While these proximity characteristics eased the audience’s connection to the characters, theatre-in-the-round in close quarters does present the problem that actors can block other actors, causing some audience members to miss important expressions or lines, as happened occasionally during Wednesday’s performance.

Seiden’s other adaptive was far less impressive.  The actors spoke all stage directions aloud, which worked positively in some instances as many actors played the stage direction for laughs.  Yaegel T. Welch, who played Shango, excelled most at using the stage directions in his favor because almost every “enter Shango” got a rousing laugh.

Still, the laughs were not consistent because not every stage direction is important enough to point out to the audience.  Some verbalized stage directions distracted from the importance of the character’s actual lines, and thus, the overall use of stage directions detracted from the performance’s fluidity and emotionality.

However, where the play was most distracting were the actors.  That’s not to say the performances of the actors because many actors were brilliant in their roles.  Raushanah Simmons was particularly noteworthy as Oya; Simmons brought clearly conveyed the torment of young Oya, struggling to fight through her suffocating life in the projects.   Simmons brilliantly balanced the joy and optimism of Oya early in the play with the utter sorrow of the latter act.

Simmons is clearly a seasoned actress, perhaps a little too seasoned, as were her fellow actors portraying characters just out of high school.  The characters clearly in their late teens and early twenties were portrayed by performers in their late twenties and early thirties.  And while the actors brought powerful, utterly moving performances, their older appearances were confounding, turning an important story about characters only entering adulthood into one seemingly focused on highly immature young adults.

In the end, Studio Theatre presented an interesting twist on McCraney’s play that was, for the most part, engaging.  However, this non-traditional adaptation misplaced the story’s depth as a result of unnecessary alterations and misguided casting choices.  The result was an entertaining show that could have been so much more.