✔ Pick of the Pack
Film: 'Once a Gangster'
The typical gangster movie goes like this: A young tough makes a measured and disciplined trek to the top of his organization, comes to believe he is invincible, makes a careless mistake, loses everything, and finally resigns, redeems or kills himself. "Once a Gangster" is not a typical gangster movie. The movie's co-stars, Jordan Chan and Ekin Cheng, play low-level Chinese triads who are perfectly satisfied not being in charge of their criminal organization. One runs a restaurant, the other is a student. They both like their day jobs and want to keep them. Yet the duties and obligations of their tribe — in this case, a gang — are not exactly optional. So to stay in school and the kitchen, they screw up as much and as often as they can to keep from getting elected.
Friday at the Freer and Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW
Theater: 'The Addams Family'
"The Addams Family" — Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Wednesday and Pugsley — has appeared in every conceivable medium since debuting in the New Yorker in the 1930s. Their cultural ever-presence means staging one of America's most famous fictional families doesn't leave a whole lot of room for innovation. Fiddle too much with a character's personality, and you risk irritating audience members who have precise expectations for Wednesday (droll, blank, brilliant), Gomez (unrestrained, enthusiastic), Uncle Fester (asexual, yet somehow still perverse), and all the rest. So the key to a successful staging is taking concrete characters and putting them in a foreign land. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice did exactly that in the production playing at the Kennedy Center, in which Wednesday grows up and falls in love with someone who is (gasp!) completely normal.
Through July 29 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW
Book talk: The true creator of Batman
With Batmania in full swing once again thanks to Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises," now is as good a time as any to revisit the injustice done to Bill Finger. Finger is the unnamed shadow cast by Bob Kane, the DC Comics legend credited with creating industrial playboy Bruce Wayne and his masked alter ego — except Kane didn't so much as create Batman as claim him. As author Marc Tyler Nobelman details in his illustrated history, "Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman," it was Bill Finger who created Wayne and Batman, imagined his costume, developed his back story and named Gotham. In fact, it's fair to say that without Bill Finger, there would be no Batman. This makes it all the more tragic that DC Comics refuses to officially acknowledge Finger as the Dark Knight's co-creator.
Mr. Nobelman speaks Friday at Barnes and Noble Tysons Corner, 7851-L Tysons Corner Center, McLean, Va.
Comedy: James Judd
The Capital Fringe Festival is in full swing, which means you can see more theater (broadly defined) through the end of the month than you can during the rest of the year. The usual adages apply: Some of the shows are incredible, some are awful and the venues are as unpredictable as the performances. If you are looking for a reliably stellar monologuist, you can't beat James Judd. He has been on NPR, performed with the Groundlings, and directed and starred in the original "7 Sins" production, way back in 2003, way out in San Francisco. (The "7 Sins" show, which features seven monologuists telling seven true stories about the seven sins, was performed at Capital Fringe a few years ago, to much acclaim.) Mr. Judd's specialty is telling true stories that are hilarious, embarrassing and occasionally obscene. He is sure to be the single best monologuist at this year's Fringe show.
Friday and Saturday at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave. NW
Festival: Over the Line
The Over the Line Theater Festival at Round House is notable not just for its content — 50 performances from 10 companies in three weeks — but also its timing — concurrent with the Capital Fringe Fest. While Fringe takes place mostly in and around downtown D.C., Over the Line is out in Silver Spring, that city on a gentle slope. But Over the Line not only has its own neighborhood, it also is playing to a different audience — namely people who don't want to spend more time commuting to a show than watching one. You can find stuff for children, for old folks and for everybody in between. If you are out in the 'burbs and want to see both Fringe and Over the Line, consider the latter a wholesome supplement (like fiber), as well as a better indicator of what you can get from the participating companies year-round.
Through July 29 at Round House Silver Spring, 8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Md.