✔ Pick of the Pack
Theater: 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses'
In 1782, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos wrote "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" ("Dangerous Liaisons"), a novel about revenge, sex and scandalous French aristocrats. It spawned numerous adaptations, including the 1988 film starring John Malkovich, Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer, based on a 1985 script by Christopher Hampton that had successful theatrical runs worldwide. After playing the manipulative Vicomte de Valmont more than two decades ago, Mr. Malkovich has revisited Mr. Hampton's script as director of a modernized stage production. Mr. Malkovich's "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" debuted at the Theatre de l'Atelier in Paris earlier this year and makes its U.S. premiere this week thanks to the Shakespeare Theatre Co. In French with English surtitles, Mr. Malkovich's production is true to the original novel but adds modern touches and a young, diverse cast. Thursday's opening performance will be followed by a champagne soiree with the cast at Paul Bakery & Cafe, another recent French import to Washington, with dangerously seductive pastries.
Through Dec. 9 at the Lansburgh Theatre, 450 Seventh St. NW
Art: Transformer Silent Auction & Benefit Party
Since 2002, the Washington-based Transformer has been dedicated to supporting emerging artists, helping them with everything from learning about new, sustainable mediums to introducing them to the press and public. Transformer's annual silent auction and benefit, now in its ninth year, helps these artists sell their work to local collectors while raising funds for the nonprofit's work. While enjoying DJs Yellow Fever and refreshments from local restaurants, patrons (and would-be patrons) of the arts can browse works from more than 160 up-and-coming artists from around the world. Whether you're a seasoned collector looking for the next big thing, or simply looking to fill your bare apartment walls, there's likely something for your taste and budget, judging by the expansive auction catalog. This year, the benefit is co-chaired by Ambassador Ramon Gil-Casares of Spain, and accordingly, the auction will feature a number of works by emerging Spanish artists.
Friday at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW
For children: 'Oh! Hanukkah!'
Hanukkah doesn't officially begin until sundown on Dec. 8, but there's no reason why you can't get into the spirit of the Festival of Lights a week early. On Saturday morning, Nell and David Greenfieldboyce will present a mixed-media performance combining music, comedy and puppetry to tell the story of Hanukkah, when the Jews rose up against their oppressors and regained the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C. When the Jewish priests went to relight the temple's menorah, the story goes, there was only enough oil for one night -- but miraculously, the oil lasted for eight, leading to the lighting of the menorah for eight nights during the annual holiday. The performance also will include tales of Jewish life in the old country. Complimentary tickets are required for the two morning performances and will be distributed 30 minutes beforehand on a first-come, first-served basis.
Saturday at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Books: Joseph Bottum: 'The Christmas Plains'
If you're hunting for a holiday gift for family and friends on your list, then a series of events celebrating Joseph Bottum's new book could provide the perfect present -- namely, "The Christmas Plains," a compilation of Mr. Bottum's reflections on Christmases growing up in South Dakota. Released in October, the book expands upon a short book sold exclusively for the Amazon Kindle titled "Dakota Christmas," a collection of stories in the same vein. The former editor of First Things and former literary editor of The Weekly Standard, the esteemed essayist has since moved back to South Dakota but will be in the District this week for a number of lectures and book signings. On Sunday, Mr. Bottum will sign books at the National Shrine, and on Wednesday, at the Catholic Information Center. On Monday, he will give a lecture at Hillsdale College's Kirby Center, titled "The Mysticism of Small Things: Recognizing the Eternal in the Events and Objects of Every Day."
Sunday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave. NE
Monday at the Alan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship, 227 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Web: kirbycenter.hillsdale.edu/pages/events/ncas-bottum-lecture . RSVP required.
Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Catholic Information Center, 1501 K St. NW
Film: 'The Nutcracker' in 3D
"The Nutcracker" is as essential to the holiday season as the Nativity and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." You simply can't get through December without hearing Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" or revisiting the story of Clara and her nutcracker prince, who defeats the wicked Mouse King and his army. First performed by the Russian Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in 1892, the ballet has since seen countless adaptations worldwide, including the Washington Ballet's celebrated version starring George Washington as the leading man. If you're looking for the classic version but can't get to Russia this year, you can see it on area silver screens for one day only, performed by the Mariinsky Theatre's pre-eminent company, founded by Catherine the Great. This isn't an ordinary film of a ballet, however, as certain showings will feature 3-D effects -- so leave your opera glasses at home.
Monday at area cinemas
Holiday: National Christmas Tree Lighting
For 90 years, Washington's Ellipse has been the home of the National Christmas Tree and a multidenominational Pageant of Peace holiday celebration. The first tree -- 48 feet tall and covered in 2,500 twinkling lights -- was lit by President Coolidge in 1923, and a tree has been lit every year since. The National Christmas Tree is accompanied by 56 additional trees decorated for every state, territory and the District of Columbia, as well as impressive toy train displays, musical performances and more, making a visit a holiday tradition for many local families. On Thursday, President Obama will light this year's tree -- a Colorado blue spruce from Virginia planted at the site in October. The first family will be joined by musicians including James Taylor, Babyface and others for the week's hot-ticket event. If you didn't get a ticket through the lottery, you'll no doubt be able to hear the festivities nearby on the Ellipse, or you can watch the live stream online.
Thursday at the Ellipse at President's Park, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW