In recent years the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, just across the river from Washington, D.C., has been on a hot streak. First came the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award, then last year a celebrated performance of Sweeney Todd in honor of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday, and now Art, which opened March 29. Written by Yasmina Reza, author of the Broadway hit God of Carnage, the dark comedy won a Tony for Best Play in 1998 and revolves around a blank canvas, a so-called piece of art purchased for nearly $43,000 by one of three friends—Serge, Marc and Yvan—who proceed to argue the question: Is this piece an avant-garde painting or a sham? Starting as a theoretical debate, the conversation spins into a wildly funny yet acerbic argument that exposes personal rifts and ultimately tests their 15-year friendship. A trio of much-lauded local actors—John Lescault, Mitchell Hébert and Michael Russotto—take the stage as the three friends and are accompanied by original music from Peter Lerman, winner of the 2010 Jonathan Larson Award. Tickets start at $50. At 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, VA; 703-573-7328; signature-theatre.org.
Luxury train and cruise operator Orient-Express has teamed up with London's National Gallery of Art to offer The Art of Travel, a series of itineraries that start at the museum and take art lovers to the picturesque places depicted in the gallery's masterpieces. For example, the five-day "Impressions of Paris" tour has an art historian showing guests the works of Monet and his contemporaries before they board the Art Deco carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train to Giverny, the French village where the artist lived; then to Paris for guided tours of Impressionist work at the Musée de l'Orangerie as well as the Musée Marmottan-Monet, a hidden gem. A specialist from the National Gallery of Art will be along for the entire ride. Major destinations on other trips are Venice and Bath, England, where the Holburne Museum recently reopened. Departures begin in April and run through October. From $1,500 to $8,000 for double occupancy; orient-express.com.
To aid those affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami, Peninsula Hotels has launched Hope for Japan, a three-pronged initiative taking place in all its U.S. and Asia locations. The first element: Ten dollars of each guest's stay will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross. For the second part of the campaign, hotel lobbies will feature trees adorned with origami cranes (in Japanese tradition, the folding and construction of them is a form of healing). For a $5 donation, guests can purchase a paper ornament or make one on their own with the help of hotel staff. A more indulgent option is Japanese Afternoon Tea, a riff on the Peninsula's signature midday rite that involves sushi-inspired treats and a selection of Japanese teas. One hundred percent of the $50 cost will be donated to relief efforts. peninsula.com.
Doing good has never looked so chic. On March 29, Christie's will host its Bid to Save the Earth live auction followed by a Runway to Green fashion show, the proceeds of which will benefit four environmental charities. For those who can't make it to the main event, the auction house has partnered with Chartitybuzz.com, which will host online bidding on truly one-of-a-kind items donated by a cast of cultural heavy-hitters. Up for grabs are a day with former president Bill Clinton, a one-hour tennis lesson with John McEnroe, front-row seats to the Chanel couture show followed by a meeting with Karl Lagerfeld and a tour of Mlle. Chanel's home, breakfast with Tory Burch and a hefty gift certificate to her store, a Damien Hirst-designed Fendi bag, a stay on the superyacht Lady Sheridan during the Cannes Film Festival, dinner with Her Majesty Queen Noor in her D.C.-area home and a slew of exclusive travel opportunities. The online lots are open until April 7, so ladies and gentlemen, let the bidding begin. Bidtosavetheearth.org; looks from the Runway to Green event will be available on net-a-porter.com.
For proof that the British are big on preserving their history, one needn't look further than the new St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, now in its soft opening in London's Kings Cross neighborhood. The Victorian Gothic building, first opened in 1873, served as both a railway station and the Midland Hotel for decades and was saved from demolition thanks to a campaign led by poet laureate Sir John Betjeman in the 1960s. Its glory faded when it became an office space, but over the past ten years, the red-brick structure has undergone a staggering $200 million renovation and reopened—with a blessing from the Queen, no less—as a new Eurostar terminal and a 245-room hotel that bridges the gap between present-day luxury and historical authenticity. Thirty-eight of the rooms are in the heritage part of the building, and another 207 are located in a new addition called the Barlow House, as the addition is called. The hotel's public spaces seem from another era, with grand staircases, 50-foot windows, gold-leaf vaulted ceilings, mural-covered walls and the Ladies Smoking Room, the first space in Europe where it was acceptable for women to smoke. The original Booking Room has been converted into a bar and restaurant, while the spirit of other olden-day institutions, namely the barbershop and members-only club, has been preserved. The official opening date will be May 5, exactly 138 years to the day the hotel first debuted. Rooms start at $485; Euston Road; 44-207/841-3540; stpancrasrenaissance.com.
Photo Courtesy St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel
Some fashion shows are serious, haughty affairs, but not at Aspen Fashion Week, where models danced and walked happy Saint Bernards down the runway. The event, now in its third year, had something for every type of skier, from the black-diamond expert to the cocoa sipper at the bottom of the mountain. aspenfashionweek.com.
Chef Homaro Cantu has opened the doors of his second Chicago restaurant, iNG, whose menu bears his signature flair for inventiveness and respect for ancient Asian cooking techniques. The name iNG refers to the suffix "-ing" and expresses Cantu's passion for action in the kitchen. The menu is divided according to the verb used to create the food: The "Heating" section, for example, has Baozi buns with pork, enoki mushrooms and melted scallions; noodle soups are listed under the "Boiling" heading; and a waffle (frozen in liquid nitrogen) with coconut and mango sorbet is among the "Sweetening" offerings. But the truly experimental dining happens at the chef's table in the sublevel kitchen, where Cantu offers a 15-course tasting menu to four visitors per evening. The experience is centered around the miracle berry, a cranberry-sized fruit that acts as a natural sweetener, temporarily altering one's taste buds, and on which diners "flavor trip" before sampling certain courses. (Cantu calls it "food science with a purpose.") The details are a secret, but we do know the menu involves a beer and oyster pairing, Poke tuna, salt-and-vinegar kettle corn and sour cherry cheesecake. Miracle berry tasting menu starts at $250; 951 W. Fulton Market; 855-834-6464; ingrestaurant.com.
The ribbon cutting at the Yohji Yamamoto exhibit at London's Victoria & Albert Museum marks the UK's first solo show of the designer's work. Laid out by his longtime collaborator, scenographer Masao Nihei, it is a collection of 80 garments spanning the Tokyo-born artist's 30-year career. Shown on the main floor are 60 mannequins wearing Yamamoto's most iconic styles, noted for their asymmetric cuts, bold curves and Japanese embroidering and dyeing techniques. The other 20 pieces have been strategically placed in other galleries and in hidden corners of the museum, creating an artistic dialogue between the clothing and the art surrounding it. Don't skip the gift shop, where a selection of Yamamoto shirts and billowy Furoshiki shoulder bags (created specially for the V&A) are available for sale. Through July 10 at the V&A Museum, Cromwell Rd.; 44-207/907-7073; vam.ac.uk.
Two labels are indeed better than one: The proof is in the latest partnership between venerated automaker BMW and cult fashion house Trussardi. The pair have teamed up to create a limited-edition version of the 5 Series Gran Turismo, inspired by the hues of Trussardi's leather gloves. The exterior is a warm, metallic, Heraldic brown, which changes gradation as three layers of paintwork are exposed to light; inside, beige leather is offset by contrast stitching, a design inspired by a classic glove from the Trussardi archive. The brand's symbol, a coat of arms between two greyhounds, is embossed on the headrest and appears on the front fenders and blinkers. Everything under the hood, of course, is based on BMW's 530d xDrive model (unless otherwise requested; customization requires six weeks). The special 5 Series marks the beginning of Trussardi's centennial anniversary. Start your engines. Price upon request. For more information, call BMW Italia at 39-02/5161-0111.
After an exhaustive renovation, what used to be the Yountville Inn has been rechristened as the Hotel Yountville, an 80-room resort designed in the style of a European stone village. Set on five acres of heritage oaks and olive trees in Napa Valley, the hotel was reimagined by DLS Hotels Design Director Lisa Holt, who used California river rocks, giant timber beams and copper accents to create the building's arts-and-crafts exterior. Inside, the lodge-like rooms have vaulted ceilings, reclaimed wide-plank floors, fieldstone hearths and four-poster beds fitted with Bellora linens. The hotel hosts painting and black-and-white photography classes in the vineyard, led by noted Napa artists; for more heart-pumping diversions, there are helicopter tours of the surrounding vineyards. A few finishing touches are still under construction, like the outdoor fire pits and the soon-to-open Y Bar. But San Franciscans up for the weekend are already filling the pool, the 4,000-square-foot Acqua spa and the 40-seat Hopper Creek restaurant, where dishes like eggs Benedict with crushed pistachios and crispy salt pork are challenging the nearby Michelin-starred restaurants for best breakfast in California wine country. Rooms start at $395. At 6462 Washington St., Yountville, CA; 888-944-2885; hotelyountville.com.
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