Aida Rodriguez at Comedy Loft
Comedian Aida Rodriguez brings her sharp and therapeutic comedy to D.C. for three nights; courtesy of the comic

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Thursday, Friday, Saturday: Aida Rodriguez at DC Comedy Loft 

Aida Rodriguez has captured our attention. She recently became the first Latina to appear in two specials airing in one month on both HBO and Showtime. She’s appeared on Comedy Central, hosted the PBS Imagen Awards five times, made it to the finals of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and was featured in the stand-up anthology Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready on Netflix. The fact that she’s also a podcaster, writer, and speaker who has worked as a commentator on The Young Turks should indicate that she’s not your garden-variety comic—nor is she your garden-variety political comic. When asked how to do political comedy well, she tells City Paper that her tactics are grounded in an understanding of the difference between “the people who do it well” and “the people who care.” She continues, “I write comedy with humanity in mind … I try to talk about things that are complicated and bring the humor out of them.” Rodriguez’s work—about the darkest pits of the human experience, such as suicide and rape—manages to be touching, sharp, and therapeutic, literally. “Right now I’m talking about death and suicide in my set. I get people emailing me after the show, thanking me for talking about it. One guy in L.A. told me that he was thinking about killing himself, and then came to my show and went to a therapist afterward.” Rodriguez believes comedy has the power to humanize enormous, often abstract issues, and transform them from massive concepts, foreign in their bigness, to feelings anyone can empathize with. “Most of the stuff that happens to people, you can find the funny or the sadness. I tend to find the irony,” Rodriguez explains. “It tends to resonate with most people when you do it that way. When you get on CNN and say that racism is wrong, that’s one thing, but when you give people a story, they can visualize it … what connects me to other people is lived experience. Not just people of color or women, but I want a man to see the ridiculousness of things that happen to women.” She’s hoping to make a practical impact on how people see the world and feedback suggests she’s already been successful: “When I talk about sexual assault in my Netflix special, women came and talked to me about that.” Unlike those who suggest “unity” comes from diminishing racial and sexual trauma, Rodriguez wants to bring people together under a common understanding of what it feels like to be mistreated, dismissed, and denied fundamental respect as a human being. “I like to talk about the things that we all have in common. You want the audience to walk away with something.” Aida Rodriguez performs at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 16; 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. on Feb. 17; and 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the DC Comedy Loft, 1523 22nd St. NW. $25–$35. Alexandra Bowman

Friday: Awkward Sex… and the City at Black Cat

There are so many ways for things to go wrong when you’re naked and bodily fluids are involved. And Awkward Sex… and the City chronicles just that. The show, which returns to D.C. just after Valentine’s Day, features sets from five comedians that will tell sex, dating, and relationship stories, leaving no awkwardness unturned. Creator and headliner Natalie Wall says the show was created to chronicle some of these inelegant stories in order to help others realize—and laugh at—the inherent awkwardness in intimacy. “These are very human and horrifying moments that make you want to crawl up in your skin and die,” Wall says. “But as time goes on, you get to see how silly and funny it was and how great of a story it is. I want [the audience] to know that whatever happens to them is very normal and to feel safe to talk about it and laugh about it. It’s happened to all of us in some shape or form.” While the event is part of a nationwide tour, Wall says the Black Cat—and D.C. in general—is her all-time favorite place to perform. “It’s a very funny and liberal and smart city and audience members seem to really get the show.” She’s hopeful that this year will be the same. “You’re gonna have a good time,” she promises, and: “You’re not going to hear any stories that are similar.” Awkward Sex…and the City starts at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 17 at Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $20. —Hannah Docter-Loeb

Ongoing: Gail Rebhan: About Time and Eastern Front – Western Front at the American University Museum

From Gail Rebhan: About Time; Credit: Gail Rebhan, courtesy of American University Museum

The American University Museum’s retrospective of photographs by D.C.’s Gail Rebhan, About Time, is small yet sprawling. Rebhan, born in 1950, has focused her art on such issues as family history, feminism, and aging, with special attention to the Washington area. In early works, Rebhan documented close family, including some extreme close-ups of her young baby, and made time-hopping still life images of domestic scenes. In her more recent work, Rebhan has leveraged large scale to great effect. In one wall-size piece, she skillfully layered historical images, clippings, and documents into a monumental exploration of one city street corner at 1st and M streets NE, weaving in the hyperlocal history of Native Americans, slavery, an ice cream factory, and a bus depot at that location. The other large-scale work consists of brutally honest images of aging women’s body parts, appended by a stream of printed descriptors, from “grandma,” “dowager,” and “woman of a certain age” to “battleaxe,” “babushka” and “harridan.” The museum’s other photography exhibit, Eastern Front – Western Front, pairs the World War II photojournalism of the Jewish Russian Georgi Zelma and the English-born South African Constance Stuart Larrabee. The exhibit, smartly curated by Laura Roulet, frames the photographers’ works within the era’s gender constraints. Larrabee, barred from combat zones, photographed on the edges of the conflict, documenting the survivors and the troops, including less familiar subjects such as Black South African soldiers. Zelma, meanwhile, bravely documented the combat in Stalingrad, but for Russian propaganda outlets. Their separate oeuvres prove satisfyingly complementary. Gail Rebhan: About Time runs through May 21; Eastern Front – Western Front runs through March 19 at the American University Museum, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. —Louis Jacobson

Starts Feb. 23: Mother Tongue Film Festival at the Smithsonian

Still from Brooke Swaney’s Daughter of a Lost Bird; courtesy of the Smithsonian

What does New York City have to do with endangered languages? That’s one question that will be asked on opening night of this year’s Mother Tongue Film Festival, which has been organized by the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices program since 2016 and is returning to in-person screenings along with selected streaming titles. This year’s lineup, which features 27 films in 23 languages, focuses on the theme of “Coming Home,” which encompasses a spectrum of concepts about migration and assimilation. The opening night program, on Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hirshhorn’s Ring Auditorium, includes the documentary short “New York, Just Another City,” which follows Brazilian filmmaker Patrícia Ferreira Pará Yxapy on a visit to the Manhattan’s Museum of Natural History, where she’s concerned about the institution’s display of sacred objects from her people, the Guarani Mbya. This is followed by the feature documentary Daughter of a Lost Bird, Brooke Swaney’s film about Blackfeet/Salish woman Kendra Potter, who was raised far from Native American culture but longs to understand her heritage. But this isn’t just a documentary film festival. On Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. at the National Museum of American History’s Baird Auditorium, you can see the sci-fi drama Night Raiders, about a Cree woman who tries to rescue her daughter from an oppressive military regime. The Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices initiative is a collaboration between Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and the Asian Pacific American Center. Mother Tongue Film Festival runs Feb. 23 through 26 at various locations. Advanced registration is required for in-person events. Free. —Pat Padua

Opens Feb. 23: Into the Woods at the Kennedy Center

Montego Glover stars in Into the Woods; Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

I’m finally starting to feel less sad about being a Broadway fan who lives in D.C. The new, critically acclaimed production of Into the Woods is the latest show to make a major stop (its first stop outside of Manhattan) at the Kennedy Center Opera House from Feb. 23 through March 19, direct from the Great White Way. The Washington Post has called this production of the late Stephen Sondheim’s classic “more popular than anyone anticipated.” For those who’ve never seen Into the Woods, or have only seen the Disney movie adaptation—that was an entirely different story thanks to all the time cuts—this musical, by one of the greats, explores what happens when fairy-tale characters have to grow up. The fables of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (that guy with the beanstalk), and Rapunzel intertwine when a humble baker and his wife strike a deal with a witch in order to have a child. What follows is a tale revealing the importance of simultaneous optimism and acceptance of moral complexity. This show stars all four actors reprising their roles from the recent NYC production: Montego Glover as the witch, real-life married couple Stephanie J. Block and Sebastian Arcelus as the baker’s wife and baker, and Gavin Creel as Cinderella’s prince and the wolf. (Thank goodness Block is under a magic spell that prevents her from leaving the Kennedy Center, lest she be cursed for all eternity.) Under the direction of Lear deBessonet, who directed the Public Theater’s production of Hercules, this rendition of Into the Woods has captured critical and popular attention. The production’s cast recording, which was digitally released in September, earned a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. The New York Times called it “superb,” and noted that the original production’s “cast changes, humor, wonder, and humanity remained intact” in its transfer to Broadway, so it feels safe to assume the same is true of the Broadway show’s transition to the U.S. national tour. Sure, it’s going to be hard for this touring show to beat Signature Theatre’s recent production of Into the Woods, but let’s see these Broadway bigwigs try. Into the Woods runs from Feb. 23 to March 19 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. $45–$179.Alexandra Bowman