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Turn on the blooms with Bloom

To keep plants in hanging baskets growing and flowering for two months or more, dump one-half cup of Bloom in a single lump on an eight-inch diameter hanging basket, or one cup for a 10-inch basket. At each irrigation, pour water onto the mound of Bloom. As the water flows through the Bloom, it absorbs nutrients and makes them available to the roots of the plants.


Trying to Make a Better Rain Garden

www.bayweekly.com/RainGarden-072017

Q    I just read your July 20 column Make a Better Rain Garden and have a couple of questions.
    I built a pond, near my house in rural Prince Frederick about 20 years ago. It is 100-by-60 feet and has a heavy-duty, one-piece, rubber liner under a foot or two of sand (and now, an additional 20 years of organic muck). The depth varies from one foot (a ledge along the edges) to six feet in the middle. It has two pumps, and I planted it out with native plants — arrowhead, pickerelweed, spatterdock, native water lilies — and added fish.
    I have been renting the house for eight years. The renter (with my blessing) has ignored the pond. It still holds water but is a slimy mess, has shrubs and small trees crowding around the edges and is basically going back to nature.
    I will be moving back soon. I am older now and have no interest in the maintenance required to keep the pond healthy. I have been thinking about my options: from doing nothing to filling it in and planting grass on top. Then I read your article … maybe a rain garden?
    I also don’t have the energy or budget to do it right (as you describe in the article). Is there a quick and dirty option? One that will require minimal work and still provide some of the benefits?
    For example: what if I cleared the jungle from the edges, drained the pond, let the muck dry out, drilled some holes through the liner, filled the hole with decent soil and planted native plants?
    If I go the rain garden route, do you have a list (or website) of native plants that might work in a Maryland rain garden? And maybe where to buy them?
    I always enjoy your articles.

–Steve Farrell, Broomes Island

A    My suggestion is to drain the pond, use a power auger to drill holes through the membrane and below and fill the holes with pine bark mulch. Based on your submitted pictures, I would plant bald cypress, available from the state forest nursery, deciduous holly, alder and cattails.


Grass Isn’t Always the Answer

Q    I need your expert advice. I have a street strip of grass nine feet wide and 18 feet long, separate from other parts of my yard that have pretty grass.
    I have been very frustrated watering that strip. A little silver dollar-size sprayer attached to a hose sprays a circle in one spot and takes forever to water areas like this.
    I looked at hoses with holes in it that I could use in the center of the area.
    What would you suggest?

–Ruth Gross, Bowie

A    Why don’t you forget about growing a lawn between the sidewalk and the curb and plant ground cover — junipers or Saint John's Wort, vinca major or vinca minor — something that will not need to be irrigated or mowed. Ground cover juniper is extremely drought-resistant, likes full sun and is nearly maintenance free. If you plant through landscape fabric, you will not even have to weed.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Include your name and address.

Though not Bay natives, channel catfish are worth an angler’s time

Despite a firm New Year’s resolution to rise earlier during the hot summer months to take advantage of the cooler dawn hours when the rockfish are on the hunt, I once again failed to get out of bed and on the water until 8am. The day by then was already heating up and the striper bite a memory.
    Unwilling to brave the heat and the daytime crowds chumming, I decided to focus on white perch with ultra-light tackle since the tides would remain favorable until at least noon. I was only a little sorry I wouldn’t be tussling with some heavier adversaries. But surprises were in store for me that morning.
    I was casting along a rocky shoreline to the remnants of an old lengthy bulkhead that had succumbed to storm erosion and age. Submerged rotting wood attracts grass shrimp and small minnows to feed on the decaying timbers, and that attracts and holds white perch.
    Having already put two or three bulky white perch on ice and released another half-dozen lesser-sized scrappers, I was settling into a relaxed rhythm of casting to clearly visible areas near the more substantial bulkhead remains and enjoying the action. Then my spinner bait stopped dead from a heavy strike.
    Lifting my rod smartly and expecting another spirited tussle, I was met with a strong and determined run against my firmly set drag. For the first few seconds I dreamed of a state-record white perch. When the run continued into the distance, I began thinking of a hefty rockfish. The power and determination of a striper’s run was there, but not the speed, so eventually I had to cross a keeper rock off my list of possibilities.
    When the fish finally paused, I recovered some line. Almost immediately, it took off again. Trying to slow its progress stretched my six-pound mono dangerously close to failure. Eventually the fish paused, only to continue resisting with intermittent rushes in random directions.
    I took my time. When the fish made a rush anywhere near my direction, I applied as much pressure as I could to lead it closer. Then the beast started crossing, again and again, under my hull, using my own boat against me.
    I could do little to stop that tactic. It was only chance that kept my line away from my outboard. I was on borrowed time. At last, stressing my light five-foot spin rod till its cork creaked, I netted a fat and healthy 25-inch channel catfish.
    It was the first of three I would put in my cooler that morning, losing a fourth to my outboard.
    The most numerous catfish in North America, the channel cat’s wide popularity as a sport and table fish has made it the official state fish of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee. Channel cats have whiskers, deeply forked tails and golden brown flanks with small dark spots. It’s a species introduced to Maryland via the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers but becoming an increasingly appreciated addition to the Chesapeake’s seafood cornucopia.
    The Maryland record of 29 pounds 10 ounces is held by Kevin Kern at Mattawoman Creek, but the whiskered rowdies can reach up to 60 pounds. Channel cats are generally caught in the three-to-five-pound size on the Chesapeake, but their average size is likely to increase as they become more numerous.
    The Chester is the most highly regarded river for chasing catfish in this area, but cats are found with increasing frequency in all of the Chesapeake’s tributaries, particularly around laydowns (fallen trees) and derelict docks and pilings. They also show up in mainstem chum slicks — much to the surprise of those targeting rockfish.
    Cleaning these catfish for the table requires a different technique than most of our sport-fish, as all catfish need to be skinned rather than scaled. These fish produce thick, succulent and boneless fillets with little effort.

Photoplay for the 21st century

Ever since people could snap pictures, we have.
    Brownies (1900-1960) … Polaroids (1948-1998) … disposables (1986) … digitals (since the mid-1990s) … cell-phones (since 2000) …
    Technology by technology, we’ve covered our lives, our vacations and the world around us as determinedly as one-man, woman- and child- Life and Look Magazines (if you know what I mean). Those grand photographic page-throughs of our world published once a week. Smart phones in hand, we today publish instantly in the universally accessible life-stream of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
    So maybe it’s time to learn how to take good pictures.
    In our pages this week, you’ll learn just that.
    We’ve taken advantage of Chesapeake Country’s dynamic photographic corps to tell and show us how. The place we call home has long been blessed with visionary photographers. Nowadays, shooters like Jay Fleming and Mark Hendricks and the photographers of Muddy Creek Artists Guild — plus many more — have stepped into the supersized shoes of greats like Marion Warren and Aubrey Bodine.
    Making his first appearance in our pages this week is Mark Hendricks. You’ll learn from his Take the Best Pictures Ever. And you’ll see why he’s worth learning from in my review of his first book, Natural Wonders of Assateague. Because summer is vacation time, and because Assateague, our own barrier island, lures so many of us (me included) to vacation amid its wonders, Hendricks has focused on taking pictures on vacation. His tips, he assures us, work just as well any time, any place, any subject.
    Already in our pages you’ve met Jay Fleming, introduced to us along with his first book, Working the Water, by Mick Blackistone a couple of months back (www.bayweekly.com/JayFleming-051817). When Fleming taught a class this month, our aspiring shooter Audrey Broomfield attended. In this issue, Audrey shares key lessons she learned from Fleming in shooting on the water. With plenty of that all around us, these lessons (like carry lots of lens wipes) are especially apt.
    In How I Learned to Take Photos: Confessions of a Jay Fleming Pupil, you’ll also see a couple of Audrey’s shots.
    Other aspiring photographers show us the world as they’re learning to see it. They are the Elkies, eight middle-school photographers equipped under a grant from the Deale Elks Club and mentored by Muddy Creek Artist Guild photographers. The Secret Story of Photos showcases the group’s experience and images. This week’s Creature Feature is based on a photo by one of the Elkie girls, Holly Lanzaron, who snuck up on a bird nesting in one odd place.
    I know you’ll enjoy the images made by all these shooters. I hope you’ll learn a few lessons on taking better pictures, too. Send us your results, along with a sentence or two about how you amended your shooting, for publication in these pages.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher
email editor@bayweekly.com, www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Brilliant action in this new take on the storied retreat

In 1940, the outlook was bleak for the Allied Forces. The German army had driven British and French troops all the way to the beaches of France, trapping them against the sea. In Dunkirk, 400,000 soldiers waited for evacuation from France, scanning the seas for British destroyers as the Germans approached.
    German planes swoop over the massed troops, dropping bombs and spraying bullets. German U-boats sink vessels carrying troops from the slaughter on the beaches. England faces the reality that the war could be lost.
    To save at least a fraction of the army, England calls upon its people, conscripting small vessels to cross the English Channel to Dunkirk. Saving even 30,000 would arm the nation when the Germans inevitably invade.
    Amidst these calamitous circumstances, three men will meet their fates.
    Tommy (Fionn Whitehead: Him) is a private who will do anything to survive. When life or death are the choices, he understands that the drive for survival can make monsters of men.
    Farrier (Tom Hardy: Taboo) is one of three RAF pilots tasked with defending the ships and troops from German assault. In a skirmish with German fliers, his fuel gauge is damaged. He must decide whether his presence in the skies makes a difference in the face of overwhelming odds.
    Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance: The BFG) is determined to help the soldiers at Dunkirk. Setting out in his small boat with his son and another boy, he crosses waters littered with bodies and downed ships.
    Featuring nail-biting action and gorgeous cinematography, Dunkirk stuns with scope and beauty. A master of visual storytelling, writer/director Christopher Nolan (Interstellar) excels at staging and action. Dizzying camera work in the aerial battles captures the precariousness of the planes’ and crews’ existence.
    Nolan doesn’t depend on graphic violence to show the horrors of war. There’s plenty of violence, but he is more interested in psychological wounds. He shows the anonymity of war. Officers coolly calculate who, in essence, to spare and who to save. Soldiers swirl amid chaotic, random violence. Despondent men wade into the sea, swimming home to England their only chance at survival.
    In focusing on scope, Nolan sacrifices humanity. He spends little time mining for character moments in the middle of battle. As a result, we remain unconnected as these men go through hell.
    Heart aside, in both performance and production Dunkirk is one of the better war films of the past decade.

Good War Movie • PG-13 • 106 mins.

Here’s what you need to have fun

Afish caught on the fly is easily twice as much fun as one caught any other way. Right now is an ideal time to fish the long rod for rockfish and white perch.

The first rule is to leave your conventional tackle at home. If you’ve decided to use the fly rod, it’s best to be fully committed.

A nine-foot, eight-weight rod is a good allaround stick. It can handle just about any sized striper you’re apt to encounter and will still allow a decentsized perch to show its stuff. Choose a floating line as it is relatively easy to cast and can handle such weighted flies as the Clouser minnow or surface poppers as the Blados Crease Fly.

You’ll be targeting areas no more than five feet deep to rocky  shorelines, jetties, bulkheads, piers and docks where stripers and perch hold. As you may lose a few flies to these structures (or else you’re not casting close enough), be sure you have an adequate supply.

The Clouser minnow in sizes No. 1 and larger, in chartreuse over white, is the most popular pattern and color on the Chesapeake for striped bass. However, any fly, both floating and sinking, can produce a strike, especially anything two to four inches long that resembles a minnow or a grass shrimp.

When fishing after dark or on overcast days, nothing beats a black weighted Lefty’s Deceiver crept across the bottom.

For rockfish, leaders can be on the heavy side. Rockfish aren’t typically leader shy, and you will be plying waters strewn with rocks, boulders, timbers or the remnants of steel or concrete structures. Heavier tippets can withstand lots of abrasion both from the fish and the environment. I recommend a short (four- to five-foot) monofilament leader plus 18 inches of at least 15-pound tippet.

You may also make your own leaders by blood-knotting together a threefoot butt section of 30-pound mono to two feet of 20-pound and ending this with a loop knot, which is then easily joined, loop to loop, with a 12- to 18-inch section of your 15- to 20-pound tippet.

If you are targeting white perch specifically, use a lighter leader, constructed similarly to the above but in a 25-15-8 pound mono combination. Flies for perch should also be on the smaller side, with those tied on a No. 2 hook the largest. Shorter fly rods from six feet up can also increase the sport with perch. But lines less than five-weight may cause casting difficulties with heavier, bulkier flies.

A chartreuse-over-white Clouser minnow in sizes No. 2 to No. 6 is an excellent choice for perch. Other great picks are a bead head, Crystal Wooly Bugger or a Crystal Shrimp in pearl, tan, rootbeer or chartreuse. A traditional fly rod lure such as the Hidebrandt Flicker Spin is especially deadly in shallow water. Don’t hesitate to add a small split shot in front of your fly or lure to get it close to the bottom.

If you can pick your days, overcast skies with a solid high tide in the morning and low wind predictions are just about perfect for both rockfish and perch. Both species like the upper phases of the tide when they visit the shallows. Using an electric engine, poling or — at the least — practicing extreme noise discipline will result in larger fish of both species as the older, smarter fish are very shy of noise when they are in the skinny water.

My model is good enough for the National Botanical Garden

The purpose of rain gardens is to reduce surface runoff by capturing water in ponds where it can infiltrate the soil. Many rain gardens begin with dug ponds lined with sand and gravel. Water-tolerant plants added in and around the ponds absorb more water.
    This design can absorb only a limited amount of water based on the soil porosity, a measure of texture and compaction. After a heavy rain, water can stand for days and weeks, so the gardens become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Even tolerant plant species have problems surviving standing water.
    There’s also a septic smell to some newly constructed rain gardens. The odor is caused by soils containing more than three percent organic matter, which is typical with a manufactured medium with compost blended in. When soils and materials rich in organic matter are water-logged, they undergo anaerobic digestion, resulting in odor.

Getting It Right
    A well-designed and constructed rain garden should not retain water for more than a couple of days and should promote the growth of plants tolerant to wet soil conditions. Soil for its bottom should contain only well decomposed organic matter, not freshly made compost.
    Here’s how to meet both those goals.
    Water absorbing capacity can be significantly increased by either auguring holes in the bottom of the rain garden during construction or by trenching.
    If the rain garden is big enough to accommodate a power trencher, trenches four feet wide and up to four feet deep should be dug at 18- to 24-inch intervals across the bottom of the pond.
    Fill trenches with pine fines in 12-inch lifts. Pack the pine fines using a eight-foot four-by-four timber between each lift until the trenches are filled. Finally, place a covering of sand or gravel over the bottom of the pond.
    In small ponds, augur four- to 10-inch diameter holes spaced about 18 inches apart to a depth of three to four feet. Fill the holes with pine fines in 12-inch lifts and packed similarly. Cover the bottom as above.
    Pine fines are the fine particles that collect in the manufacture of pine bark mulch. They contain 100 percent lignins, which resist decomposition. When buried deep in the soil and covered with sand or gravel, they will not generate odors. Pine fines are also a rich source of humic and fulvic acids. Both of these naturally occurring acids will help loosen the soil, allowing it to absorb more water. Further, the pine fines will serve as a wick, pulling water down where it can be better absorbed.
    Augering or trenching deep into the sub-soil greatly increases its absorbing capacity. This system also increases the surface area and water-absorbing capacity of the soil.
    To accommodate plants in the pond, place a four- to six-inch layer of a sandy loam soil with two to three percent natural organic matter over the layer of sand or gravel. Never amend the soil with perlite or vermiculite. Perlite will deteriorate into slime after several years of freezing and thawing. Vermiculite flattens into plate-like particles in only six to eight months after they have absorbed water.
    I have used this system many times and never had a failure. The largest project I was involved in was the National Botanic Garden at the base of Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. Following heavy rains, the existing water gardens overflowed into the gardens. To increase the water garden’s ability to absorb more water, we augered 10-inch holes in the bottom to a depth of five feet at 24-inch intervals. The holes were packed and the bottom covered with gravel as described.


Apologies to Flint, Michigan

    In my June 29 column, The Poop on Biosolids, I wrote “Unless the biosolids come from Flint, Michigan, the lead levels in Class A biosolids are far below EPA standards in Compro, Orgro and Earthlife. The same is true for cadmium.”
    A Bay Weekly online reader in Flint who is knowledgeable about the biosolids has corrected me. He has assured me that Flint is generating Class A biosolids. The assumption that I made was based on the research I did with biosolids from Baltimore in the late 1970s before Mayor Schaffer cleaned up the sewer system. I apologize for making that assumption.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Include your name and address.

That’s a question for Congressman Andy Harris

The sturgeon is not the star of Chesapeake ­osteichthyes, the bony fish of the world. That limelight falls on striped bass, the rockfish.
    Atlantic sturgeon — finning around the bottom of rivers sucking up aquatic macroinvertebrates, freshwater mussels, snails, crustaceans and small fish — barely make the cast of characters.
    They don’t make anglers’ hearts race in anticipation of fight and feast. As Atlantic sturgeon are an endangered species, you couldn’t catch one even if you wanted to. And you probably wouldn’t, though in colonial times they were much eaten, for flesh and roe.
    They are not pretty. Atlantic sturgeon and all their brethren have long snouts, whiskers and saurian rows of spines. Evolved with the earliest dinosaurs, they still get awfully big, ours up to 14 feet and 800 pounds; others bigger still. They live for decades, taking time slowly. The males don’t reach reproductive maturity until they are at least five years old, females perhaps three times that.
    But they’re ours. Atlantic sturgeon have been returning to their natal Chesapeake rivers to spawn since who knows when, in ever decreasing numbers.
    Thus our environmental protectors both state and federal are invested in saving what sturgeon we have and encouraging more.
    At the state level, sturgeon are raised in hatcheries and in captivity in hopes of re-populating the species.
    At the federal level, designating some Bay rivers — and  stretches of Atlantic coast all the way up to Maine — as Critical Habitat would give these ancient fish more protection.
    Miles of red tape are involved in achieving Critical Habitat designation, which then promises broad protection: “the use of, all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this Act are no longer necessary.”
    Finally, and with plenty of public comment time, sturgeon critical habitat protection has come to our national Congress.
    There, Maryland Congressman Andy Harris is prohibiting funding sturgeon Critical Habitat anywhere in the Chesapeake Bay watershed as “an unnecessary and burdensome regulation.”
    The House Appropriations Committee has adopted the amendment Harris calls — without explanation — “a victory for both the conservation of the Bay and the Eastern Shore’s economy.”
    There goes sturgeon Critical Habitat protection, killed by a congressman whose district, the First, surrounds the Chesapeake on Maryland’s eastern and northern sides and encompasses all of the Eastern Shore.
    We interviewed Harris when he first ran for Congress, back in 2010, and part of Anne Arundel County was in his district. Lately, he’s said he’s interested in hearing only from people in his remapped district. More lately still, he’s shied away from public meetings even with his voting public.
    So he’s unlikely to answer the question that logically flows from his amendment: Congressman, what have you got against sturgeon?

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher
email editor@bayweekly.com, www.sandraolivettimartin.com

It’s not all peanuts and mints for the Naval Academy’s Bill the Goat

The Naval Academy’s mascot is a fighting goat. That goat’s name is Bill, after a pet kept by the first president of the Naval Academy Athletic Association. The emblematic mascot is fashioned after the actual animal as embodied over the years by more than 37 goats. The first goat was only a skin, the remainder of a loved ship goat, and worn by naval officers as they danced for the crowd during halftime.
    Since 1893, Bill has been a living goat who embodies the fighting spirit and tenacity of the Navy. To find that mascot, the Naval Academy took out a newspaper ad reading “WANTED: The meanest and fiercest goat possible …”
    Today Bill is not one goat but three, all white Angoras that weigh about 200 pounds at maturity.
    The Bills’ whereabouts are kept secret because of repeated kidnappings, typically by the rivals at West Point.
    Even the identity of Bill the Goat’s caretakers — who “are chosen because of their great love for these animals,” says U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Walter E. ‘Ted’ Carter — is kept a secret as part of a great tradition.
    Yet I managed to get a glimpse into that mysterious world in an impromptu exclusive interview with a caretaker who’s name we’ve ommitted for the safety of all concerned.


Bay Weekly Which goat is the most trouble?

Bill Caretaker    The blue-eyed goat, No. 33, is the naughtiest.


Bay Weekly What is Bill’s typical lifespan?

Bill Caretaker    Twelve years.


Bay Weekly How did current goats, Nos. 33, 34, 36 and 37, come to the U.S. Naval Academy?

Bill Caretaker    Bills 33 and 34 were donated by a farm in Pennsylvania and are now retired. Bills 36 and 37 are gifts from the Texas family of an army helicopter pilot, who wished he’d gone to Navy. They are now the active Bills.


Bay Weekly Tell us an interesting fact about the goats’ home life.

Bill Caretaker    The Bills are kind of like dogs. Because we get them so young, they like to follow you around and love attention. The Bills also enjoy snacking on peanuts and mints.


Learn more about Bill at the new exhibit in the Naval Academy Visitor Center, established in honor of all the past Bills but in particular the late Bill 35 whose blanket is framed and on display.

Bringing the Book of Matthew to Life

Godspell was originally a college project by the show’s author, John-Michael Tebalak, then a student at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh. Another student, Steven Schwartz, was brought in later to add a score, which of course includes such musical staples as Day By Day and Light of the World. Debuting off-Broadway in 1971, Godspell was a smash. It still is all these years later because of its simple staging, relatively uncomplicated music and the universal and timeless message of the Book of Matthew.

Given its youthful heritage, it might be a bit surprising to see that some of the cast members in Pasadena Theater Company’s lively production are almost twice the age Jesus was when he died. However, Godspell is a play about community as much as anything else, and community is ageless, as are the parables from the Book of Matthew with which Jesus teaches his charges. The 10 people assembled by director Chuck Dick are indeed a community, and this cast’s energy and commitment make us in the audience feel a part of that community as well.

Comedy is at the core of the first act. A more sober undertone of betrayal and resurrection shadows the second. Both work well because of the talented cast, a tight band and that simple staging.

Every Godspell needs an effective Jesus, one around whom the crazies can orbit, and John Andrew Rose provides just the right amount of wisdom and calm to anchor this production. He delivers his lessons with obvious love, sings his numbers with a strong, clear voice and is as adept at laughing along with his small community of followers as he is making us feel the searing pain of his crucifixion.

As John the Baptist, and later Judas, Frank Antonio is a strong presence, especially animated when he is forced to betray Jesus after accepting 30 pieces of silver to do so. Antonio’s bit of mime as Judas feels trapped in the box he has built for himself is particularly touching.

The rest of the cast each have their individual moments, from Joe Rose’s emotional and soaring All Good Gifts, to Lindsey Miller’s crystalline soprano on the rocking Bless the Lord, to Christy Stouffer’s faithful rendition of the hit Day By Day.

When Jesus and John the Baptist join together in the soft-shoe number All for the Best, we can tell we’re hearing something special, even though the band often overwhelms the two, especially Antonio’s double time diatribe about the rich as it patters alongside Jesus’ straight time. In such an intimate setting, one would hope that these issues can be ironed out, because too many words of too many songs get drowned out. The people who wrote these words, whether in biblical times or in the early ’70s, chose them carefully in this play to make a point. That point shouldn’t be blunted by unbalanced sound.

The occasional use of a microphone helps in some spots, but occasional use probably needs to be upped to almost regular use in the case of some soloists, especially when members of the band sing the beautiful and haunting In the Willows. The microphone is right there, on a stand, ready and waiting to be used. Might as well use it because it’s a song whose lyrics are as beautiful as the music.

Sound technicalities aside, this is a talented group who work together seamlessly, truly representing what Tebalak had in mind when he wrote the play: community. That’s something we need more of these days, and the timelessness of Jesus’ teachings is brought to life beautifully here, and will touch you regardless of your religious, philosophical or political leanings.


About 2 hours 30 minutes with one intermission. Costumes: Christy Stouffer and cast. Music director: Tom Jackson. Choreographer: Jason Kimmell.

Thru July 23: FSa 8pm, Su 3pm, Pasadena Theatre Company, Humanities Recital Hall, AACC, Arnold, $20 w/discounts, rsvp: www.PTCShows.com.

A love story so funny it has to be true

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani: Silicon Valley) is trying to live both American and Pakistani dreams. His parents want him to be a devout Muslim, choose an honorable profession like the law and agree to an arranged marriage with a nice Pakistani woman. Kumail pretends to buy into these goals, but his dream is making a living as a comedian.
    When Kumail meets Emily (Zoe Kazan: The Monster) at a club, he is smitten. They date, though Kumail knows that if his parents learn his secret, he’ll be disowned. Then Emily’s illness forces Kumail to reevaluate his double life.
    Heartfelt, hilarious and beautifully performed, The Big Sick is a near-perfect romantic comedy. Kazan and Nanjiani are both likeable performers, so even when they make terrible decisions, we want them to succeed. Director Michael Showalter (Grace and Frankie) blends the romantic storyline seamlessly with Kumail’s comic review of the conflicting messages of his upbringing. Standup darlings Bo Burnham and Aidy Bryant pop up with great supporting performances.
    It helps that the story is true.
    Najiani wrote the script with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, who really did fall into a coma while they were dating. Yes, this news gives away this story’s ending. But starry-eyed endings are not what this movie is about. See it to learn how a man comes to balance familial and romantic love as Kumail falls in love not only with Emily but also with her parents.
    Conflicts are handled deftly and without villains. Kumail’s parents want what they believe is best for him. Kumail loves them, even when he disappoints them.
    The Big Sick is both full of heart and uproariously funny.

Great Romantic Comedy • R • 120 mins.