Bored, bored, bored. Everybody in Douglas Carter Beane's The Country Club is rich, spoiled, drunk, horny, and bored. All the sad, beautiful darlings do is drink, screw, count their money, admire one another's bone structure, and hop from one party to the next: They are surely to be pitied rather than despised.
At every turn, The Country Club threatens to become a funny, biting satire of the shortsighted American aristocracy, but at every turn, it stalls, sputters, and goes nowhere. Every time it seems like the play has something to say, the playwright goes out of his way to say nothing.
Will Soos get back together with Zip? Will Hutch find out about Zip and Chloe? Does everybody have a worse nickname than Froggy? Oh the drama is high at Theatre Memphis.
John Moore is charmingly slimy as Zip, a young Republican horn dog. Melissa Walker is earthy and likable as Chloe, the Italian outsider and object of the WASPy set's 19th-century prejudice and lurid ruling-class desires. Shaun Green is appropriately inarticulate as Hutch, the country-club drunk, and Renee Davis Brame is wickedly funny as Froggy, an obnoxious Junior League matron-in-training. On the other hand, excellence in portraying uninteresting and unsympathetic characters is a mixed blessing.
Director Jerry Chipman is no stranger to Beane's Gurney-esque brand of comedy, and his staging of the playwright's best-known work, As Bees in Honey Drown, was -- from design to delivery -- a lesson in how to make good theater. For a director whose worst work is smoothly professional, his handling of The Country Club is uncharacteristically clumsy, uncertain, and a perfect reflection of the script's uncertainties.
Witty banter abounds, and there are some good laughs to be had. Still, it's unlikely that anyone will be completely satisfied with The Country Club. That, after all, seems to be the point.
At Theatre Memphis through February 19th
One has to wonder if Bill Baker, the founder and artistic director of Our Own Voice Theatre Company, is wearing too many hats. On top of writing and directing OOV's Ann Tigony, he is also running lights and sound. Baker's theatricals are always thought-provoking and can be startlingly fine, but Ann Tigony seems -- like the man himself -- stretched a little thin.
Baker's last offering was The Passion of Joni Dark, a righteous if redundantly anti-Bush remix of St. Joan. He knows how to reinvent a classic and has done so with humor and insight. Ann Tigony plays out a bit too much like an After School Special about recognizing the early warning signs of teenage suicide.
Antigone is the original rebel, and Creon is a sympathetic tyrant blinded by his faith and patriotism: Sophocles' tragedy should be relevant. OOV's adaptation, while sometimes beautifully scripted, lacks the passion of the original and the teeth. Instead of a battle over whether or not to bury a brother, Antigone and Creon fight over a rock concert -- it's not the same.
Ann Tigony feels like a good play that never got too far beyond the first draft. Baker's use of the chorus is interesting. His development of the rocky relationship between Antigone and her sister Ismene is honest and eloquent, but the mighty Creon is never anything more than a repetitive ideologue who grows stale after the first speech.
At TheatreWorks through February 19th