Fast-Forward 

Planning the 2010-11 theater season

here does the time go? The theater season ends in June, and the first shows of the 2010-11 season are already in rehearsal. Here's a rundown of the shows I'm looking forward to:

Much Ado About Nothing

Irene Crist's inventive take on this combative love story was originally staged for the Bartlett Community Theatre, where it was a hit. Set in the 1960s, this Much Ado gets an injection of cool from a psychedelic take on "Sigh No More Ladies" composed by Crist's musical son Bennett Foster. (Theatre Memphis, Next Stage, July 16th-August 1st)

Superior Donuts

Though less substantial than August: Osage County, this comedy by Tracy Letts functions as a love letter to Chicago. (Circuit Playhouse, August 27th-September19th)

A Delicate Balance

Although it won the Pulitzer Prize, this fierce comedy of manners by Edward Albee doesn't have the name recognition of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or The Zoo Story. Too bad, because this play about two families thrown into turmoil by an unnamable fear is one of the 20th century's most undersung masterpieces. (Theatre Memphis, Next Stage, September 17th-October 3rd)

Tartuffe

I've prayed for a black theater company fearless enough to produce Molière's Tartuffe, the classic farce about a con man disguised as a minister. Now Hattiloo is doing just that. (Hattiloo Theatre, October 28th-November 14th)

Speech and Debate

Speech and Debate exists in a category all its own. It's a bleak but very funny comedy with music about three awkward teenagers and their connections to a small-town sex scandal. (TheatreWorks, January 7th-30th)

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Oh sure, Shakespeare wrote all of the words, but Michael Ching's daring a capella score makes this too-familiar comedy seem brand-new again. (Playhouse on the Square, January 21st-February 13th)

August: Osage County

Tracy Letts' dark comedy about a dysfunctional family reunion in Oklahoma is an incredible balancing act that New York Times drama critic Charles Isherwood described as "flat-out, no asterisks and without qualifications, the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years." And that may be an understatement. (Playhouse on the Square, March 11th-April 3rd)

Cabaret

Theatre Memphis is serious about its musicals, as anybody who saw this season's stunning production of La Cage aux Folles can attest. And Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, about life in and around Berlin's decadent '30s-era nightclub scene, is one of the absolute best. (Theatre Memphis, March 11th-April 3rd)

The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and

Safreeta Mae

This often hilarious courtroom drama is set at the crossroads between archetypes and stereotypes. Victoria, a young, marginally successful black woman brings a lawsuit against a pair of degrading African-American stock characters, the comforting Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae, a sultry temptress. This play by Marcia L. Leslie, a writer with a gift for unexpected poetry, surprises at every turn. (Hattiloo Theatre, March 24th-April 10th)

Richard III Richard is power-hungry nobleman who uses his physical deformity as an excuse to play the villain. Staging Shakespeare's historical drama can be a daunting task, but the central character is one of the most compelling creatures ever imagined for the stage. (Theatre Memphis, Next Stage, April 8th-24th)

Ragtime

Ragtime, a brooding musical based on E.L. Doctorow's novel and smartly adapted to the stage by Terrence

McNally, hits all the right notes. Whenever an act of unspeakable violence is committed against an African American or an immigrant, there is always plenty of flag-waving to accompany it. If there is a musical for the interesting times we live in, it's Ragtime. (Playhouse on the Square, May 6th-29th)

The 39 Steps

Four performers take on all the characters in this stylish adaptation of the Hitchcock classic. It's a chance for great performers to really show off their chops. (Circuit Playhouse, May 13th-June 5th)

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