Monday, December 28, 2009

Mise en scène: 100 things that defined Memphis theater in the Aughts. Part two.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 9:48 PM

Our Town
  • Our Town

Things. Yes, I decided to go with "things" instead of scenes, shows or performances. How else could I include sets, props, billboards, radio broadcasts and marriage proposals? Be forewarned, numbers 40-69 feature Steampunk, Shakespeare, and Jason Spitzer...

40: The U of M's school of music music teams up with the department of theater and dance for a funny,

Sweeney at Theatre Memphis
  • Sweeney at Theatre Memphis
freaky, completely memorable go at Sweeney Todd. Sondheim's blood-soaked musical about close shaves and cannibalism gets a gorgeous steampunk revival in '08 at Theatre Memphis but it doesn't have the voices or the genuinely dark heart. U of M, 2001. Tim Burton coulda learned plenty

41: Standing far upstage in a pitch black void Bennett Wood vividly describes Our Town filling the empty space with nothing but ideas. Theatre Memphis, 2009.

42: “There's something phenomenological happening here!” So shouts Gidger (Jason Spitzer), a high-strung nobody in Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour. Gidger whines and, wheezes and shakes doughy fists filled with pages from a history book written in the future. Great material. Great acting. All of it greatly overlooked. Next Stage, 2008

43: The amazing speller gag works every time. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Playhouse on the Square, 2009. Why can't it run forever?

44: As Edward Kynaston/Desdemona Jerre Dye wears trousers and gowns with equal authority. Compleat Female Stage Beauty. Circuit Playhouse, 2008.

45: Kell Christie plays the entire class of '88: life-long stoners, career cops, soccer moms, and everybody in between. Her greatest accomplishment: finding the promising 18-year-old that lives inside all the screwed-up adults. The Pavilion, Next Stage, 2008.

46: Kitchen appliances sing like Little Richard. A child's ringing voice chills the audience: "President Johnson is building a bomb that only kills black people and I hope he drops it right on top of you.” Caroline or Change is an intense, strange, painfully honest look back at the Civil Rights era. Illeana Kirven astonishes as an angry, humorless maid who knows that her bad attitude is as poisonous as

  • Pride & Prejudice
the environment that shaped it. Playhouse on the Square, 2007.

47: Charles S. Dutton performs Goodnight Mr. Wilson a one man show about his relationship with trouble and August Wilson. You weren't there? I'm so sorry. McCoy Theatre, 2007.

48:Christina Wellford Scott and Ron Gephart sing about the evils of literacy in A Man of No Importance. Circuit Playhouse, 2005.

49: John Rhone stages Pride & Prejudice at Theatre Memphis. It sells out wall to wall and is revived at the end of the season. Not Pride & Prejudice & Zombies but the real Pride & Prejudice. The one written by Jane Austen. There are dudes in the audience having a blast. They aren't in disguise. A smart show courts a smart audience with happy endings. Next Stage, 2008

BONUS: (Let's call this one 49.5) John Hemphill proposes to Mary Buchignani on stage after the opening night of Humble Boy. Say it with me: “Awwwwwwwwwwwwww.”

50: Gloria Baxter keeps on bringing the printed word to life with narrative productions like Einstein's Dreams and Animal Farm. U of M.

51:Funniest drag role of the decade: Randall Hartzog is Joan Crawford's wickedly subtle doppelganger in Ruthless! Over the top never seemed so effortless. Circuit Playhouse, 2002.

52: Jonathon Lamer, Kyle Barnette and Jason Craig blow it out as a trio of horn players caught up in a midnight world of booze, dope and groove. Sideman. Playhouse on the Square 2000.

53: White-collar fantasies with no-collar skills: Michael Ingersoll introduces us to a man that was born to die running. Picnic. Playhouse on the Square, 2004.

54: An inflatable breast/missile launches itself from the chest of a giant female puppet in an all out boob assault against a giant male puppet. Our Own Voice stages the unstageable Spurt of Blood. TheatreWorks, 2001. Awesomeness.

55: Jude Knight sings the most horrible anus-clinching note ever heard on a Memphis stage. On purpose. Souvenir. Theatre Memphis, 2009.

56: “Johnny don't go to the Nuclear Plant”: A 1950's-era teen tragedy song for the 21st-Century. Zombie Prom. Circuit Playhouse, 2001.

57: Puck is a dog. Now he's a bird. Now he's a bird dog chasing a bunch of Greek kids in the woods. The Tennessee Shakespeare Company gets literal and it's a good thing. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Poplar Pike Playhouse, 2009.

58: Kim Justis takes us for a sweet, funny, and painful drive down memory lane while Barclay Roberts makes us almost love a child molester. Challenging work by hard working artists. How I Learned to Drive. Circuit Playhouse, 2000.

59: Attack of 80's retro: So Carla McDonald sings “Nobody's Side” in Chess and the audience feels like that guy in the old Maxell commercials. It's like whoa. Then it's like whoa. Then it's like whoa. Playhouse on the Square, 2000.

60. Joey Watson's puppet clad hand (alias the angry Hinky Pinky) disturbs. Fuddy Meers. Next Stage, 2002.

61: Alter Boyz is dumb yo. But the hip hop boy band choreography is perfect and when a cast has that much fun just try to hate. I dare you. Peace out. Circuit Playhouse.


62: Dinner with Friends is an antidote for Hollywood's romantic comedies. Who knew a superficial play about food and one couple's breakup could be so epic? And sinister? Playhouse on the Square, 2002

63: Anarchy in Midtown! Cheryl Wolder is Emma Goldman in Playwrights Forums' production of Dancing at the Revolution, a new play by Michael Bettencourt. TheatreWorks 2001

64: Kevin Shaw shows us how he rolls with choreography for office chairs in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. Circuit Playhouse, 2001.

65: Voices of the South premieres its perpetually original Christmas Show Present Present. TheatreWorks, 2001.

66: Mary Buchignani dances like a fool in You Can't Take it With You. Literally. Brilliantly. Theatre Memphis, 2004.

67: Hilarious performances by Martha Graber and Julie Reinbold turn a Broadway flop from 1959 into one of the most politically relevant shows of the decade. The Girls in 509. Germantown Community Theatre, 2004.

68: John Hemphill rocks“Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat” bringing an electrified gospel edge to Guys & Dolls. Playhouse on the Square, 2003.

69: Rick Crowe gives the most astonishing performance seen by less that 1000 people. Maybe by less that 500 people. It's DIY theater, so who knows. Jim Esposito's The Ribbon Mill. Sleeping Cat Studio, 2001.

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