Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Quark Theatre Gets Daring (Again) With 'Wakey, Wakey,' GCT goes 'Barefoot,' 'Pond' at POTS

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2019 at 11:03 AM

click to enlarge Adam Remsen and Sarah Solarez in Wakey, Wakey.
  • Adam Remsen and Sarah Solarez in Wakey, Wakey.

Quark Theatre's slogan is "small plays about big ideas," to which fans will readily concur.   If you go and are not provoked in some way, if you don't squirm, if you don't talk about it afterward with your companion, then you probably weren't there.

Quark's next show is Wakey, Wakey by Will Eno, an acclaimed playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist. Tony Isbell, one of Quark's founders, directs Adam Remsen (another Quark founder) and Sarah Solarez. Sound design is by Eric Sefton, with original music by Eileen Kuo, and lighting design by Louisa Koeppel (also a Quark founder).

The play runs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through October 6th. It's at TheatreSouth, 1000 Cooper St., southwest corner of the building. Tickets are $20. Here's the website.

Isbell spoke to us about Quark's philosophy and the production:

Quark's plays aren't particularly traditional. I suppose that's true with Wakey, Wakey?

Sometimes I call it an experience because it's not really a typical play in some ways. It's kind of like an eccentric TED talk. It involves the use of quite a few projections and recorded sound while the protagonist talks directly to the audience. There is an aspect that's more a traditional play with another character, but there's a good bit of it that's a direct address to the audience.

You've had the rare experience of talking with the playwright as you were putting this together, right?

When we applied for the rights to this show last year, we got an email from the company that handles the rights. It said that Will likes to be involved in local productions of his plays and here's his email. So, when we started to work on it, we contacted him. I thought that was pretty cool since he'd been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for drama for a previous work. He replied within 20 minutes and we've emailed back and forth a few times and each time, he answered right back.

He seems to be as super nice human. We talked about our approach and our limitations because we have basically zero budget for our show. He was fine with that and much of our approach. Sometimes he'd suggest we try something instead, but never been anything less than enthusiastic and supportive and friendly.

So that must have given you confidence going in?

Yeah, because this is different. All of his plays might be described as eccentric. He's previously been described as the Samuel Beckett for the millennial generation or something like that. He's really not, that's really not quite accurate, but I can certainly see it in him and his writing. This play in particular is what you might call a miniature or a chamber piece.

There isn't a whole lot of plot. There are two characters, one a man named Guy and a young woman named Lisa. Guy spends part of the show talking directly to the audience. He talks about matters of life and death, and how to deal with life when you are facing extreme situations and it's very funny and kinda out of left field. But it's also very moving.

I've seen it dozens of times and I still tear up at certain places because it just captures the humor and the joy and the sorrow of being alive. And it reminds me, in some ways, of Our Town though it's not in any way similar to what's happened in Grover's Corners. You kind of get that we all just try to do the best we can and we're all here together and shouldn't we all be doing our best to make things easier for other people instead of more difficult? It's a play that I think has kind of a therapeutic or healing dimension to it. I think people will come out of this show feeling very uplifted and very centered. It ranges from goofy to profound.

How do you choose the scripts that you produce?

Adam and I have tried to produce things that haven't been done in Memphis, or that Memphis isn't going to produce because they don't really fit the mold of what other theaters might want to produce. We deliberately look for things that are challenging and thought provoking, whether that's the intent of the script or the manner in which it's produced. Secondary factors: that they are one-act shows that can be produced without big, detailed sets or costumes. This show is our biggest exception to that because it does require a great deal of video and still images and the sound and projection.

Barefoot in the Park at GCT

Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park is playing at Germantown Community Theatre (GCT) through September 29th. The rom-com has fun with newlyweds (he's uptight, she's a free spirit) in their 5th-floor walkup apartment as they deal with neighbors, relatives, stairs, and Manhattan. Get tickets here.

On Golden Pond at Playhouse on the Square
Opening Friday at Playhouse on the Square is On Golden Pond, which is kind of like a geriatric Barefoot in the Park: Couple in love working out their differences while family members and people from the neighborhood keep showing up. In this one, Norman and Ethel Thayer are at the family lake house instead of Manhattan. Through October 6th. (And there's one more connection: Jane Fonda was in both movie versions). Score your tickets here

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