Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Memphis Auditions Scheduled for STARZ TV Strip Club Drama

Memphis writer Katori Hall wants P***y Valley to have authentic Southern Flavor

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 12:27 PM

Katori Hall
  • Katori Hall
Want to be in a TV series created by Katori Hall, the award-winning Memphis playwright and author of The Mountaintop, Hurt Village, Hoodoo Love, and Tina!?

Auditions for Hall's STARZ TV drama Pussy Valley are by appointment only, but if this sounds interesting, here's everything you need to know about the roles available and how to schedule a meeting.

MERCEDES: Mid-20s, African American, “The OG.” Fierce, ambitious, a true boss. After a long reign as the queen of the Pink Pony, this enterprising hustler is ready to hang up her lucites and start anew. Determined to parlay her side hustle as a youth dance team coach into a viable career, she wrestles daily with the respectability politics that demand she feel ashamed of her floss-filled past. As quick with an insult as she is with a prayer, this emotional gangster is fueled by the gift of intuition and a child-like optimism despite seeing the worst of the world. When unforeseen obstacles threaten to derail her retirement, she’s forced to reckon with her own deep-seated fear of failure, a manipulative mother and a new competitor for her Pink Pony throne. Actors must be comfortable with: comedic and dramatic elements, nudity, sexual situations, pole dancing/stunts/athletics
AUTUMN NIGHT: Early-mid 20s, African American. “The Chameleon” A perfectly polished beauty with a dark secret tucked deep in her Louis Vuitton bag. Under murky circumstances, this bad and bougie femme fatale washes up on the shores of the Pink Pony— down-and-out and totally out of her element, or so it seems. A mysterious shape-shifter blessed with the privilege society bestows up on ‘light-skinned-ed’ girls, she’ll seduce anyone who could be an ally and ruthlessly take out any possible threats. Cautious and crafty, cool and cultured, her manufactured facade disguises the fact that she is a walking wound in desperate need of connection and care. But ain’t nobody got time to depend on the kindness of strangers —she’s depending on her damn self as she races against the clock before her past catches up with her. Actors must be comfortable with: comedic and dramatic elements, nudity, sexual situations, pole dancing/ stunts/athletics
MISS MISSISSIPPI: 18-20, African American, “The Masterpiece.” An idealist caught in a bad romance, this young mother is a Chocolate Venus dropped down in the Delta. Fresh from maternity leave, she’s back at the Pink Pony to rake it up and provide for her growing family. Impressionable and naive enough to dream the impossible, she’s determined to become Insta- famous like Cardi B and Black Chyna before her. Goofy with the gift of gab, she’s a natural riot. Her well-staged and popular Instagram selfies show us she could have all that heaven allows; however, she is often brought down to earth by an abusive boo who threatens her bright future and promising life. Actors must be comfortable with: comedic and dramatic elements, nudity, sexual situations, pole dancing/stunts/athletics
GIDGET Early 20s, Caucasian, “The White Girl.” Quirky, earnest, a navel gazing, trailer-park philosopher. As a second generation pole dancer, she views stripping as an Olympic worthy sport —high-art even. She’s the ultimate ride-or-die best friend (go best friend! that’s my best friend!), sticking by her girls through thick and thin. However, the habit of putting the needs of others first might prevent this driven athlete from taking her rightful place amongst the stars. A fear of flying could very well stop her from competing in the annual US Pole Dancing Championship in NYC. But by facing the music, she learns to shed her inhibitions as this little Mississippi girl prepares to come for her crown. Actors must be comfortable with: comedic and dramatic elements, nudity, sexual situations, pole dancing/stunts/athletics
REQUIREMENTS: You must be over the age of 18 NO exceptions!! FILMING DATES: Slated to shoot in September 2018 AUDITION LOCATION: TBD in MEMPHIS, TN AUDITION DATE Friday and Saturday, July 6th and 7th @ 10:00am-6:00 PM CST (Appointment only) HOW TO SUBMIT: Please email us your headshot, resume (if you have one) and the role you would like to read for to wsa.pilotcasting@gmail.com

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Friday, June 29, 2018

A Short Chat With Dreamgirls' Breyannah Tillman

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 4:23 PM

Breyannah Tillman
  • Breyannah Tillman
This past week Memphis represented at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (AKA The Jimmys) when Riley Thad Young was named a finalist and scholarship winner. You can read all about that and catch his outstanding performance of "Memphis Lives in Me" right here. What my initial report failed to mention is the fact that this isn't the first time Memphis' next generation of performing artists has made a big splash at the Jimmys. Anybody interested in seeing a past finalist do what she does best, can check out Breyannah Tillman's performance as Effie in Playhouse on the Square's ongoing revival of Dreamgirls.


Tillman describes the HSMTA experience as being high pressure and way more cutthroat than the local version.

“I had just enough time to drop my bags and change into my workout clothes before I had to be in rehearsal,” she says recalling a process that only got more intense when she learned she’d finished third and would be performing a solo rendition of “Lot’s Wife/Salty Teardrops” from the musical drama Caroline or Change.

“The best part was I got to come up out of the floor,” Tillman says, describing her dramatic entrance on a lift. “And the Minskoff is full, and everybody bursts into applause.”

You can catch Tillman at Playhouse on the Square through July 15th.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Young a Finalist for National High School Musical Awards

Posted By on Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 2:33 PM

jimmys_awards_nominees_2018._h.mcgee_photo_preview.jpg
Memphis lives on Broadway thanks to the National High School Music Awards (the Jimmy Awards) and recent Hernando High School grad Riley Thad Young.

Young made his Broadway debut this week at the Jimmys where he competed against students from around the country and performed a selection from Memphis the musical at New York City's Minskoff Theatre.

The soon-to-be college freshman was selected as outstanding lead performer at The Orpheum's 2018 High School Musical Theatre Awards. He was a $3,000-scholarship winner and one of eight finalists selected for a solo performance at this year's Jimmys.

Here's Young's interpretation of "Memphis Lives in Me."


If you'd like to learn more about the Jimmys, Playbill covered this year's awards. Also, if you want to know what the process is like, Young kept a journal for Broadway World

Friday, June 22, 2018

Neighborhood Threat! "Raisin" Is a Great Musical, and an Important Story

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 at 4:27 PM

werecbox_unnamed-12.jpg
From a technical standpoint I could pick Hattiloo’s Raisin to pieces. The set doesn’t look down at heel, it looks slapped together. The presence of living actors insures that the show's minimal, thoughtful choreography, will sometimes be under-supported by otherwise well-made recordings of a horn-driven, 70’s-era soul-inspired score built to jump off the stage and get up in your life choices. Tracks get the job done though, and, as always, so much of any show’s success depends on material strength and a cast’s ability to leverage it. In this regard everything about Raisin delivers. Music and dancing never undermine the message in this faithfully adapted retelling of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. This story of the Younger family and their struggle to buy an affordable home and possibly start a family business is a subtle, almost generous look at how America and its wealth became segregated. It is a deeply felt family drama that ends with a devastating loss barely tempered with dignity and determination.

Raisin won the Tony Award for best new musical in 1973, and promptly fell off the face of the Earth. A best musical win doesn’t ensure immortality or heavy rotation, but ever since Kiss Me Kate picked up the first best musical trophy in 1949, a win has typically meant Broadway tours, lavish revivals, and some longevity on the regional circuit. Raisin, — a musical described by New York Times writer Clive Barnes as being, "perhaps even better than the [Tony nominated] play" —  just went away. Why?

To answer that question we probably have to go down to the crossroads of real estate and money. It surprises people when I suggest that, for all the edgy content that marches across our stages, our regional theaters are still relatively conservative spaces shaped more by donor/subscriber communities than the broader communities they inhabit.  There's only been so much room for black programming in these spaces and while a gut-wrencher like Raisin or Caroline or Change might get produced once in a while we're more likely to see upbeat revivals of pop-culture touchstones like The Color Purple or sparkly showbiz epics like Dreamgirls. If one must return to the musty old stories, Hansberry’s original drama is accepted canon, and always less expensive to produce than a musical on your second stage.

Thing is, there’s nothing musty about the original, if you pay attention to the whole text, not just the big "amen" lines about not capitulating to people who don’t think you’re fit to share the Earth.

It’s probably fair to say that most folks, liberal and conservative alike, have bought, in some measure, the big lies about segregation and how it continues to exist because people self-select. It's always been malarkey. Contemporary segregation and urban slums were created by single family housing/industrial zoning, by the Federal government’s refusal to insure mortgages to African-Americans, and the inability of African-Americans to obtain credit via the usual channels. It was advanced by public housing back when public housing was nice and park-like and not for poor people, but for exclusively white workers priced out of areas close to job centers. It was further maintained by restrictive covenants insuring that certain properties could only be sold to white buyers. When courts turned on the covenants Neighborhood associations were created. To buy in you had to belong. To belong you had to be white.

As more and more Americans moved out of apartments and into single family homes, the limited amount of property made available to African Americans was typically far more expensive than property being offered to whites. Absent credit, it was sold via a contract system that eliminated equity. One missed payment could result in eviction, with nothing to show for your effort. Families with little discretionary income for upkeep, did sometimes crowd into substandard housing, but decay was always the result of a cruel, deliberately exploitive system backed by customary business practices and law. Though these circumstances are alluded to rather than expressly stated, this is the legal, social and economic environment in which Raisin unfolds, and to get the most out of the musical experience, it’s helpful to divorce ourselves from political myths, and open ourselves to a more complete history.
Raisin isn’t about integration or white flight from the urban core. It’s about a family's struggle to create legacy inside a system designed to prevent it. The family patriarch has died leaving $10,000 in life insurance. Lena, the surviving matriarch wants to sink most of the money into an affordable home in a white neighborhood, not because of the demographics, but because “It was the best [she] could do for the money.” Her son Walter Lee's a chauffeur who wants to invest the money in a family business — a liquor store. Her daughter, pressing against both race and gender norms, has exchanged faith for science and wants to go to medical school. Glimpsing a bigger world she may choose to get out entirely and move to Africa with her foreign-born boyfriend. In the absence of credit or anything more than sustenance income, all these dreams hinge on one pot of insurance money representing the sum total of one man's difficult life. Add to this dynamic a white representative of Clybourne Park’s progressive neighborhood association who’s arrived to negotiate a kinder, gentler way to keep blacks out, and you have all the ingredients necessary for an emotionally honest and devastating primer in how everything went wrong.

Raisin's story is famously inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes. More crucially it's informed by the Hansberry family's personal experience in court, fighting the restrictive legal covenants and members only neighborhood associations. Hers is a deeply sad but open-hearted critique of the American Dream, a Depression-era fiction embraced by President Herbert Hoover to sell the advantages of single family home zoning where ethnic groups were excluded, over crowded apartment-based urban living where anybody might move across the street.

Hattiloo has told this story before, and told it well. Stagecraft notwithstanding, the musical tops it, if only because it gives great source material a beat and sticks it to your brain like a bubblegum hit on the radio.

At the top of the show I plunged my face into my hands — I couldn’t look. Committed, vibrant performances were at odds with cool, canned music. It just looked silly and I was sure I was in for a night of deadly theater. But the commitment was real. It was relentless. It overcame and the result was so much more memorable than I ever could have ever imagined during those cringe-worthy opening moments.

Raisin’s Lena became an almost instantaneous theatrical archetype. George C. Wolfe brilliantly lampooned that archteype in The Colored Museum's  “Last Black Mama on the Couch” sketch. Hattiloo stalwart Patricia Smith never sits on a couch or plays to type. Her Lena shifts from thoughtful, nurturing and wise, to superstitious, impulsive and tyrannical. She struggles to create security for her family without realizing how restrictive security can be — or how tenuous. Smith exudes maternal virtue, but her’s is a nuanced, warts-and-all take on a part the veteran performer could have easily phoned in.

Director Mark Allan Davis gets top shelf performances from an ensemble cast that includes Rashideh Gardner, Samantha Lynn, Aaron Isaiah Walker, and Gordon Ginsberg. But Kortland Whalum’s leave it all on stage take on Walter Lee Younger is really something to see. Whalum feels nothing lightly and his words and songs land like punches — some weak, flailing and ineffectual, some like haymakers. It’s as rich a performance as I’ve seen in ages, just at the edge of too much but never tipping over.

Walter Lee gets swindled, of course. I don’t think that’s a spoiler given the shopworn material. He’s one more casualty of unstable alternative economies created when people are isolated and shut out of the regular economy. The Youngers may be moving into a Chicago neighborhood but in this moment Walter Lee becomes the embodiment of Hughes’ “Harlem,” and the “dream deferred.” Maybe this gifted, young, imperfect black man who’s trying to do all the things he’s supposed to do but still can’t get ahead, will finally dry up like a raisin in the sun. Maybe he’ll fester like a sore or stink like rotten meat or sag like a heavy load. Maybe he’ll explode. In a beautifully manicured interpretation, Whalum gives you the sense it’s all on the table all the time.

Short take: This Raisin has some real problems. Telling one helluva strong story isn’t one of them.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Memorial Service Has Been Scheduled for Beloved Actor, Singer Ann Sharp

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 10:24 AM

From The Apple Tree at Theatre Memphis. And looking a little fancy.
  • From The Apple Tree at Theatre Memphis. And looking a little fancy.
Theater artist Ann Sharp has died.

She ended her struggle with cancer Saturday, June 9th. Her presence was so keenly felt in Memphis. Her absence will be also.

I've admired Sharp longer than I've known most other actors in the tri-state area. Straightforward as it seems, I've also misspelled her name more often than anybody else's. Sometimes I've spelled it Anne Sharp. Or Ann Sharpe. Or even Anne Sharpe when I was feeling especially reckless. I never could adequately explain why I thought her name needed an extra set of silent letters. It was like the correct spelling alway seemed insufficient, somehow. But she was typically gracious.

To one red-faced apology Sharp answered, "You know Chris, I'm just not that fancy." And that was it exactly! I'd been sold on an illusion and like so many costumers before me I wanted to outfit Ann Sharp in sequins and drape her in gewgaws!  Or at least a few ornamental characters.

Technically speaking, Sharp qualified for the diva-club discount at area groceries. She earned the distinction on merit with bonus points for looking great in feathers and appearing in more versions of The Matchmaker/Hello Dolly than anybody this side of Carol Channing. But the d-word never really fit Sharp, who could flip from earthy to elegant at will and was as at home in flashy Broadway-style musicals as she was in edgy little comedies. She approached her work humbly, always laboring under the belief that it was an honor to stand on the stage, in the spotlight, speaking the great words and singing the great songs.

When Sharp took her final bow, Memphis didn't lose a great singer. It didn't lose a great actor. We lost a great person who happened to be all those other things also, and more.

Like Memphis Theatre patriarch Bennett Wood said in a speech, on the night of the 2012 Ostrander Awards, when Sharp and her frequent co-star and friend Jude Knight were co-awarded the Eugart Yerian Award for Lifetime Achievement in Memphis Theatre, "Any young actor working with [Ann] learns it takes more than talent. It takes humanity. It takes generosity of spirit. It takes soul to be a great performer."

As a young actor who shared stage time with Sharp in a 1987 production of Tom Stoppard's On the Razzle (yet another version of The Matchmaker ), I can personally attest to Wood's understatement here.
From The King and I at Theatre Memphis.
  • From The King and I at Theatre Memphis.
Sharp's half-century on area stages began when she relocated from Covington, La., to attend Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). Her lengthy and varied resume includes many great musical theatre roles: Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Anna in The King and I, Marian the Librarian in The Music Man, and— of course— Dolly Levi. Comedy, tragedy, absurdity: Sharp could do it all. Dramatic credits include star turns in shows like Shakespeare's Hamlet, the Edward Albee classic A Delicate Balance, and contemporary comedy Rapture Blister Burn.

I've checked and re-checked to make sure Sharp's name is spelled correctly throughout this post even though I know she wouldn't hold it against me if I added an extra "e" here or there. She really wasn't fancy. She really was fabulous.

A memorial will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 7th at Seabrook Hall, Christ United Methodist Church, 4488 Poplar Avenue, Memphis.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Follies: Let 42nd Street Entertain You

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 1:22 PM

When spare is also full.
  • When spare is also full.
The stakes are lower than they might be, and character work could be more thorough. But Theatre Memphis' production of  42nd Street — the vintage story of a (not that) shy young gal from Allentown, PA, who dances her way from the chorus to the center spotlight — is as refined as it is restrained, and effervescent as a New Year's toast.

Shortly after New York' Chrysler building opened in the spring of 1930 (becoming the textbook example of American Art Deco architecture), critic Kenneth Murchison described the skyscraper's visionary architect William Van Alen as "the Ziegfeld of his profession." This was a reference to theater impresario Florenz Ziegfeld whose fancy Follies had only just moved from the New Amsterdam Theatre, an Art Nouveau gem less than a mile's stroll down 42nd Street from the shiny east Midtown tower.

Murchison's comment may not have been an insult exactly, but the suggestion was certainly one of style over substance, and of the flashy and new vs. the tried and the true. This familiar cultural crossroads is the exact spot on our conceptual subway map where director Ann Marie Hall has set her production of 42nd Street, which is a cinema-inspired jukebox musical using songs popularized in the 1930s. Scenic environments, courtesy of designer Dave Nofsinger, are minimal — a series of curtains, frames, and backdrops with deco and nouveau flourishes that frame Amie Eoff's swell costumes and the skilled hoofers who fill them. The production's appropriate use of the unadorned theater space echoes Theatre Memphis' recent production of Stage Kiss in a number of ways that should be fun for season ticket holders. They're both the kind of meta, performer-forward production that leaves you thinking style and substance might be the same thing sometimes if there's enough skill to back it up. Refreshing!
Lighting that shows us what to look at. Thanks lighting designer Jeremy Allen Fisher.
  • Lighting that shows us what to look at. Thanks lighting designer Jeremy Allen Fisher.

Omega level stage threat Gia Welch is typically splendid as Peggy, a pitch-in girl from Allentown, PA who steps into a diva's dancing shoes to save the big show. That's the kind of by the numbers 1930s-era plot this musical is built around. 1. Big-time producer Julian Marsh casts a big-time show. 2. Big-time producer Julian Marsh casts a big-time diva in the big-time show. 3. The big-time diva can't dance and does diva stuff. 4. Small-town chorus girl steps up and saves the day while romance blossoms all around. 5. Tap, tap, tap.

There's nothing to it, right? Well, you may very well think that till Welch demonstrates her hilarious speed tapping skills. That's when the show's reasons for being become self evident.

Carolyn Simpson's Dorothy is never quite as spoiled or arch as the star attraction who can't dance might be, but she's committed and sets up a classic rivalry well enough. There are other fine supporting performances by stalwarts like Lindsay Roberts, John Hemphill, and Mary Buchignani. But this show celebrates the chorus and group effort, and that's where Theatre Memphis' production shimmies and shimmers.
Graceful ages.
  • Graceful ages.
The period songs are a joy. The dancing is top notch. This should be a perfectly delightful fantasy to escape into to dodge bad news and get out from under the summer's oppressive heat. But I've got to confess, I was miserable. It wasn't because someone's phone went off or because someone else was texting or loudly unwrapping candy, or taking photos or doing anything on that annoying litany of annoying things we're cautioned against during a standard pre-show speech. It's because someone seated nearby had evidently baptized themselves in cologne before coming to the theater and it assaulted my eyes and sinus cavities like a fighting cock. Mercifully, this once-frequent offense is less common than it once was — almost endangered, praise be. So I'm not bringing this up to reflect negatively on Theatre Memphis or 42nd Street in any way. It's an earnest plea from a regular audience member to the rest of the theatergoing community: Friends, don't let friends overcologne.

With that off my chest, I really can't push much further in the review because so much of my experience was colored by circumstance. I do remember peering through raw-rubbed eyes at a group of dancers in coral-pink dresses and becoming acutely aware of how nicely the fabric draped — how perfectly its movement complemented the movers. It's not that these details aren't present in busier shows. They just get lost in the business, and it's so nice when they're found again. Even nicer when it's  all wrapped up in an illuminated deco frame. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

'Snot Bad: “A Play About a Handkerchief” doesn’t blow at Theatre South

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 6:50 PM

Comedy & Tragedy
  • Comedy & Tragedy
I’ve often thought that Iago’s wife Emilia might be the most modern and relatable character in the wonderful world of Shakespeare. To my mind (and for reasons that won't pass academic muster), her speeches are the only things approaching real proof that any words credited to our Elizabethan master might have been penned by another.

“It is their husbands' faults if wives do fall,” Emilia says at the top of a gorgeous rant — one that couldn’t have been popular with menfolk in Shakespeare's audiences. She goes on to describe a toxic environment where male promiscuity is followed by peevish jealousies and abuse. “Let husbands know their wives have sense like them," she continues, asserting basic humanness and frailty. "They see, and smell, and have their palates both for sweet and sour, as husbands have… Else let them know, the ills we do, their ills instruct us so.”

I mean, I suppose a dude might have written that in 1603 and placed it so thoughtfully in the duty-bound mouth of a smart, smart woman whose ability to thoroughly describe this dynamic runs parallel to personal submissiveness and approval seeking. I'm not one of those classist conspiracy theorists who can't fathom genius inhabiting a craftsman from the sticks, so I suppose the dude did write it. But it's an especially knowing passage in a trove of special, knowing passages. It's also the text playwright Paula Vogel seems to use as the point of departure for her melancholic farce Desdemona: A Play About A Handkerchief.

Vogel's play is inside out Shakespeare in the spirit of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, but less reverent and less in love with its own cleverness. The comedy’s a slower, less frantic burn listing heavily to the dark side. Its premise is built around a broad question: What the heck are all of Othello’s pivotal female characters doing during the long stretches of time when they’re off stage right?

There’s another, more disruptive aim here too. Vogel pops the bubble of romantic game logic holding Othello's plot together, replacing it with something closer to literal truth. She does this by letting the characters ask a question audiences can only address at the risk of disbelief: Why’s Othello trippin’ so hard over a nose blower?

Vogel introduces an earthy, candid Desdemona who openly admits to having had sex with every one of Othello’s officers except for Michael Cassio, of whom she stands accused. She's become something of a sex tourist in the town brothels — a hipster of coitus, a little mean and keen to learn the latest street lingo. It’s a lifestyle the lower class Emilia may understand, but cannot approve of, bound as she is to custom, and religious superstition, and motivated by the notion that a misbehaving woman's just asking to be murdered by her beau. Emilia is similarly horrified by Desdemona's cozying up to Casio’s actual paramour Bianca, a prostitute.

Specific goal and class conscious staging by director Aliza Moran shows off mad skills in a tight ensemble cast: Jillian Barron (Desdemona), Julia Baltz (Emilia) , and Layne Crutsinger (Bianca).

Clocking in at only 90-minutes this dirty Desdemona’s come and gone before the running gags run out of steam. Making no attempt to account for every plot point in the source it may appeal even to audiences who have only a passing familiarity with Othello but the more familiar you are with the tragedy of the Moor of Venice, the more of a treasure box the comedy becomes. It’s another exciting entry by the Femmephis Collective, a young company with a minimalist aesthetic and a maximalist vision.
Burn the witches! Wait, that's another play. But what else could three women be doing on stage together other than witchery? It's a mystery.
  • Burn the witches! Wait, that's another play. But what else could three women be doing on stage together other than witchery? It's a mystery.

To really understand what Vogel’s accomplished with her script it may be helpful to look back at the discourse we were having in the 1990's. Consider Variety's review of the original 1993 production where, in a mixed assessment  of the work, critic Jeremy Gerard wrote, “Imagining Desdemona as a foul-mouthed, post-adolescent princess disappointed in marriage and bored by her prospects doesn’t go a long way toward arousing sympathy for someone about to be murdered by a jealous husband.” Seriously, what's one to do with modern criticism holding Desdemona's potty mouth as a check on sympathy in relation to any kind of murder, let alone an end so personally and intimately violent?

“It’s momentarily funny to contemplate the fact that she’s a slut who’s had everyone but Cassio, the lieutenant whom Othello suspects of having cuckolded him,” Gerard continued. “But the moment passes quickly.”

Ha. Ha ha. Hahahaha—- Whaaaaa?

Can the moment for that kind of thinking pass quickly enough? And isn't that Vogel’s point entirely? This cast seems to make it repeatedly with silliness and subtlety in fair measure.

If a smart little play with sharp, distinct edges sounds appealing, get thee to Theatre South this weekend.

For a different mood, try the late show.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Too Cute: Death of a Streetcar winks at greatness

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 6:52 PM

Jonathan Christian
  • Jonathan Christian
Theater folks talk a lot about text, subtext, meta-text. Blah, blah, blah. But there's another, special kind of language that arises during rehearsals when actors are getting to know their characters and castmates. It doesn't have a name (that I know of) so I'm going to call it the gag-text, with all implications potentially operative.

No matter how serious the actor, or how intense the scene, chances are jokes will be discovered in rehearsal. Often, inappropriate ones. And if the cast is especially clever (and even sometimes when it's not), at some point during the run somebody inevitably suggests, "Wouldn't it be awesome if we could do one show where we did our hilarious and vulgar version of The Sound of Music instead of the same old Do Re Mi?" Thankfully, nobody ever really thinks this is a good idea because, while some gags might transcend and tickle the audience, this stuff's mostly inside baseball and what's fun for performers can leave an audience befuddled. Enter Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf, a sketchy scripted comedy developed by Second City, a company famous for improv. It's an intermittently funny and occasionally flailing parody that takes aim at some unassailable classics of the (mostly) American stage. Full of ham-fisted allusion, pop-culture reference, and winking insider-humor, it's kind of like watching a bunch of actors performing their personal gag-text. Or maybe an episode of Family Guy built exclusively for theater nerds.

Tony Isbell's a sure-handed director and he's brought together an able cast that was only just beginning to gel at Thursday night's preview before Friday's opening. But it's difficult to imagine this extended sketch about Streetcar's Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois meeting up with George and Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Death of a Salesman's Willy Loman, ever obtaining the essential quality all these shows obtain when banging away on all cylinders — Life. 

Spoof is easy but not very interesting and parody's always a dicy bargain. It's even harder when you're setting your sights on masterworks like Our Town and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Not because these 20th-Century giants don't have it coming, but because we've had more than a half-century to parody the youngest of them, and the best gags are already musty classics in their own right. When Death/Woolf's Stanley yells, "shut up!" and launches a running gag, it's impossible to determine if it's skewering Streetcar directly or retooling a better bit from Sid Caesar's 1952 send-up on Your Show of Shows.


Playwrights ranging from David Mamet to Samuel Beckett are referenced (with assorted other old (mostly) dead white dudes folded into the mix), while condensed versions of the title tragedies (and Our Town for good measure) are reenacted. Though it's never overtly referenced (that I caught), the overall effect,  is something akin to Agatha Christie's easily spoiled whodunnit The Mousetrap. But without the tension. And be forewarned, a working knowledge of all these shows (and more) is absolutely required for maximal enjoyment. Folks with little or no exposure to the plays or their film versions, or some background in theater, may find themselves completely bewildered.

The 70-minute script is uneven and its identity as a work of suspense never really emerges, but some of the characterizations are so perfect it almost doesn't matter. Jonathan Christian's a solid narrator and Mark Pergolizi cuts a fine, sad-sack profile as Arthur Miller's tragic, prostitute-loving salesman. Not just anybody can pull off a convincingly pathetic slouch while dropping dialogue like "Pardon my distinct odor of failure.' (Or words to that effect). Dave Landis, who's actually played the hard-drinking George, pours himself into the role like a martini (as does his Martha, Tracie Hansom).
Dave Landis, Mark Pergolizi
  • Dave Landis, Mark Pergolizi
Kim Sanders probably deserves an actual shot at Blanche, some day (and so does Hansom for that matter), and Michael Kinslow is convincing as the sweaty, angry, and shockingly well-read Stanley. But like another Tennessee Williams character, Brick Pollitt (briefly referenced in the show as merely "a homosexual"), this material's always waiting for a click that never arrives. Not because the show was unready, but because it is thinly written.

"Gag text" is a bonding thing, I think. Musicians I've known do similar things with song lyrics to keep from taking things too seriously. It's an expression of how clever we can all be when we're clever together, and an exercise in what we can get away with — Kinda like improv, a thing Second City is really good at and which Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf most definitely is not.

Death/Woolf is way too cute for my taste but if you love seeing old plays mildly tweaked with winking jokes that make you feel like an insider, make your reservations today.

Halloran Centre Announces Supremely Cool 2018-19 On Stage Series

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 12:37 PM

Kisses from Bettye LaVette
  • Kisses from Bettye LaVette

The Halloran Centre's diverse 2018-19 On Stage series includes the award-winning Fats Waller musical Ain't Misbehaving, a visit from classic soul artist Betty LaVette, a monthly jazz series curated by Kirk Whalum, Arthur Miller's evergreen drama, The Crucible, and those are just a few of the headliners.


In a field that runs the gamut from Great Balls of Fire curiosities like Dennis Quaid and the Sharks to soul royalty like original Supreme Mary Wilson, and chestnuts like an evening of Gilbert & Sullivan favorites, I'm probably most excited about LaVette, who starred in the Broadway hit Bubblin' Brown Sugar and whose early recordings showcase the talents of a group of Memphis artists that came to be known as The Dixie Flyers.

LaVette started recording in Detroit, 1962. She charted R&B hits with  "My Man — He's a Lovin' Man", "He Made a Woman Out of Me," and one of my favorite singles, "Let Me Down Easy." (Though, this studio performance is also fantastic).


"I'm not searching for anything," LaVette told The Flyer. In a 2011 interview, she described her long and winding career as a satisfying one. As soon as "My Man" hit she rolled out of Motor City on tour with headliner Ben E. King and an up-and-comer named Otis Redding. The Scene of the Crime, her collaboration with the Drive-By Truckers, had earned a Grammy nomination for best contemporary blues performance and introduced the veteran performer to a whole new generation of audiophiles.

"Old movies are my thing," LaVette said, beginning her life story with  "One scene that used to make [her] cry every time.

"You know the scene where somebody's flying somewhere and you see the plane in the sky and the names of the cities flash up on the screen? New York, Paris, and London. That's the scene that always made me cry, because my friends had been to all those places and I hadn't." That's all past tense now.

"So many people have asked me, 'What was it like to cut a record when you were only 16?' And I tell them that in 1962 in Detroit, that's just what you did. Everybody had a record or was cutting a record," LaVette said.

Fans were loyal, but fame was elusive. LaVette's thankful. "I met a better class of people," she says. "People who didn't want something from me."

Love her.

And now, here's the rest of the season...

ON STAGE AT THE HALLORAN CENTRE, 2018-2019

MUSIC

Saturday, August 18 Rodney Crowell

Friday, September 7 Rhonda Vincent and the Rage

Saturday, September 29 Dennis Quaid and the Sharks

Friday, October 12 Dougie MacLean

Saturday, October 20 Matt Stansberry & The Romance

Saturday, November 3 Bettye LaVette

Friday, November 30 Music of the Knights

2019

Saturday, January 26 Mary Wilson

Saturday, February 2 Jim Brickman, “Share the Love” Tour

Saturday, March 2 Dustbowl Revival

Saturday, March 16 Benise FUEGO! Spirit of Spain (two performances)

Saturday, April 13 Carlene Carter

Saturday, April 27 The Orbert Davis Jazz Ensemble



THEATRE SERIES

Saturday, November 17, 2018               
Ain’t Misbehavin’ (two performances)

Saturday, February 16, 2019                   
National Players in The Crucible (two performances)

Saturday, March 30, 2019                       
New York City Gilbert & Sullivan Players in the Wand’ring Minstrels, Pirates of Penzance, and an Evening of Gilbert & Sullivan Favorites



KAFÉ KIRK

Sunday, October 7, 2018 with Lindsey Webster
Sunday, December 2, 2018 with Jonathan Butler
Sunday, February 3, 2019 TBA
Sunday April 7, 2019 TBA



Friday, May 25, 2018

mömandpöp rock the Memphis Children's Theatre Festival

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 3:19 PM

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I'm SO EXCITED!

mömandpöp is my favorite kid-rock comedy improv show ever and it's back in Memphis for a limited engagement at Voices of the South's 13th annual Memphis Children's Theatre Festival.

There's always a lot of good stuff to choose from at the MCTF but I can't get enough of these guys. The band's "Comeback Special" may be aimed at the small people in our lives, but the musical variety show transcends. Husband and wife duo Bobby and Virginia Matthews are terrific writers with a knack for improv and a gift for crafting infectious pop ditties so full of love and life they defy easy categorization

The gimmick goes something like this. Once upon a time...
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mömandpöp were rock stars. Like, LEGIT. But they abandoned all that to become plain old mom and pop. Now after many (many, many, many) years off the scene, they're pulling their musty British Invasion/folk revival-inspired act out act out of mothballs and retooling it for younger listeners. Think Schoolhouse Rock with a healthy dose of the Cowsills, and a solid pinch of The Monkees.


Pure joy. Check it all out. But check this out for sure.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Love! Valour! Compassion!— Remembering Memphis actor David Foster

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 2:08 PM

David Foster in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.  - CARLA MCDONALD
  • Carla McDonald
  • David Foster in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

I’ve spent the last day trying to conjure up memories of David Foster, the Memphis actor who died Wednesday after a truly brave, fiercely private battle with cancer. But, in spite of all the loving, vividly-described tributes popping up all over social media platforms, I’m having a hard time looking back. It’s like everything I know about the man is eclipsed by an image of him in the role of Bernadette from last season’s celebrated production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. His impish features are framed by an elegant shock of silver hair and he’s belting out, “I Will Survive.” Only I don’t hear his voice. Or even Gloria Gaynor’s because, in the show he was lip-syncing while Claire Kohlheim took vocal duties. This is Bernadette’s Jedi drag-master moment, where she effortlessly — and generously — shows the younger generation how it's done. Coming from a powerhouse singer in his own right, this was so much more than instructions in drag. It was a lesson in humility — a master class in how to surrender absolutely to the music, the material, and the moment.
Jerre Dye, David Foster and an Angel. Angels in America.
  • Jerre Dye, David Foster and an Angel. Angels in America.
I remember being uncomfortable around David for some time after seeing the unhinged sparkle in his eyes when he sang “Unworthy of Your Love,” as John Hinckley Jr, the attempted murderer of President Ronald Reagan in Barry Fuller’s sharply-imagined regional premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, at Circuit Playhouse. That early performance has always been a personal favorite for many reasons and the beginning of a pattern that never stopped repeating. It was the first time I’d underestimate David Foster. And to really grasp my meaning here it’s important to understand that, as an audience member, I don’t rattle easily. After Assassins expectations were always sky high.

I suppose I didn’t realize that David was also a serious actor when he was cast in Assassins. I’d been introduced to both him and Carla McDonald (who’d become a frequent Foster co-star) when the pair were recruited to be a living soundtrack for Theatre Memphis’ production of Sam Shepard’s family drama, A Lie of the Mind. I played a violent alcoholic who spends much of the show wearing dirty underwear and an American flag. From a catwalk high above the stage David and Carla harmonized to “Balm in Gilead,” so sweetly I suppose it never occurred to me that either one of these two future scene stealers ever did anything but sing together. That’s why I underestimated David the first time and it was my fault. All the rest was on him because he never stopped getting better.

I especially want to remember something nice about David’s role in Terrence McNally’s drama Love! Valour! Compassion! But my strongest recollection of that show is that it’s one of the best ensemble performances I’ve ever seen. The kind of show where every  actor supports every other actor so completely — just the way it’s always supposed to be.

That’s something nice, I suppose.
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I’ll bet many of David’s biggest fans didn’t know that one of his most challenging roles was that of Goldy the reindeer in the big Christmas display for Goldsmith's department store. With his grinch-like smirk and easy snark David described the job as a “horrible experience,” offset by the opportunity to spend time with fellow up-and-coming Memphis performers like Kara Winsett (who played Smitty, a Christmas duck) and Fun Home’s Stephen Huff (who played a “nameless lady pig.”) I always wanted to believe this personal experience had a lot to do with why, other than David Sedaris who wrote The Santaland Diaries and created Crumpet the grumpy elf, our David was the only Crumpet I ever really cared about. But by the time he took over the role, Sedaris' personal memoir had become as much of a holiday staple as A Christmas Carol and so much of what David did to reinvent and invigorate Playhouse on the Square's revival was  rooted in love for authentic cabaret, and a deep understanding of how that form turns on intimacy and a unique personal connection with the audience.

Across the decades I’ve seen David Foster be brilliant in Next to Normal, Ragtime, Jacques Brel, Angels in America, Caroline or Change and 1776. He was a scenery chewing force of nature as Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher, a charming prince in Into the Woods, and Hairspray’s corniest Corny Collins ever. I could keep on listing roles, Ostrander Awards and various other honors. But the only things I can really write about at the moment are feelings which aren’t quite the same as memories. Because whenever I look back— or in any direction, really — I just keep seeing Bernadette’s beatific face. And hearing Claire Kohlheim's angelic voice.


And maybe there's a message in that.

David's not around anymore. We don't have him to sing to us. Or to stand next to us at parties making sly, hilarious observations. But he'll survive — forever present in the voices of anybody who ever worked with him or watched him perform and was changed as a result. And how could you not be? Like Bernadette, he was a natural teacher with a new lesson to share every time he stepped into the spotlight.

I'll finish with an offstage example though, and a few words David borrowed from Dr. Seuss and typed on Facebook as the curtain came down on Priscilla's wonderful, crowd-pleasing run. 
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Liz Sharpe, David Foster, Irene Crist at the 2011 Ostrander Awards
  • Liz Sharpe, David Foster, Irene Crist at the 2011 Ostrander Awards

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Drama Club: Reviews of Othello, Annapurna, and Fun Home

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 4:45 PM

New Moon's Othello
  • New Moon's Othello
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it,
as many of your players do, I had as lief the
town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air
too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently;
for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,
the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget
a temperance that may give it smoothness.—
Hamlet's speech to players. 

130 years before #metoo, the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote, fairly succinctly, that “a woman cannot be herself in modern society.” Ibsen, an artist often regarded as a father of modernism, explained that, inside a male-manufactured reality, a woman’s identity is bent, in every case, by “laws made by men with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint.” This same fragile male projection is at the jealousy-twisted heart of Othello, and 274 years before Ibsen modernized the theater with A Doll’s House, Emilia, a supporting character in Shakespeare’s Venetian tragedy, appeared before audiences for the first time with a similar message.
“I do think it is their husbands' faults if wives do fall,” Emilia says, describing a toxic combination of male promiscuity followed by peevish jealousies and physical abuse (a recipe repeated in Fun Home, which is currently on stage just around the block at Playhouse on the Square). “Let husbands know their wives have sense like them," Emilia continues, asserting her basic humanness and frailty. "They see, and smell, and have their palates both for sweet and sour, as husbands have… Else let them know, the ills we do, their ills instruct us so.”

Emilia’s ability to identify her circumstance is no inoculation against a tragic end. She's as infected and wrecked as the play’s title character by her husband Iago’s deceptions and Kell Christie’s clear articulation of Emilia’s wisdom and loss elevates New Moon Theatre Company's uneven production of Othello.

John Maness threatens a similarly notable Iago. The dependable foot-soldier-turned-villain's ever-shifting motivations brilliantly dissolve into projection and petty excuse-making in the shadow of naked misogyny and the unforced homoeroticism that hangs in the close, hypermasculine air of war and sport. Trouble is, neither Maness nor anybody else is given much action to suit to their words.

Willis Green follows his driven, King Lear-like turn as Troy Maxson in August Wilson’s Fences, with a less assured take on Shakespeare’s great general — a man whose uncommon worth is notable in racist Venice and linked to achievements in the field. A soldier's work is never done and the play affords opportunities to create business illustrating our famously jealous warrior’s journey from national asset to wild, passion-driven liability. Given none to work, Willis does the only thing he can do. He talks. And he speaks. And he pronounces, violating several rules laid down in Hamlet's famous speech to the players.

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Like New Moon, Cloud9 is a little company with big ambition. And like Othello, Cloud9’s current production of Annapurna is a thoughtfully produced but plodding enterprise that needs focus, better pacing, and higher stakes. On the other hand, when it comes to pale middle-aged dude-bootie, this show delivers an abundance. And that's not nothing!

I kid, but hats off to actor Gordon Ginsberg for plunging butt-first into a role that would be difficult enough fully clothed. And for doing so without a whiff of self consciousness. Or anything else for that matter — don't let those skid-marks on the set fool you. 

Sharr White’s one-act drama introduces audiences to Ulysses and his ex-wife Emma (Susan Howe). He’s a former academic and recovering alcoholic living out his last, sick, lonely, mostly naked days, in a revolting, bug-infested trailer. She had a second husband and a life but never got over the first and has come to visit with news that the former couple's adult son wants to reunite the father he doesn’t remember.

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Annapurna’s a character study — the kind of  faintly grotesque show you really only want to produce as a stunt because you’ve got a pair of daredevil actors who are prepared and able to crush the material like a couple of Kaiju stomping down Tokyo. Cloud9 has two very good actors doing brave but fuzzy work with little urgency, and a severe need to reach for higher peaks, and sink (or drive each other!) into deeper, sadder valleys.

Warts and all this Annapurna's still novel, if never quite as polished or compelling as the company's terrific production of Marjorie Prime.
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I've got to admit, my mind wandered all over the place while watching Playhouse on the Square’s perfectly fine production of Fun Home. First, I started thinking about the last show I saw at POTS, which was Neil Simon’s comedy Laughter on the 23rd Floor because, like Fun Home, Laughter also employs a narrator to set tone and lead the audience through the story. Then I thought about how sad it was that every human being working as a director today wasn’t required, at some point, to take classes in narrative theater-making with retired University of Memphis professor Gloria Baxter. She never seemed to care for isolated, inactive narrators who simply stood up and said their piece or were pushed off to the side. Narrators could engage with the action, change it, and be changed by it. So she pushed students to identify a narrator’s point of view and express that his or her physical relationship with the story being told. Laughter and Fun Home are both cases where a less-than-imaginative use of pivotal narration has made otherwise finely acted shows less dynamic than they might be.

Fun Home isn’t a place where a fun family lives. It’s the family business — a diminutive version of the “Funeral Home” where Bruce, the show’s troubled father figure, sometimes works when he’s not teaching high school English or trying to have relationships with with underaged boys. Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s Tony-winning memory-musical takes place in a rarely (but sweetly) fun world where death’s always near, and love is something you sift for like an archaeologist working through the rubble of generations.

A strong and convincing ensemble cast sells a production where the stage pictures can want more life than the graphic fiction that inspired them — comic book images that should always be part of the Fun Home experience, somehow. Still, the cast gets to the heart of a show that actor Stephen Huff described as being about a, “fragmented self that's searching for some kind of wholeness.” Like Huff said, in an interview with The Flyer, "At the end of the show, you finally have all three of the Alisons together, singing in unison and harmony. It's this self-integration that's so gorgeous and fulfilling.”

There’s really nothing I can add to that. It’s everything.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Murder, Incest, More Murder and a Fun Home: Weekend Theater Roundup!

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 2:07 PM

Stupid Fucking Bird - BILL SIMMERS
  • Bill Simmers
  • Stupid Fucking Bird
This is an abbreviated, "Your theater writer's just about to go on vacation," version of a regular roundup. The long and the short of the matter: It's a great weekend for theater fans in Memphis and here's why...

Theatre Memphis hosts the dysfunctional Weston family of August: Osage County (Review here)
August Osage County
  • August Osage County
Jitney, August Wilson's terrific portrait of the alternative economy is onstage at Hattiloo. (Review here)
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Shakespeare is well represented in Shelby Co. this weekend.

Iago torments Othello at TheatreWorks
New Moon's Othello
  • New Moon's Othello
And a Tempest blows into Germantown Community Theatre.
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Stupid Fucking Bird continues its run at The Circuit Playhouse


And a highly anticipated Tony-winning musical comes to Playhouse on the Square — Fun Home.

' If music festival's not your thing this is a great weekend to see what area theaters are serving up. Hard to go wrong. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Family Bile: Theatre Memphis hosts the Westons of August: Osage County

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2018 at 12:42 PM

August Osage County
  • August Osage County
A little Clapton goes a long way for me, so when I walk out of the theater after a production of August: Osage County — an American family drama that’s all T.S. Elliot up front; Derek and the Dominos in back — I don’t hear ol’ Slow Hand’s signature guitar cutting through the piano swells. I hear something else entirely. I hear a verse from one of the most famous musicals in history sung in the caustic yet familiar voices of the South Park gang:

“We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand!
And when we say
Yeeow! A-yip-i-o-e-ay!
We're only sayin'
You're doin' fine, Oklahoma!
Oklahoma, O.K” 

So tell me Oscar Hammerstein, what if it’s just land? What if there’s nothing grand about it? What if the great plains aren’t a great geographic feature but a terrible existential condition — “like the blues”? Or a horror-movie curse resulting from too many white men’s estates being built over the spot where a native culture was buried?

Can’t help it, it’s just what Tracy Letts’ grand pastiche of the American family tragedy does to me. Standing tall on the shoulders of Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, Tennessee Williams and the women in Shakespeare’s King Lear, this Pulitzer-winning story of a death in the Weston family, forced reunion, and the inevitable struggle to reclaim order and tradition, all take place in the shadow of one unrepeated moment of true greatness. It’s a bitter, withering comedy about bitterness, withering, and a world that ends with whimpering not a bang. Theatre Memphis’ neatly crafted production gets a lot right, but suffers from pacing issues and fuzzy character development.

Beverly Weston was a cowboy poet — a rugged creature of the West and raging aesthete all in one package — a one-hit-wonder whose first and only book made him a superstar. He was hopeless at the end, living in his library and past glory. The only contact we have with Beverly before he takes his plunge into the great unknown is the job interview where he hires a Native-American housekeeper and charges her to not just cook and clean, but to live in the house like it was hers. Seems the old douche, having glimpsed the end of the world, couldn’t resist an opportunity to disrupt things with a poetic flourish.

Bev drinks. His wife takes pills and dances spasmodically to old Clapton records. She has a foul, slurring mouth and her foul, slurring mouth has cancer. Instead of dividing the family estate into three parts between the daughters, she’s keeping everything but the old used furniture. Plans to make a blast of her final chapter with nice new things, songs with a beat, and a lot of prescription drugs.
Two of the daughters abandoned Osage County. The eldest followed her (soon to be separated) college professor husband when he got an offer he couldn’t refuse. The youngest chased a fantasy of romance and let the winds blow her all the way to Florida, where she’s met the man of her dreams — a sleazy businessman, serial husband, and compulsive pedophile.
The middle kid stayed home and took care of everybody but herself until, very recently she decided to start over in New York with her first cousin, and the true love of her life.
From the isolated patriarch to the rebellious and vulnerable teen, there’s not much originality in the plot. We’ve encountered all these characters and situations before. We’ve seen every piece of this puzzle in other plays and works of fiction. What’s special is how Letts stitches it all together while pushing the characters in his story of American collapse, to the brink of parody and dark farce.

Director Jerry Chipman gets some great performances from his supporting cast. Matthew Hamner is almost too good as the show’s smarmy pedo who comes on like a best pal, and Gabriella Gonzalez is just as convincing as his intended teenage target. As the youngest of the Weston daughters, Emily F. Chateau is as fragile as a glass unicorn and seems as likely to cut you, if broken. Emily Peckham is the embodiment of good old gal zest, Sarah Solarez epitomizes patience in the face of an exploding family volcano, and Greg Boller is convincing as a college professor trying to do right by the family he wronged.

The ensemble play’s more central characters never seem quite as focused or finely crafted and its herky-jerky pacing sometimes made the three-hour show a bit of an endurance test. It’s a test that’s still worth taking.

August: Osage County arrived in 2008, and its “rot in the heartland” themes reflected an especially cynical moment in American history. Today, as we wrestle with the meaning of greatness, and grandness, and the land we belong to, this show, overstuffed as it is with marital infidelity, incest, child molestation, fibs, lies, falsehoods and fucking Clapton, seems almost quaint.


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Friday, April 27, 2018

August: Osage County, Jitney, and Stupid F**king Bird: Weekend Theater Roundup

Posted By on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 4:36 PM

August Osage County
  • August Osage County
Memphis musical fans despair! I have no comfort for you this week. (Unless you want to take a quick trip to DeSoto County to catch the closing weekend of Camelot at DFT). On the other hand, tragedy and comedy lovers have some great choices.

August: Osage County
has a bit of everything for everybody: marital infidelity, incest, child molestation, Eric Clapton records, fibs, lies, falsehoods, etc. But in spite of the unsavory ingredients, this dish comes together like apple pie — crusty, sweet at the center, and full of spice.

Set in Oklahoma during a blazing hot summer just before and after the drowning suicide of the Weston family patriarch, Tracy Letts' Pulitzer-winning drama August: Osage County plays out like a middle-class echo of one of Sam Shepard's savage family plays with a pinch of King Lear folded in. Letts' breezy dialogue and ability to find screwball humor and slapstick in dark and realistic events makes him unique among playwrights.
Stupid Fucking Bird - BILL SIMMERS
  • Bill Simmers
  • Stupid Fucking Bird
Mixing clever adaptation with bits of improv Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird has earned a reputation for transcending its title profanity to pay reasonable tribute to Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.

Love? Art? Adulthood? — IT'S ALL SO DISAPPOINTING. And sometimes, it's awfully funny.

August Wilson's rarely produced work, Jitney, is a play that merits mass-revival. Written before Uber was either a noun or a verb, the play looks into the lives of gypsy cab drivers in in Pittsburgh's Hill district, where proper taxis refused to travel. It's a story about life in America's alternative economy, legacy, and what a struggle it can be to hold on to anything, let alone pass it down.

This script probably merits mass revival. Definitely worth a peek. 
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