"Sunset Limited" & "Clybourne Park": Tips & Tidbits for the Theatrically Inclined

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Our Own Voice is best known for producing original, often experimental plays that explore topics related to mental health and healthcare, although the tenacious company occasionally branches out to tackle other subjects. At first glance, a production of Cormac McCarthy’s Sunset Limited seems like a major departure from business as usual. But in many ways it's a perfect fit.

McCarthy’s play-like novel is a dramatic dialogue between an educated, cynical white man who tried to kill himself and the happy God-fearing black man who saved him once but can’t keep saving him. It is, in a fairly literal sense, the condition of depression having a conversation with itself: knowing that there are coping mechanisms, and things that get other people through the day, and not being able to use that knowledge in any way.

As a piece of theater SL is problematic. It’s more angst than action and too parochial to owe much to Beckett. The New York Times’ Jason Zinoman got it about right when he described the work as, “ A poem in celebration of death.”

For now my issues with theatricality are being overwhelmed by my excitement about experiencing McCarthy’s rich language as performed—or read at least— by two of Memphis’ finest: Ron Gephart and TC Sharpe.

Sharpe and Gephart
  • Sharpe and Gephart

A staged reading of Sunset Limited, directed by Chad Allen Barton opens September 27 and runs through October 12.

Treating Lorraine Hansberry's landmark drama A Raisin in the Sun like a prequel in order to explore modern attitudes toward integration and gentrification is brilliant. And that’s exactly what happens in Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer-winning drama that’s receiving its regional premiere at Playhouse on the Square this week under the direction of Stephen Hancock.

You don’t have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Raisin to appreciate this show, but it helps. Clybourn Park opens with scenes that occur just before the opening of Hansberry's play, then moves us 50-years into the future. The once all-white neighborhood pioneered by the African-American Younger family is now primarily black… but gentrifying.

Hancock has assembled a cast of heavy hitters: Michael Gravois, Mary Buchignani, John Maness, and Claire Kolheim, fresh from her big Ostrander wins for The Color Purple.

Dates and ticket information, here.

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