by Chris Davis
Let's all cross our fingers and hope that Theatre Memphis takes good care of itself this weekend and doesn't break a hip. This enduring organization—quite literally born in a stable— is pulling out the stops to celebrate its 90th birthday. There's a concert by Kallen Esperian on Friday evening and dancing into the late bright. Then There are kid's events on Saturday afternoon.
But what does all this shindigging mean for people who actually want to see a show? The choices are slimmer than usual to be sure, but there's still plenty to choose from.
I had mixed emotions about Look Away: A Civil War Zombie Tragedy. As first scripts go it's a better than average attempt by Memphis playwright's Zac Cunningham and Stephen Briner but it could be tighter, tenser, and more consistently acted. Still, it's an interesting change of pace for Memphis theatergoers.
Last week I recommended the Hattiloo theatre's ongoing production of the staple For Colored Girl's Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf but failed to mention that this ambitious young playhouse has almost always got more than one iron in the fire. Parent's may want to take kids to see Puppet Play an interactive theatre activity designed to exercise your exercise the imagination and encourage teamwork. Puppet Play starts at 11 a.m. but grownups may wish to come back at 8 p.m. to see Colored Girls/Rainbow or at 9 p.m. to attend the Chocolate Bar with "will sing for food" neo-Soul artist Chris10. For more information on all of these events click here.
So now we've covered parties, zombies, concerts and children's theater. But, as Ron Popeil might say, that's not all. Those looking for a somewhat meatier theatrical may want to venture over to Rhodes College's McCoy Theatre to take in a performance of Bernard Pomerance's provocative drama The Elephant Man. Forget what you know about David Lynch's uncharacteristically literal film version of Pomerance's script. The Elephant Man is a beautiful and tragic experiment pitting faith against science as it explores humanity's relationship with ideas of normalcy and deviation. It tells the horrible story of freak show star John Merrick whose deformities were so extreme he was considered indecent.
This production of The Elephant Man has been brought to the stage by director Leigh Ann Evans who also directed last season's production of Neil LaBute's Fat Pig. It's almost a shame these two very different but similarly themed works can't be performed in rep as part of the same season.
Rhodes shows start at 7:30 p.m. rather than 8:00. Even pesky theater critics who should know better sometimes forget about this anomaly and show up late and out of luck. Don't be like a pesky theater critic!