Will Call: What's on Stage in Memphis this Week?


You know the Buckaroo Banzai catchphrase, “No Matter where you go, there you are?” There’s a lot of the sentiment in Tennessee Williams’s drama Orpheus Descending. The original film adaptation was called The Fugitive Kind, and its spirit is beautifully captured in Merle Haggard classics like "The Running Kind" and "Lonesome Fugitive." But Williams’ musically-inspired drama name-checks blues icons like Leadbelly, and and bumps and grinds to older, slinkier rhythms.

Williams once described his version of the Orpheus myth as the story of a, “wild-spirited boy,” named Val who wears a snakeskin jacket and makes his living with a guitar. Val wanders into, “a conventional community of the South and creates the commotion of a fox in a chicken coop.” Underneath it all, according the the author, “it’s a play about unanswered questions that haunt the hearts of people and the difference between continuing to ask them...and the acceptance of prescribed answers that are not answers at all."

In other words, it's a play about race, sexual oppression, and how civilized and not-so-civilized folk talk about things we’re not supposed to talk about.

To whet your whistle for the New Moon Theatre Company’s opening weekend of Orpheus Descending, here’s a clip of Marlon Brando talking about his guitar.

Also opening this week:

“Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars, and at his heels,
Leashed in like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire
Crouch for employment.”
• Oh yeah, that’s the good stuff. Shakespeare’s Henry V is a multifaceted epic about politics, patriotism, friendship, loyalty, war, and it’s spoils. This production comes to us courtesy of Tennessee Shakespeare Company and the University of Memphis.

Den Nicholas Smith directs Together Alone for the Emerald Theatre Company. Together Alone’s about Bryan and Bill — if those are their real names — who hook up and talk about life and sex and death and things.

Everybody’s second-favorite orphan is back for more.


Yes, that’s right, dammit, I said, “more.” Oliver’s not quite Annie I suppose, even though he has a more compelling story, full of hardship, thievery, and gruel. This latest revival— a first-time production for Theatre Memphis, surprisingly — is directed by A Christmas Carol regular, Jason Spitzer, who, at this point, should know a thing about grubby industrial London.


• Peter and the Starcatcher at Circuit Playhouse: This deeply silly Peter Pan origin story is too glib by half and one of the most magical things you’re likely to see on stage anytime soon. It’s reviewed here.

The Starcatcher and Peter
  • The Starcatcher and Peter

 • The Wiz: There sure is a lot of homage and redux on this week’s list. This funk and soul-infused Wizard of Oz sold out before it opened, so tickets are scarce. But it you didn’t get tickets, don’t worry. This isn’t the Hattiloo’s best effort, and Season 11 is just around the corner. 
Off to see the Wizard.
  • Off to see the Wizard.

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