The holidays are a time of reassurance when we celebrate familiarity and comfort in all things, from food and drinks we consume to the entertainment we gobble up like sugar cookies and milk. It's the caroling time of year when area playhouses turn to beloved titles like A Christmas Carol, Peter Pan, or maybe even the Santaland Diaries for folks who prefer their cocoa on the bitter side. But the Tennessee Shakespeare Company isn't like other area theaters. The Bard-minded professional troupe has always gone its own way and, true to form, TSC has another kind of classic in mind for this season of giving — a widely celebrated, often misunderstood clown show penned in the wake of WWII, at the dawn of a frightening atomic age. Samuel Beckett's austere comedy Waiting For Godot is the 20th-century "bounded in a nutshell," as Shakespeare might say — a slapstick hymn to eternity in all its terrifying glory.
TSC's founding director Dan McCleary says he's wanted to produce Godot for years, but he waited for the right moment and the right group of people. "To work as a clown means that you feel everything very deeply, whether it's joy or loss," he says, considering what it takes to fill the ragged pants and ill-fitting shoes of Beckett's famous hobos Vladimir and Estragon, who, in the face of a random, sometimes malevolent-seeming world, turn to one another for affirmation and survival. "Clowns feel things very deeply, then in the next breath they let it go. So clowns have short-term memories.
"Out of extremes comes a play of tremendous compassion and understanding and inquiry," McCleary says, describing Godot as beautiful in timing and grace. "It's always struck me as a fine seasonal, holiday play. It's very funny."
Speaking of very funny, the J&K Cabaret is back starring Jenny Madden and Kim Justis. I've written a lot about this pair over the years, and about this show, which owes its origin to a very funny production of Parallel Lives.
Count on music, comedy, bigger comedy, and generous performances from two of the city's most gifted and committed entertainers.
A Christmas Carol is back at Theatre Memphis, Peter Pan's flying around Playhouse on the Square, andJunie B. Jonesis at Circuit. And Santaland Diaries too.