Hoodoo Love by Katori Hall opens this week on the Hattiloo Theatre's Katori Hall stage. That has a nice ring to it.
"The thing I'm most excited about is that this is a Katori Hall play," says Hoodoo Love director Brooke Sarden. "And this is Memphis. And she has this fantastic way of telling stories that are incredibly detailed and imaginative about people you know."
Hall, the Memphis-born, internationally acclaimed artist for whom the Hattiloo's 44-seat second stage is named, is best known for her plays The Mountaintop, a historical fiction about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the last night of his life, and Hurt Village, an urban fable about love, death, and the last days of a notorious Memphis housing project. Hoodoo Love is a much earlier work that started out as a college project and was eventually presented by New York's Cherry Lane Theatre in 2007.
Like Hall's better known plays, Hoodoo Love is set in Memphis. Toulou, a would-be chanteuse has run away from a tragic family circumstance in Mississippi looking for a better, or at least a more poetic, life. She finds work as a wash woman, begins to establish herself as a singer, and enlists the aid of Candy Lady, a conjure woman, in order to secure the love of a traveling musician named Ace. It's the 1930s. The Depression is raging. Life can be brutal.
Hall wrote a clutch of original blues for Hoodoo Love, which Sarden describes as being more of a "play with music" than a musical.
"We've tried to keep everything as authentic as possible," she says. "So it's less like a musical and more like something you might find in the right neighborhoods in Memphis, if you just walk up on the front porch."