The year-old Threepenny Theatre Company (3PT) is to be applauded even before the lights come up on its no-frills production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The young company has embraced its name and accepted the aesthetic challenge described at the beginning of Brecht's Threepenny Opera to create theater "conceived with magnificence only beggars could imagine, and at a price even beggars can afford." By staging pay-what-you-can events propped up by crowdfunding and taking an empty-space approach to the work, 3PT has instantly distinguished itself as being unique among local performance troupes.
Its current production at the Evergreen Theatre has transition issues, but it is top-full of interesting, and, in some cases, thrilling performance choices. To that end, this rewarding but too static Macbeth feels more like a collection of nifty scene studies than a cohesive piece of theater.
Macbeth is a nexus for ideas about ambition, addiction, or actual demonic possession, and the great thrill for audiences comes from watching the characters fall apart under the weight of all these forces they thought they could manage. To that end, and for all of its smarts, this Macbeth wants to be an all-out horror show but is restrained at every turn, and nothing feels uncontrolled.
The thing about working in an empty space is that you have to fill it. If not with elaborate sets and lighting, then with ideas. 3PT is onto something, but they've still got some decorating to do.
Through January 19th
Voices of the South isn't known for staging light, romantic comedies, but Yellow Light is exactly that, and with just enough junk-punching and pants-crapping to even keep guys who hate romantic comedies giggling. The new play by Andy Pederson is introduced like some dating-themed version of the Twilight Zone: Between "stop" and "full speed ahead," there is a place of cautious recklessness where confusion reigns.
Yellow Light is a formal problem asking how the world's worst date could potentially become the start of something beautiful. The bare-bones gag-fest benefits by some dudely performances by Wesley Barnes and Stephen Garrett, but director Brian Fruits deserves extra props for pairing tall Claire Hayner opposite tiny Alexis Grace. Comedy gold.
Through January 26th
Ekundayo Bandele brought One Monkey Don't Stop No Show to the Hattiloo in response to patrons who told him that sometimes they just want to go to the theater to laugh. For the most part, Don Evans' giddy story about a not-so-simple country girl who inherits an urban nightclub delivers, as it juxtaposes the life of a middle-class minister with life a little closer to the street.
One Monkey is yet another screwball romance in the spirit of Kaufman and Hart. One-liners zing, porn gets passed around, and actors tumble from a too-tiny bed. But this play is best when the actors break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience.
I tend to disagree with the original complaint, having found a lot of laughter at Hattiloo over the years, but sometimes it is nice to pull out all the stops.
Through January 26th
We see Godzilla before the first note is sung and know right away that Opera Memphis isn't staging your mother's version of The Mikado. That said, I'm not entirely sure that Ned Canty's fun pop culture-inspired take on the Gilbert & Sullivan classic lives up to its monster promise.
Make no mistake: I like the Germantown Performing Arts Center, but I want to see this Mikado at a more intimate space, where scenic design can be complete, and a dense, candy-colored lighting plot might do the sometimes garish anime and video game-inspired costumes some real justice. And where I don't have to break focus to read titles for a book that's written in English.
Things were still gelling at the final dress rehearsal, but cameos by Pikachu and Hello Kitty are worth the price of admission.
Through January 18th