FEVERISH YET FUN
Country house party goes haywire in Coward farce
Jerry Chipman, who is directing “Hay Fever” at Theatre Memphis, promises that it will be “witty and fun, a show about a weekend of catastrophic things going haywire and not a serious moment in it.”
The show, which opens this weekend, comes with a solid pedigree, both in playwright (Noel Coward) and in a talented cast that knows how to pull off not so much a comedy of manners but “a comedy about people with no manners,” Chipman says.
The 1925 farce was reportedly based on a weekend Coward spent with a highly theatrical family who, Chipman says, managed to insult, humiliate and ignore their guests. The playwright wrote it in three days — it was a smash and has turned out to be the most often revived and performed of Coward’s plays.
The story takes place in an English country house presided over by matriarch Judith (Christina Wellford Scott), recently retired from the stage and terribly full of herself. Her husband, David (Greg Fletcher), is a novelist who is similarly inclined. Their two grown children (Lena Wallace Black and Gabe Beutel-gunn) take after the folks. Each of the four has invited a guest for the weekend without consulting the others.
Chipman says the hilarity that ensues derives from the “thinly veiled romantic intentions” that precipitated the invitations, which “go haywire when no one is attracted to the person they invited.”
The play “is all about style,” Chipman notes, “so you need people who can handle Coward’s language.” The guests in the cast are Kinon Keplinger, Melissa Walker, Evan Mccarley and Danielle Carr. Barely tolerating the entire event is Martha Graber as Clara, the maid.
“It’s such a good ensemble,” Chipman says. “And they are running in and out throughout the play.”
The other stylistic aspects will be seen in the set and costumes, something that Theatre Memphis does particularly well.
“There’s a gorgeous twostory set,” Chipman says, “and some stunning costumes. It’s set in 1925, which is also the year of the last season of ‘Downton Abbey,’ where you saw the men in black tuxedoes and women wearing acres of chiffon. It’s a handsome show to look at.”
“Hay Fever” runs April 29-May 15 at Theatre Memphis, 630 Perkins Ext. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $25; $15 students with valid ID and youth. Info: theatrememphis.org and 901-682-8323.
senior citizens, students, military with ID, $10 children under age 18. Advisory: strong language. 901-7264656. playhouseonthesquare.org
“Fiddler on the Roof”: Presented by Stage Door Productions. 7 p.m. Friday-saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Thursday. Other shows at 7 p.m. May 6-7; final show 2:30 p.m. May 8 at The Salvation Army Kroc Center, 800 East Parkway. All shows are “pay what you can.” Tickets sold at the door an hour before each performance. Call 901729-8029. stagedoormemphis.org
THE BLISS OF BISS
The IRIS Orchestra again welcomes pianist Jonathan Biss, who has performed in town several times over a 20-year-plus span.
He was 14 in 1994 when he played Bach, Beethoven and Chopin in the Artists Ascending series and he returned in 1996 withthememphissymphonyorchestra. In 2006, he was featured soloist with IRIS, performing the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21. In 2008, it was Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 with the MSO.
This weekend, he’s commandeering the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, which hints at his love for Ludwig. He’s working on a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, and he wrote “Beethoven’s Shadow,” the first Amazon Kindle Single by a classical musician.
Biss has been a member of the faculty of his alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music, since 2010. There he led the school’s first massive open online course to a virtual classroom of 51,000 students last season.
Also on the IRIS program is Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1, “Classical,” an homage to Haydn and Mozart. Ending the concert, and the 2015-16 IRIS season, is Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 1, which he finished before his 16th birthday.
IRIS Orchestra with pianist Jonathan
“Hay Fever”: Noel Coward’s farcical comedy of manners. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. FridaysSaturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through May 15 at Theatre Memphis (Lohrey Stage), 630 Perkins Ext. Tickets: $25; $15 for students and youths age 11 and under. 901-6828323. theatrememphis.org “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet”: A coming-of-age story about a young gay man in the South. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through May 8. Tickets: $26 ($22 matinee). Hattiloo Biss, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Germantown Performing Arts Center, 1801 Exeter. Tickets: $45-$65 Saturday, $40-$60 Sunday. Info: irisorchestra.com, gpacweb.com and 901-751-7500.
THE SECRET OF MARCUS
Hattiloo Theatre is staging the third of Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s fascinating Brother/ Sister trilogy, “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet.”
The interconnected plays, including “In the Red and Brown Water” and “The Brothers Size,” vividly show Mccraney’s unusual storytelling style, which gets under the skins of the characters’ lives. There is something impressionistic in these tales, with poetry and songs making a storyline that is often dreamlike. But they are also beautifully and carefully rendered.
In “Marcus,” the young protagonist is trying to understand
Theatre, 37 S. Cooper. 901-5250009. hattiloo.org
“The Offering”: In 1970s New York, a fight for sexual and psychological dominance takes four people to heights unforeseen in this Bluff City Tri-art Theatre Company and J.E.T. Entertainment production. 8 p.m. Friday-saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Theatreworks, 2085 Monroe. $20; $15 senior citizens (age 60-plus), students and military with ID. 901-946-6140. bluffcitytriarttheatre.zohosites. com his sexuality and trying to figure out why everybody is reacting the way they do to someone being “sweet,” a euphemism for gay.
Into the mix are dreams about his father and a looming storm all taking place in a fictional Louisiana town in, as the playwright says, the “distant present.”
Cameron Yates is terrific as Marcus, capturing all the angst of a teenager trying to figure things out. The ensemble cast is strong, filling out the story with distinctive personalities who buffet Marcus along his journey.
The set is spare — just some different levels to perform on, and that often is the most effective way to tell the story.
“Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet” runs through May 8 at Hattiloo Theatre, 37 S. Cooper. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18-$28. Info: hattiloo.org or 901-525-0009.
“Seussical Jr.”: Presented by Desoto Family Theatre. 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $12. The Theatre at Landers Center, 4560 Venture Drive. 662-470-2131.
“A Streetcar Named Desire”: 8 p.m. Friday-saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Germantown Community Theatre, 3037 Forest Hill-irene, Germantown. $24; $17 senior citizens, students; $12 ages 12 and under and Germantown municipal students. Call 901-453-7447. gctcomeplay.org
The maid played by Martha Graber (top) is not amused by the antics of the Bliss family (seated, from left), played by Lena Wallace Black, Christina Wellford Scott and Gabe Beutel-gunn in “Hay Fever” at Theatre Memphis.