Southern Writers’ Theater presents the Public Theatre of Kentucky
Feb. 26-28 at the Darkhorse Theater
Last November, Southern Writers’ Theater (SWT) artistic director Jaz Dorsey took a trip up to Bowling Green, Ky., where he viewed a Public Theatre of Kentucky (PTK) production of Fuddy Meers, an off-the-wall yet serious-minded comedy by David Lindsay-Abaire. Impressed with the script (Lindsay-Abaire is a pretty hot commodity these days), Dorsey also thought the company did a solid job with the materialso much so that he hatched a scheme to bring the show down to Nashville. While Dorsey maintained relations with the PTK cast and production team, his producing associate for this venture, Susan Howe, set about securing a performance venue and set in motion an advertising plan. Modest dream becomes reality this weekend, when Fuddy Meers makes its local premiere at the Darkhorse Theater for four performances.
“Fuddy Meers is one of the most brilliant plays I have ever seen,” says Dorsey, a playwright and director who relocated to Nashville in 1999 after a few years on the New York theater scene. His company has performed its own selection of offbeat plays and musicals in the recent past, and, as a free-lancer, Dorsey directed a well-received local production of Torch Song Trilogy at the Darkhorse in June 2002. “Rebecca Spiers, an actress who has worked with us previously, was in the PTK show, so we went up to see it. I returned two nights later because I was still in a state of reaction to the script and needed to see it again.”
Lindsay-Abaire, a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Juilliard School’s Playwriting Program, has received serious attention in the past five years for a series of imaginative comedies, among them History Lesson, How We Talk in South Boston and Snow Angel. The author is currently adapting Kimberly Akimbo, which garnered various awards and prizes, into a screenplay for Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks. But it was Fuddy Meers that first put Lindsay-Abaire on the theatrical map, after it premiered at Manhattan Theater Club in the fall of 1999. Following a subsequent commercial remounting, the play has received more than 100 other productions around the country and abroad, has been translated into several languages, and is currently being developed into a motion picture by producers Jonathan Weisgal and Sarah Jessica Parker.
“Since leaving New York, I have only seen one production which seemed to speak to my feelings about the theater, and that is PTK’s production of Fuddy Meers,” says Dorsey. “The script will affect permanently one’s perception of the mundane world. In addition, the PTK actors were obviously delighted to be onstage with one another. I also could tell that they were frustrated with their short run and the limited attendance which Bowling Green provides. Initially, I invited the company down to Nashville to perform a few scenes at the Gas Lite Lounge’s cabaret venue. Then Susan stepped in and moved the project into a more commercial mind-set.”
Theater audiences who like their comedy on the loopy but sharp-edged side will probably best appreciate the play’s roller-coaster ride of intrigue, as a young woman named Claire struggles to regain her fractured memory. Amnesia for Claire is a lot less glamorous than it is for, say, soap-opera characters. She wakes up one morning remembering nothing of her pastor even of the day before. Then she is kidnapped by a mysterious limping man and an ex-convict with a foulmouthed hand puppet named Hinky-Binky. From there, playgoers are taken through a virtual hall of funhouse mirrors (thus, “fuddy meers”), where nothing is quite what it seems. PTK cast members working this zany premise include Joan Needham, Dirk May, Nathaniel Colburn, Christopher H. Cherry (who directed the production), John Keabler, Tova Shinall and Spiers.
Theater companies incur a certain risk when mounting performances for one weekend only. Without a second week to gather (hopefully) positive reviews and word-of-mouth buzz, SWT is forced to sink all its promotional efforts into an all-or-nothing gamble that it can generate sufficient interest to turn out theatergoers in strong enough numbers to pay the bills.
“We’re trying to create an event,” says co-producer Howe. “This was too good a show to leave up in Bowling Green. But also, this gives us a chance to establish Southern Writers’ Theater as a producing organization. And practicality aside, I felt the company should give Nashville the opportunity to see a funny contemporary play that might otherwise have passed us by for some time.”
SWT has scheduled a dress rehearsal at the Darkhorse for Feb. 25, to which it has invited key players from local media outlets, funding groups, government agencies and the theater and music community. Performances are Feb. 26-28. The artwork of Hermitage resident Ling Tee Hailey will hang in the Darkhorse lobby during the run.
For tickets, phone 599-6566, or visit online at www.ticketleap.com.
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