Marsh Magic: ‘Memphis on My Mind’

Like how Memphis, Egypt sits on the river Nile, she points out, her Memphis is also on a river. Things move slowly. People and situations don’t really change – and when they do, it’s rarely for the better.

Rebecca Fisher - Memphis On My Mind
Rebecca Fisher stars in MEMPHIS ON MY MIND, an evening of theatre, barbeque, and blues, at The Marsh Berkeley, October 24 through November 23.
In Review

Memphis on My Mind

3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars - 'Worth a Look'
The Marsh Berkeley
Written and performed by Rebecca Fisher
Developed with and directed by Charlie Varon
themarsh.org
Review by
Rebecca Fisher - Memphis On My Mind
Rebecca Fisher stars in ‘Memphis On My Mind’, an evening of theatre, barbeque, and blues, at The Marsh Berkeley, October 24 through November 23.

If Manhattan is Woody Allen’s love letter to New York City, then Rebecca Fisher’s new work is her love letter to Memphis.

If Fisher’s name sounds familiar, it might be because she was just at the Marsh directing Mark Kenward’s Nantucket. Nantucket is as full of the New England shore as it is the growing tragedy that drives the story forward. If Kenward’s story is carried on mists over the New England coast, Fisher’s Memphis on my Mind is redolent with the still, odoriferous southern air, and the smell of things growing old. Like how Memphis, Egypt sits on the river Nile, she points out, her Memphis is also on a river. Things move slowly. People and situations don’t really change – and when they do, it’s rarely for the better.

Fisher’s slight frame, animated features, and incisively articulated movements reassure at the outset you’re not wasting your time here. In the very beginning, she romances her audience with a rapid series of one-killers about Memphis being a FedEx town, making it a  very unromantic center of national distribution whose  railroad tracks were a place where wealth and poverty collide. Her lines hit their target with an enviable precision, such as her one about Perkins being a step up from  Denny’s, but not quite Appleby’s.

However, you’re quickly aware that she’s more than just a series of clever lines. This one-woman show is populated with a handful of characters, so you start watching for the small gesture – a pursing of the lips or a flurry of hands popping in  a cassette tape  – that mark her transition from one character to the next. It’s in these spaces, where the magic happens, that you realize how good she really is.

This is Memphis, and Fisher takes pains to point out that it doesn’t share Knoxville’s redneck whiteness. Fisher  crosses boundaries, slipping first into the skin of  Sarah Mackey, the elderly black maid who raised her mother, and then into that of  Mackey’s son, who plays it so loose you know he’ll be another black male statistic. However, Fisher’s love of these characters feels more like going home – which is precisely what she’s doing. Responsibility politics are ultimately left on the curb.

Memphis on My Mind is not without flaws. Parts need to be trimmed, and others developed further. Hopefully, this isn’t the last we see of this piece because I want to see those people again.

Just like Nantucket, Memphis on my Mind comes with dinner. Options include everything from southern fried chicken and catfish from Grégoire. The Marsh is a place where things grow. You’ll want to spend some time here.

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Cy Ashley Webb
Cy spent the ‘80’s as a bench scientist, the tech boom doing intellectual property law, and the first decade of the millennium, aspiring to be the world’s oldest grad student at Stanford where she is interested in political martyrdom. Presently, she enjoys writing for Stark Insider and the SF Examiner, hanging out at Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and participating in various political activities. Democracy is not a spectator sport! Cy is a SFBATCC member.
  • Guest

    Hi. I’m a journalist in Memphis who found this story through a Google search. Perkins is the company which owns Marie Calenders. I figured West Coast readers would be more familiar with that chain.