Nashville Scene 12-10-2008

"Reyland grants his characters crackling, natural dialogue, and the two actors up the stakes with alternating power and poignance."

- Martin Brady, the Nashville Scene


The Right Stuff

By Martin Brady
Published on December 10, 2008 at 10:34am - The Nashville Scene

Jim Reyland's restaging of his 1999 play Stuff features two of Nashville's most important actors of the recent era, Barry Scott and Matthew Carlton. But the taut, two-handed character study is almost overshadowed by the new digs housing Reyland's Writer's Stage production company.

An abandoned accounting office next to a car dealership at the corner of 10th and Charlotte will be Reyland's—to do with what he will—for approximately 18 months. A temporary gift from Gulch-savvy developers Steve Armistead and Bill Barkley, the facility required plenty of grunt work to become theater-ready. But Reyland and friends successfully gutted and cleaned the dusty joint, installed lighting and sound equipment and decorated enough of the place to add an artsy ambience, with a main foyer and hallways that will display paintings by local artists. Reyland plans to stage more of his own original works here, but theater companies looking for a performance venue might also want to check into its availability. (There's ample free parking too.)

Meanwhile, the cluttered stage that is the setting for Stuff is all too appropriate for Reyland's tale of two disconnected ex-GIs, who set about to clean up an old warehouse but end up revealing a great deal about themselves. Milton and Bobby cover the mundane (SEC football) as well as the meaty (sexual issues, discrimination) in their joshing Southern style; then things take an intense turn when the two start to recall their days in the Army.

Reyland's updates to the script include moments when his characters break the fourth wall with brief asides to the audience. The essential tale is intact, however, with only the references to Ed Asner and Carol Channing sounding a little more dated than they might have a decade ago when the piece first debuted at The Belcourt.

As for Scott and Carlton, they're in fine form, creating full-bodied portrayals of rather lost but certainly not hopeless figures. Reyland grants his characters crackling, natural dialogue, and the two actors up the stakes with alternating power and poignance. Stuff runs through Dec. 20 at the venue at 1008 Charlotte Ave.