American life is in free fall, at least according to award-winning playwright, Lisa D’Amour in Detroit, running at Catastrophic Theatre through Oct. 18. D’Amour’s romp through middle class suburbia backyard life has garnered rave reviews in this excellent production. Catastrophic veteran actor and playwright Troy Schulze directs with a cast including such noted local actors as Sara Jo Dunstan, George Parker, Jeff Miller, Misha Hutchings and Jim Tommaney. A revolving set by Kevin Holden adds yet another reason to see this production.
We’re suckers for the Catastrophic Theatre and this September one of Houston’s coolest theater companies is bringing one of the funniest and harshest American plays of the last few years to Houston audiences. Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit, a Pulitzer prize finalist and Obie Award winner, is a play about two neighboring couples, which starts innocently enough with the two couples getting together for a backyard barbecue. In the second act however, the barbecue takes a very, very dark turn. It’s a play that grapples with what it means to be a neighbor in the 21st century and questions the future of the middle-class. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s ridiculous and we’ll bet the Catastrophic Theatre’s production will not disappoint. The play opens Sept. 26 and runs through Oct. 18.
Back in Houston, Jason Nodler, co-artistic director of Catastrophic Theatre, has some similar ideas about Marie and Bruce. The Wallace Shawn play about a bad marriage is a kind of ironic anniversary celebration for the 20-year collaboration between artistic directors Nodler and Tamarie Cooper. He directed and she starred in the play in 1999. But why preform it Nov. 22-Dec. 14, when we should be nearing our apex of joy and good cheer?
“We always try to provide an alternative to holiday shows; while this is not a proper ‘Holiday Play,’ in a very unusual way Marie and Bruce is indeed a holiday play,” explains Nodler. “The holidays are, for many people, a time of stress or sadness. And for some, even when surrounded by friends or family, the holidays can be a lonely time. Marie and Bruce is about a difficult marriage that will probably last forever, and so we feel it might be cathartic for people who have those difficult responses to the holidays, whether they say so or not.”
Wallace Shawn’s work was rarely seen in Houston until Catastrophic Theatre mounted their critically acclaimed production of Shawn’s Our Late Night, followed by the Houston premiere of the writer’s masterwork, The Designated Mourner. This November, it’s Marie and Bruce, Shawn’s 1979 portrait of marital misery.
Their track record with rhymster Mickle Maher is equally satisfying, and includes The Strangerer, Spirits to Enforce, and this month, the world premiere of The Pine, a play Maher created especially for Catastrophic, funded by a grant from The MAP Fund
Tamarie Cooper has been entertaining summer theater audiences for over a decade with her hilarious spectacles mixing dance, music and outrageous theater, sourcing her own life as material. She took a rehearsal break to chat with A + C editor Nancy Wozny about the show.
If you missed The Catastrophic Theatre’s production of Mickle Maher’s There Is a Happiness That Morning Is, don’t stress, it’s coming back, May 10-27 at their new digs on the docks. Catastrophic has quite an impressive track record with Maher, starting with The Strangerer, followed by Spirits to Enforce. In the fall, Catastrophic will premiere The Pine, a Maher play created especially for Catastrophic, funded from a grant from The MAP Fund.
The original script by Catastrophic member Miki Johnson takes great delight in digging through the garbage bin of the American psyche, finding that combination of ephemeral trash that could tell a stranger so much about who we are and how we live without ever actually peaking in through the window.
Johnson’s nonlinear script, a series of monologues, mixes and matches the flat metaphors, the touchstone archetypes, the cringe-inducing cliches that flood the media that flood our lives as if they were placeholders for our true selves. Though this method can at times seem no more inspired than its uninspired sources, moments later it will have you question if that’s not the crux of the matter itself — the insignificance of that tiny piece of plastic we throw away as compared with the incomprehensible vastness of the dump.