Catastrophic Theatre's renewed production of last year's Hunter Gatherers is a welcome dose of humor to help get us through the long, hot days of summer ... Shelley Calene-Black and Troy Schulze give wonderful life to characters who could otherwise easily be crowded out by the wild plotting and ranting of the hunters (Greg Dean and Amy Bruce) ... Dean takes his role with visible caveman glee and Bruce, who was in last summer's run as well, knows exactly how to pull off her scheming dissatisfaction ... For a play that begins with the slaughtering of a baby lamb, you can guess it's got a lot to live up to, and it does.
To its enormous credit, the play will leave each audience member unraveling a different thread of thought by the end of the night, but there is no doubt that all will agree on the manifold virtues of its execution. Catastrophic's production of The Designated Mourner matches the company's dedication to challenging pieces with a pure distillation of craft. With an eye towards subtlety, the intimate staging and the actors' engaging performances turn an unquestionably heady script about privilege and contradiction into something personal and moving.
Catastrophic's staging is immaculate, from the absolutely gorgeous set design to the seamless lighting changes and the evocative but hard-to-place music. There are moments when the scene changes seem completely and effortlessly cinematic ... Despite the decades-old tales of Our Late Night's offensiveness, it doesn't come across that Shawn is trying to directly provoke the audience with in-your-face assertions of truth and hypocrisy. Rather the script seems to present a way that we could talk about these strange parts of our psyches but that we don't - perhaps a way that we would talk about them if we thought we'd be understood.
You need to go see this play. Anybody who takes the time to invest a bit of themselves digging into the arts scene in Houston knows that there is a veritable treasure trove of secret gems waiting to be found - often right in front of our faces.Life Is Happy & Sad is definitely one of those secret gems ... Houstonist found ourselves exhaling deeply ... heart beating fast in our chest, satisfied and exhilarated and convinced that we had stumbled across greatness upon this small parcel of the Houston artistic landscape.