Capsule Stage Reviews: The New Century, Our Late Night, Speech and Debate

Once again the original thinkers at Catastrophic Theatre are proving themselves to be the masters of all things strange, disquieting and ultimately mesmerizing. They have invited us into the bizarre, funny, smart and breathtaking world of Wallace Shawn’s 1975 cocktail party of a play Our Late Night. Performed against a lovely set designed by Greg Dean (he’s also a cast member) that’s filled with muted, mushroom-colored walls and elegant artwork, the story follows a small group of revelers through a night of highballs and honest conversation unlike any you’ve ever heard, unless you’ve been to hell and back. Dolled up in suits, silk and shiny shoes, these four men (played by Dean, Jeff Miller, Troy Schulze and Kyle Sturdivant) and three women (played by Carolyn Houston Boone, Mikelle Johnson and Karina Pal Montaño-Bowers) drift about the small party clinking their ice cubes against crystal while engaging in what should be small talk, but in fact turns into the secret horrors of the human condition. Sturdivant takes full command of the stage as the pompous Tony, who tells a long, hypnotic tale of his savage and unsatisfying sex life. Schulze makes a wonderful creep wearing his nasty little mustache and drooling over the women, who tell him their dark and violent desires. Miller and Dean both exude a kind of avuncular ooze as they wrap themselves around different women and talk about all variety of inappropriate sexual thoughts. And the women are equally odd as they divulge everything from a constellation of Freudian freakiness from Boone, to masochistic desire from Montaño-Bowers, to a vapid, sadistic iciness from Johnson. And somehow much of this is horrifyingly hilarious — when it’s not raising the hairs on the back of your neck. Directed by Jason Nodler with the dangerous and exacting patience of a snake, this show is both intellectually stunning and emotionally unnerving as it snatches evil out from its hiding place and holds it up to the dazzling light.