Review: The Very Trippy EDDIE GOES TO POETRY CITY At Catastrophic Theatre

You won’t find a more technically stunning or well acted show in Houston right now.

EDDIE GOES TO POETRY CITY is a bit of a revival for the Catastrophic Theatre Company. Houston audiences first witnessed it as an Infernal Bridegroom Production way back in 1996, and decades ago it starred a young Jim Parsons (BIG BANG fame!) and a femme fatale version of Tamarie Cooper (musical comedy queen of Houston!). And guess what? It was directed (as is this one) by Greg Dean, and looked somewhat similar to what we see here today in front of us twenty-seven years later. Except this production is slicker, glossier, and dare I say? More mature and sure-handed. Also, it remains equally confounding as an absurd piece of theater from Richard Foreman. I still don’t one hundred percent get it, but man did I have fun watching Eddie’s journey to somewhere where “words melt.”

The show is directed by Greg Dean, and I will admit I have had an intellectual crush on his theatrical mind for a long time (maybe twenty-seven years). His large sexy brain goes to places few other artists would dare, and POETRY CITY is one of those destinations. The play itself is an eighty minute long puzzle of words, a nonsensical dreamscape, and a Freudian therapy session all in one zippy package. It is rhythmic, super cool, funny, but also utterly frustrating. When you think you get it, they whip out a skull painting you thought was burned by God fifteen minutes ago and the ducks start quacking again. It is a mess, but one that is irresistibly polished and presented in a slick vision.

Gabriel Regojo inhabits Eddie: a courageous actor who can somehow mine the emotions from this random mass that is probably all in his character’s head. Physically he’s masterful, and commands the stage whether in full suit or missing his pants. Jenna Morris and Karina Pal Montano-Bowers both make convincing femme fatales who tempt Eddie, mock Eddie, and get very sexual with Eddie at various times. They sport neo-noir costumes, and look like they stepped out of the director’s cut of BLADE RUNNER (the one without narration and with the unicorns). Noel Bowers is the “Doctor” who guides Eddie through all of this dadaist nonsense of subconscious streams and muddy phrases. He’s rakish and has a booming voice under a fetching fez and an ominous eye patch. And then there is Clarity Welch who is sometimes a duck (?), sometimes a blob, and sometimes God. She seems assured in her metaphysical confusion. And then over the very loud loudspeaker of the theater are the melodious tones of big brain Greg Dean who is billed as “THE VOICE.” Does he guide us or misdirect us? Does it matter? The acting ensemble is top-notch. They each throw themselves physically and mentally into this world, and seem to make sense of nonsense as they go along. They are asked to do the absurd, and none of them blink or blanche at the prospect.
he fantastical over the top set is credited in design to Greg Dean, and it comes complete with black railings, a fashionable catwalk, reams of office paper, an old time radio, various Rube Goldberg spinning wheels, flowers, and microphones the actors use randomly. The only problem with it, the entire thing is a bit much (probably in congruence with the script). There was one time Eddie was doing a monologue, and I couldn’t see his mouth… it was all blurred behind a black bar of the railing. Sound design from Tim Thomson and infamous multitasker Greg Dean is also immaculate. Hums, songs, bits of prose, all hang in the air constantly from first curtain to final bow. The show is sexy in every respect. Naughty passages, fetish inspired clothing, a set with a hard bed, and the hovering promise of ecstasy.
You won’t find a more technically stunning or well acted show in Houston right now. There is a lot to recommend EDDIE GOES TO POETRY CITY, but with one caveat. It will seem presentational and all stylistic performance rather than anything linear or narrative. If you love abstract or absurd theater you will be in heaven during your visit to Poetry City. If you long for a story that is clear cut and tells you how to feel? Sorry. Richard Foreman is a playwright who famously hates the conceit of traditional plays… their structure, their character devleopment, their insistence on making sense… and perhaps Greg Dean stands with him in solidarity. It is avant garde, it is edgy, and it is unexpected. But it is also a head scratcher and a challenge to watch. Do you like an adventure? Then Poetry City may be for you.
EDDIE GOES TO POETRY CITY runs through March 4th at the MATCH complex in Midtown. Times vary depending on the day of the week. I like to imagine it just keeps running around the clock, but alas… you are confined by the traditional concept of time.