Review: THEY DO NOT MOVE Enthralls Audiences at The Catastrophic Theatre
…every performer has such strong and disarming performances that break the fourth wall and make you confront the realities that we live in.
On November 19th, I was invited to watch the world premiere of THEY DO NOT MOVE by Brian Jucha with the Catastrophic ensemble. I personally do not have much experience with absurdist theatre, so I was excited to get a taste of it from arguably the best theatre company for abstract and new works in Houston. When I first arrived at the theater, the theatre space simply had chairs, microphones, a projector, and a buzzer set out. Even despite having a description of the show- “an oddly moving, frenetically funny love letter to our city” about an American future where they is no democracy- I had no idea what to expect from this sparse set. Once the whirlwind of a 90-minute show passed, all I could think was: wow. When I go to watch theatrical productions, I typically hope for an Aristotelian-style show that whisks me away from my troubles and distracts me with song, dance, and jokes. However, I found joy from this show because it did the opposite; it brought me in, had me constantly take stock of new situations, caused me to reflect on the state of the world today, and struck me to inspire positive change in my own life.
As said on the Catastrophic Theatre website, “using found text, music, stylized physicality, and an abundance of pop culture references, THEY DO NOT MOVE winds its way through an imagined American future in which democracy has been defeated and a disorganized band of vagrants, waifs, and strays are hunted by monarchist forces. Their only defense? An expressionist cavalcade of song and dance.” Throughout the show, we find ourselves at a beauty pageant, within a sitcom, and at a horror movie. There are references to conversion therapy, cancel culture, and Texas law. Presented are a cello performance, frantic dance, and beautiful songs. The play was constantly, dynamically moving forward at all times, always holding my attention. I only wish that I was more so a Houstonian before watching this production; there seemed to be many references to the city of Houston and the state of Texas that I did not understand having recently moved to the city from Illinois. Nonetheless, whether you are from Houston or not, this show is certainly mind-stirring and engaging.
THEY DO NOT MOVE is directed by Brian Jucha and features actors Noel Bowers, Amy Bruce, Tamarie Cooper, Dillon Dewitt, Karina Pal Montaño-Bowers, Gabriel Regojo, Stoo, and Kyle Sturdivant. Every single actor plays multiple characters within the show, and every performer has such strong and disarming performances that break the fourth wall and make you confront the realities that we live in. I especially enjoyed the singing and dancing of the cast members, showing the multiple talents and versatility of every actor. Cellist Evan Leslie also performs in the show, which was my favorite part of the production; it truly is a treat.
I found the most effective storytelling mechanisms of the show to be the lighting design (devised by longtime Jucha collaborator, Roma Flowers) and the choice to use a buzzer to separate the different sections of the show. The projections as well as the disruptive and alarming sound of the buzzer were stunning and moving, reminding us of what I found to be the primary theme of the show: the current world is always moving abundantly fast, and modern media is constantly confronting us with more and more news and entertainment to consume. From the constant stimulation of our phones and the fact that society is always pushing for us to do more during our days, we are not taking the time to truly focus on making meaningful connections with each other and creating a better world for ourselves and future generations. We should all pause and think about how we can do that.
Brian Jucha, the leader of this devised work, has created original interdisciplinary theater works for over 25 years. He last worked with Catastrophic in 2019 to create a new work called TOAST, and many have found his works to be visually arresting, engaging, and entertaining. Performances conceived by Jucha– working closely with actors- have ranged from performative dance to adaptations of plays to original rock operas to theater of the absurd. His pieces oftentimes are inspired by current events and texts from found sources (such as court trials, newspaper articles, or self-help books), and they are considered collages of music, sound, singing, movement, and imagery. Jucha‘s study of viewpoints is clearly seen throughout THEY DO NOT MOVE‘s vivid imagery. Jucha is actually one of the few who was part of the original conception of viewpoints, having worked with both its creators: dancer/choreographer Mary Overlie and Anne Bogart.
Catastrophic Theatre is celebrating 30 years of making avant-garde theatre in Houston! The Catastrophic Theatre was formed in 2007 by Jason Nodler and Tamarie Cooper, and it is Houston’s premier creator and producer of new work for the theatre. Catastrophic‘s original work and innovative partnerships have drawn acclaim in local, national, and international theatre, music, literary, visual art, and even sports publications, including American Theatre, The New York Times, USA Today, The New Yorker, Theatre Journal, and Art in America. Additionally, Catastrophic Theatre‘s tickets are pay-what-you-can! This has been the case for The Catastrophic Theatre since 2009, and they are the only theatre in Houston that offers Pay-What-You-Can ticketing for every performance so that their works are accessible to everyone. I think that this is simply incredible, and it would be amazing if more theatres followed Catastrophic Theatre‘s example.
THEY DO NOT MOVE is running currently through December 10th at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH), so do not miss out on this one-of-a-kind production and buy your tickets NOW here! Tickets can be purchased at matchouston.org or by calling the MATCH box office at 713-521-4533. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. There is no performance on Saturday, December 3rd. This production contains mature subject matter and is not recommended for children under 13. As a reminder, tickets are pay-what-you-can, so be sure to come on out!