Cast & Personnel
Following on the heels of its critically acclaimed production of Wallace Shawn’s Our Late Night, The Catastrophic Theatre presents the Houston premiere of the writer’s masterwork, The Designated Mourner.
The Designated Mourner’s production history is legendary. The London premiere was directed by noted playwright David Hare and starred Mike Nichols in his first theatrical role in decades. The New York premiere, directed by Andre Gregory and starring the playwright, was performed in a former men’s club which seated only thirty people, making it the most coveted ticket in town. Following this tradition, the Catastrophic production of the play will be presented in an extremely intimate setting: the Menil-neighborhood house that serves as the company’s office.
The Designated Mourner is an intensely political play, considering class, culture and identity in an entirely original fashion. Through a series of scenes and confessional monologues, three characters reveal the details of an imagined near future in which an uprising has classified arbiters of high culture as enemies of the state and targeted them for execution. Following Jack (“a former student of English literature who went downhill from there”), his wife Judy and her controversial and revered writer father Howard, the play explores love, sex, morality, the idea of “the self,” the role of culture and the phenomenon of “enemies.”
According to Nodler, “The Designated Mourner is my favorite piece of modern writing. I have read it more than a hundred times and on each reading its impact increases. One of my favorite pastimes is reading it aloud with friends and I’ve done that more times than I can count. Each year as I consider plays for our season it is at the top of my list. I am delighted to finally share it with an audience. To do so with so stellar a cast and in such an intimate venue is a dream come true.”
Catastrophic artistic director Jason Nodler directs company members Greg Dean (Our Late Night, Hunter Gatherers) and Mikelle Johnson (Our Late Night, Spirits to Enforce, Big Death and Little Death) as well as special guest artist Paul Menzel, a Radio Music Theatre alum most recently seen in Stages Repertory Theatre productions of Nixon’s Nixon and God’s Man in Texas. With set by Kirk Markley, lighting by Devlin Browning, costumes by Kelly Switzer, and sound by Chris Bakos.
WALLACE SHAWN is an American actor, voice actor, stand-up comedian, singer, dancer, playwright, and essayist, best known for appearing in film roles, such as Wally Shawn in the Louis Malle-directed comedy-drama My Dinner with Andre (1981), Vizzini in The Princess Bride (1987), Ezra in The Haunted Mansion, providing the voice of Rex in the Toy Story franchise, providing the voice of Gilbert Huph in The Incredibles (2004), and providing the voice of Calico in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010). He also starred in a variety of television series, including Gossip Girl and recurring appearances as Grand Nagus Zek in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-99). His plays include The Designated Mourner, Aunt Dan and Lemon, and Grasses of a Thousand Colors. He also co-wrote the screenplay for My Dinner with Andre with Andre Gregory, and he scripted Vanya on 42nd Street, a film adaptation of Anton Chekov's play Uncle Vanya. His latest film from June 2014 was A Master Builder based on the play by Henrik Ibsen.
"A dangerous writer. A very rare species. He tells people things about themselves that they don't want to know."- Joseph Papp on Wallace Shawn
The Catastrophic Theatre's love of Wallace Shawn is well documented by its hit productions of Our Late Night and The Designated Mourner, each of which was declared a "can't miss" production by major critics in Houston. Audiences returned again and again, armed with friends.
Shawn is best known for his character roles in such films as The Princess Bride, Clueless, and Annie Hall as well as his more serious turns in the films My Dinner with Andre and Vanya on 42th Street, but acting for him is something of a day job. His primary mode of expression is his writing and he is a writer unlike any other.