Indoor/Outdoor: the cat’s pajamas at Water Tower Theatre

Attributing human thoughts and emotions to feline or canine animal companions can become a suspect and saccharine endeavor. But not always. The folks at Water Tower Theatre should be grinning like Cheshire cats with the regional premiere of Kenny Finkle’s engaging domestic short hair romance Indoor/Outdoor in their main performance space. It’s got them sitting smack dab in the catbird seat.

Jessica Cavanagh Wiggers, Regan Adair: Oristano photo

Jessica Cavanagh Wiggers, Regan Adair: Oristano photo

Indoor/Outdoor had its world premiere in 2004 at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York and has played to sold out houses on both US coasts.  Finkle, an award-winning graduate of Columbia University’s MFA Playwriting program, started writing the play in 2002. “I had the idea to write a play about my cat (or rather several of the cats I’ve known in my life) for almost a year before this. I thought a play about a cat was a very, very, very bad idea. But the story kept coming back to me.” During the first act, the play feels faintly derivative, almost like a cat lover’s answer to that doggone guaranteed moneymaker Sylvia. Introduced by alpha tabby Samantha (played by earnest, energetic Jessica Cavanagh Wiggers, clad throughout in t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes), the play chronicles her nine lives’ span filled with anthropomorphic adventures, from whiskers to tail. Lonely codependent geek boy Shuman (created with convincing understatement and dowdy, Hugh Grant-like rumpling by regional comic lion Regan Adair) adopts Samantha from the local shelter to fill a void in his life. Frustrating love and isolation issues result. Act One purrs along at a sit-com predictable rate, entertaining more because of the high caliber of acting and clean staging then the script’s content.  Then the evocative claws come out.

“I realized I wasn’t really writing about my cats at all but that I was writing about my own relationship with my partner and how challenging, thrilling, and surprising that was to me. And so I kept going deeper and deeper.” Enter fang-flashing, New Age animal empath Matilda, with authoritative clairvoyance as portrayed by statuesque, husky-voiced Renee Krapff, and a feral feline amour named Oscar, played by lean, muscular Joey Folsom in his WTT debut with an accent, attitude, wardrobe and physicality that could emerge from the Broadway musical CATS. Folsom’s Oscar struts in un-neutered and unfettered nonchalance, refreshingly straightforward compared to the other three characters. With the second pair’s arrival, Indoor/Outdoor launches into high farce crescendo with surprising emotional depth and unexpected plot twists. Fur flies and impeccable comic timing zings as the four engage in a group counseling “therapy” session conducted by zealot Matilda with mind-boggling intensity. Complications of inter-species communication captivate the full attention of the most catnap prone audience member. It’s delightful. And thought provoking.

WTT director Terry Martin orchestrates superb, balanced ensemble performances from his actors, enlivening four very different characters. Each requires an imaginative leap of faith on the audience’s part to remain credible. Playwright Finkle says, “Indoor/Outdoor for me is about letting go of what the outside world says is right or wrong or how much it’s worth and allowing yourself to trust that you do deserve to love and be loved.” Worldly-wise cats teaching inept humans how it feels to be really human and alive… the play is unequivocally and simply the cat’s pajamas.

Indoor/Outdoor runs through June 7, 2009 at the Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road in Addison, Texas.  Performance times are 7:30 PM Wednesdays and Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 2:00 PM.
Tickets: 972.450.6232 or online
Scenic design is by Michael Sullivan, lighting design by Jared Land, costumes by Barbara Cox and properties by Tish Mussey.

Quotes from Kenny Finkle excerpted from his production remarks on Burbank, CA’s The Colony Theatre website:

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