Terry, best described as an anti-hero, is played by two actresses—playwright Kim Katzberg and collaborator Nora Woolley. Katzberg acts as the narrator and real-time Terry, while Woolley pops into scenes and essentially performs as Terry’s psyche in human form. A deeply troubled character with a dark past, Terry is committed to turning her life around—or in this case, saving the neighborhood cat. Katzberg portrays Terry as a slinky, meth’d out former rockstar; slowly slides across the stage seductively speaking with a slur. It is an interesting combination to say the least, and the best way to describe the effect is to imagine the musical Cats’ Rum Tum Tugger on ambien.
Collaborator Woolley—who plays a number of different roles over the course of the show—mimics Katzberg’s movements and speech patterns as Terry, but does a fine job of creating her own absurd characters when playing the other roles. The most memorable is Terry’s Papa, a Southern alcoholic who dons a trucker hat and bifocals, speaks in a low and raspy tone, and walks across the stage with one hand always planted on his lower back. Woolley’s Papa has no faith in his daughter, and believes she needs to leave New York and come back to Virginia to her father because she can’t take care of herself.
Strays is a challenge to describe as it is such a mash-up of traditional theatrical conventions that it doesn’t easily fall into any one category. Directed by Cion, Strays moves as through a haze, scenes folding one into the other, transitions covered by bizarre song and dance breaks (revolving around cats), characters speaking on top of each other almost constantly. The scenic design by Kerry Chipman is straight forward and aided largely by a projector, which displays videos by Maia Cruz Palileo throughout the production. The media element adds to the bizarre tone of the show, and though some of the videos played are designed to help advance the plot, others are simply trippy displays of superimposed kitties floating through the air.
Kim Katzberg’s latest exploration of character is a creative mash-up of genres and a self-referential mind-game and is at times a hilarious and satirical murder mystery. Though it isn’t for all audiences, The Strays is an exercise in personal creativity which is unapologetic, original and admirably ambitious.
The Strays (through May 14, 2016)
The Brick, 579 Metropolitan Avenue at Lorimer Street, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
For tickets, call 718 -907-6189 or visit http://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/956852
Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission