I am pretty much in love with Mora V. Harris’ new play Indoor Cats now on view in the tiny storefront of the Edge Off Broadway space produced by Red Theater. A meditation on the pandemic, on humanity, on wildness and domesticity, on our relationships to the animal world and to each other, it is deeply funny and also profound. I want everyone I care about to see this show.
The pandemic is enough in our collective rear view mirror that we can begin to reflect on it, but this plot takes us back to early days when the world as we knew it became unrecognizable. Willa,(an amiable Julia Rowley) starts the play by breaking the fourth wall, and fills us in: she is pregnant with an ambivalent wife trying to prepare for every contingency, her parents are in Scotland on Sabbatical and her MFA toting filmmaker sister has holed up in the family “cottage” after a big break up and a postponement of her Italian artists residency, along with her cat Panda. Film artist Jules, played by Karylin Veres, is pretentious, self involved and prickly in a way that only the young can be. And her world is coming apart. Enter Panda the Cat, the brilliant Sarah Wisterman, who steals the show by being a kind of omniscient narrator who is also simple and immediate. Wisterman captures the movement and gesture and nature of cat. Like Dr. Who, Panda is best at observing the beautiful, hopeful tragedy of humanity in detail and wisdom precisely because they are not human.
Pete, the neighbor, played with charming comic vulnerability by Ian Maryfield, is a now sober nearly lost soul making his living by making videos for cats. He has no artistic pretensions, but being out in the woods has healed his troubled soul. He cares about his “actors” and his audience. He hooks up with and collaborates with Jules and it may not be very good for either of them. The world gets locked down, the baby is born, Panda finds out they are not wild. We find out how humans take care of each other, or not. The play concludes in a heart touching truth which I will not spoil.
This show is so gorgeous with characters that are raw with good intentions that don’t land right and full fleshed in their human foibles. Harris has captured the dialogue and sheer awkwardness of trying to communicate with other humans where misinterpretation is more common than connection. Director Wyatt Kent has steered with a light but sure hand; so much is in the script and the actors are free to be authentic and deep.
We all emerged from CoVid 19 a bit banged up, or even vitally damaged, and here it is in all its beauty and pain. There is also an important message about our pets here, and about how we live in a world with animals whether we are conscious of this or no, and this play speculates on what they know about us that we don’t know about ourselves. So much to think about with this show, so much to love about our own beautiful dented lives.
Special kudos to Sound and Media Designer Sebby Woldt who made a world evocative and complete through bird chirps and clips of video.
Indoor Cats (a play for humans) is playing Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm,Monday shows on 2/27 and 3/6 and Wednesday 3/8 all at 7:30pm through March 12 at The Edge Off Broadway, 1133 W Catalpa Avenue Chicago in Edgewater. Tickets and information are at www.redtheater.org