Monday, November 10, 2008

The Dead Cat Play

Near the end of this play, which Larry and I saw on Saturday afternoon, a 16-year-old girl in a short haircut and an even shorter dress, raises two guns to shoot her boyfriend in the back at point blank range while he cradles his own headless dead cat. You'd have to see the play to understand. Or perhaps you wouldn't understand even if you did see it. I can assure you that this is one of the least shocking moments the play has to offer. By the time Mairead gives Padraic both barrels, we've already seen people being tortured, having their eyes shot out, and getting gunned down on stage. We've even seen two characters have a chat while they dismember two dead bodies. Padraic's imminent death is just another plot point clicking into place.

What's shocking is the stage blood packets that explode in that scene with such force that they send spatters up through the first six rows of the theater. As we were sitting in the front row, Larry and I got our share. He turned to me after the play, pulling his shirt out in front of him. "This will come out, right?" It was a new shirt. I shrugged. Hard to say. Sometimes blood is made from chocolate syrup and that stuff never comes out. We should have been suspicious of being one of the only people sitting up front. Live and learn.

It's a tough play to sit through, funny as it is, and this might be the wrong moment for American audiences to have a laugh about the absurdity of torture. At one point, Padraic is standing next to a man he has suspended by his feet and is lecturing him about the fact that he refuses to choose which nipple Padraic will cut off. He's standing there, holding a pair of pliers in one hand and a razor in the other and saying something on the order of: If you don't choose, I'll take them both and probably feed them to you. So you might as well choose. To do anything else is madness. (The speech itself is much more clever, but I don't have it in front of me.) And then the phone rings and Padraic answers it, and learns that his pet cat is sick (or poorly). And he dissolves emotionally. And the man hanging next to him has to comfort him, by telling him that the cat probably has ringworm and if he'll just run round to the chemists for some pills, the cat will be all right in a couple of days. The whole exchange is funny in the most shamefully uncomfortable way. Fortunately, the actors were wonderful. I particularly liked Colin Hamell as Padraic and Lynn Guerra as Mairead, two grown ups playing emotionally stunted children who have been hardened to violence but who remain naive about everything else. 

I enjoyed the performance, but I was glad for the end and I wouldn't want to have to see it again. And I don't even need a program; I have my bloodstained clothing to remember it by.


Kate said...

Apt name for your post! I very much agree with you on this. There are great moments in this play, but they are overwhelmed by a tsunami of blood. It reminds me of the Shining when the little boy hallucinates the blood coming in waves out of the elevators of the haunted hotel. When I saw this, Alison Pill was Mairead. Now she is alongside Sean Penn in Milk. She's done pretty well for herself! One question, what did they do with Wee Thomas at the very end of the play? Was it a real cat? Cheers, kate

Michelle said...

It WAS a real cat. We were astonished and even more uncomfortable, especially when that last scene has the two remaining characters pointing a gun at his head and vowing to kill him. We knew they wouldn't but it was funny that the cat took all the screaming and spitting in stride. Nice kitty, indeed. And as we left the theater, the stage manager was standing at the door holding Wee Thomas and offering him up for a pat on the head. Many of us took the opportunity to comfort him (or perhaps ourselves) by scratching his ears.