BWW Reviews: BLACK CAT LOST at Theater Ninjas
(Member, Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association)
Theater Ninja is a nomadic theatre company which has no permanent home and appears in store fronts, art spaces, and churches. It was founded in 2006 with the goal of developing innovative, nontraditional theatrical experiences. As founder Jeremy Paul explains, "We are a risk-taking company."
Erin Courtney, the author of BLACK CAT LOST, Theatre Ninjas most recent offering, fits perfectly into the mold of Ninja's targeted scripts/devised theatre. The play, which centers on the impermanence of life and the pain of loss, uses esotEric Language and Zen poetry, to examine conflicting memories of events jointly experienced, and the viewing of death and the unseen.
Using the controversial concepts of Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross's stages of grief and dying: denial (often accompanied by isolation), anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, the multi-scene play accentuates the idea of seeing each event twice. First it is experienced, and then it is relived as a memory. The questions arise, "Are our memories accurate?" "Can any two people have the same memory experience?" "Can individuals experience and then move on?" These issues can become intense as people attempt to re-experience someone who has died.
Though somewhat obtuse, the script does invoke thoughts of an individual's own mortality and how we remember those who have passed through our lives and are no longer with us.
Director Jeremy Paul uses his actors and the intimate Waterloo Arts space well.
Ray Caspio, Lauren Joy Fraley, and Sarah Moore are all convincing in their portrayals.
BLACK CAT LOST is preceded by the REFRAIN, a short devised presentation conceived and directed by Paul, which features Tania Benites, Caspio and Moore. The piece was first performed as part of AT-TEN-TION SPAN 2012, Cleveland Public Theatre's , 10-minute play series. It is described by its conceiver as, "a highly rhythmical sequence of movement and voices - a pseudo opening band" for Black Cat Lost."
It is composed as a non-linear connected series of lines, with no clear story. It is performed by Benites, Caspio and Sarah Moore.
The final segment of the evening was TANGLE, TANGLE, a developing concept play performed by its writer Caspio, with accompaniment by composer Sean Ellis. It is billed as "a queer performance of songs and stories, a microcosm challenging hate." The segment presented, much in the vein of, 'I Am What I Am," from the musical LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, examines masculinity and femininity. It includes concepts explained by American Psychologist Sandra Bem in her Gender Schema Theory.
Capsule judgement: THE BLACK CAT LOST, THE REFRAIN and TANGLE, TANGLE, are the type of theatrical experiences that the cult followers of Theater Ninjas' expect. It is an evening of offerings that are probably too abstract for the traditional theater-goer, but will be of interest to the philosophical and contemporary thinker.
BLACK CAT LOST will be staged at Summit Artspace in Akron on November 7th, 8th and 9th. For information go to http://theaterninjas.com