BWW Review: LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR at Catastrophic Theatre
LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR is an evocative theatrical experience, rooted in the intertwined existence of farcical and absurd characters, each seeking love, respect and/or money, and the most potent human driver: acceptance.
It's no surprise that Houston's Catastrophic Theatre is the launch-pad for Chana Porter's world premiere production; the play is exhausting and exhilarating, disturbing and amazing - directly fulfilling The Catastrophic's mission to create unconventional art.
Margie is just like us. She longs to be more than she is, while battling her self-imposed roles of dutiful daughter, wife, lover, and mother. However, whereas most of us accept our plight, and work to make the best of it, Margie's will to be a lion (yes, a lion) is inescapable. Her relatable need to rewrite everything she knows and her battle between her desires to do what is 'right,' and what she really wants to do (slay gazelles), is incredibly relatable. Ultimately, Margie is on a quest to feel something, with the people in her life acting as foils in her fight to be herself.
Playwright Chana Porter has crafted complex, comical and downright depressing characters. Slightly reminiscent of the 1950's Theatre of the Absurd movement, and heavily influenced by contemporary avant-garde work, Porter has skillfully and lovingly created a nonsense world that you totally understand. She abandons typical theatrical tropes and all subtleties, in exchange for deeply refreshing banter and sincere directness between characters. If only real life was like that.
With fantastical pacing, and otherworldly respect for restraint on stage, Director Tara Ahmadinejad makes this very strange story very human. Most evident, is Ahmadinejad's adept hand in creating a space the welcomes experimentation and promotes the unknown.
LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR is quite funny, full of memorable one-liners, the best of which delivered via slapstick by the incandescent Tamarie Cooper (Simon). Co-players, Pamela Vogel (Alice) and Jovan Jackson (Laurence), ground the production with their earnestness. The unexpected love story between Jayden Key (Constantine) and Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott (Tim), roots the production in sincerity and much needed moments of light.
But it's Amy Bruce as Margie, and Andrew Lynch as Margie's musical truth-telling heart, that deliver LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR's greatest payoff.
Bruce's commitment to her role and risky, bold choices stand out on a stage filled with big chaos and big characters. She plays Margie as a spectacle, an absurdist and alluring figure. Bruce's portrayal of an everywoman desperate to feel something - anything - is heartbreaking. I couldn't take my eyes off of her.
Lynch's soulful musical interludes are the eye of the storm as the plot whirls about. His voice is beautiful, soft, and cast in almost direct opposition to Margie's wild actions and preposterous antics.
Superficially, it may seem difficult to relate to the characters. But the constant juxtapositions of desire are as human as it gets. Porter's words, entrusted in Ahmadinejad's world, serve up a cacophony of connection and emotion. It's avant-garde as it's meant to be: strange, evocative, and equally compelling as it is perplexing. This play is weird. So is life.
This is not a play for everyone; kids and conventionalists should sit this one out. But for anyone who wants to feel something powerful, honest, and unexpected, LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR will absolutely deliver.
Photo Credit: Anthony Rathbun
LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR runs through March 4, 2018. Performances are held on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m at The Catastrophic Theatre, 3400 Main Street. All tickets are pay-what-you-can; suggested ticket price $40. For more information, please call 713-522-2723, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.catastrophictheatre.com.