All right, all ye theater goers.
Get ready to see double this season with a pair of productions of the same Greco-Irish tragedy, By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr.
The Something Something Theatre's version is the first out the gate, and it opened last weekend and will run until Nov. 22. The Rogue Theatre will roll out their version in January.
(This echoing play thing sometimes happens when the agency granting rights to do the show decides it's OK. But if Arizona Theatre Company had wanted to do it, that would have been that and so a no-go for Something or Rogue.)
The Something Something production is more than a bit shaky, with limited vision in its conception. But, blimey, this intense and spooky play still gets its story told.
Carr's play is based, a bit loosely, on our old pal Euripides' Medea, which of course was taken from the mythological tale of a more than moderately screwed up bunch of gods and kings and their puppet-people and such. That should probably make us cringe right off the bat. Yeah, that Medea, hell bent on that most tragic of traits, revenge, and who gets p.o.'d when her husband Jason, of the Argonauts fame, takes her children away. So she shows him—she kills them. She is downright heartless, figuratively and maybe here, quite literally.
Now, this version has been restyled in that lovely wacko Irish way, where the whole meaning of "extreme" has to be reconsidered.
Shoot, one of the first things we see is Hestor Swane (Carly Elizabeth Preston) pulling behind her the lifeless body of a huge black swan that has frozen in the bog the night before. Should we consider this an omen, a presentiment, a clue, at the very least?
Hell, yeah. What follows is several ghost sightings, including one quite weirdly out-of-the-blue near the end of a very long first act; a wedding of Hestor's ex, Carthage (Nowell Kral) to a young, vapid girl, Caroline, (Jasmine Roth) whose father Mr. Cassidy (Roger Owen) would love to kill Hester—because she's just trouble through and through. Preston makes her more sympathetic than pure evil, which is not an altogether bad thing, but a little more vicious and a little less soft would probably work better. But Carr herself does lend a bit of modern psychological theory to Hester's feelings and subsequent actions.
Then there's the oracle character, Catwoman (Martie van der Voort), who is physically blind but can see in oracular-type ways and eats mice.
So the entire cast, except perhaps Preston, should down a couple of bottles of 5-Hour Energy juice before the show starts, because they seriously plod along (pick up your lines, friends) and, if not for the writing itself, the thing would have flatlined before intermission. In addition, it would have been a much better choice to move all the action from far upstage, downstage. There's really plenty of room, and it would have been a bonus for us to be closer to the actors, allowing us to hear them better and understand their thick (though inconsistent) Irish brogue.
All of that aside, the production shows the results of a lot of hard work and investment of time and heart. This is a new theater company, with a lot of young and new Tucson faces treading the boards, and considering the large mouthful this play presents for them to chew, it's sort of miraculous that they can give any voice to this huge and painful story at all.