Chicago Theater Review: BLOOD ON THE CAT’S NECK (Trap Door Theatre)

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by Erika Mikkalo on December 2, 2013

in Theater-Chicago

A CHORUS FE-LINE

A prolific author and auteur, Rainer Werner Fassbinder exulted in display of the seamy and hypocritical side of the post-war German bourgeoisie. He directed forty films, wrote twenty-four plays and performed thirty-six roles before his death at age thirty-seven.  His frenetic pace of production is echoed by the structure of his play, Blood on the Cat’s Neck (1971), a series of rapid-fire vignettes culminating in a climax of decadence and destruction. One of Fassbinder’s Anti-theater works, Cat’s Neck (translated by Denis Calandra) escalates from evocative monologues to increasingly cynical conversations, with a closing scene that combines the catastrophic with the camp.

Nicole Wiesner, Jacob Alexander and Simina Contras in Trap Door's Production of BLOOD ON THE CAT'S NECK.

Andrew Cooper Wasser’s original 1996 production validated Trap Door as Chicago’s go-to avant-garde theater company.  Now, Trap Door founder and artistic director Beata Pilch is reviving the production in recognition of the company’s twentieth year, continuing their fine tradition of non-traditional selections.  If you ever wish to know what cutting-edge theater looks like in Europe, take a peek at this magnificent company.

Nicholas Loumos and Simina Contras in Trap Door's Production of BLOOD ON THE CAT'S NECK.

Alternately bleak and comic, Blood on the Cat’s Neck magnifies the squalid in the mundane from the perspective of an outer space naturist, the alternately naïve and alluring Phoebe Zeitgeist. From beginning to end, Phoebe (Simina Contras) skips through the 75-minutes with the aplomb of an intergalactic vampiric Betty Boop, complete with hat, shoes, opera gloves, and birthday suit (fantastical outfits by Rachel Sypniewski).

Chris Popio, Lyndsay Kane and SImina Contras in Trap Door's Production of BLOOD ON THE CAT'S NECK.

She listens to assorted archetypes – butcher, soldier, model, lover, cop, schoolgirl, mistress, and widow – share pathos and complaint, and then parrots their insults and self-justifications. These same snippets are hurled back at the players during the disco-in-hell finale, the carnage ultimately explained by an academic differentiation between speaking and being delivered as a brief monologue at the end. If the ending does not sit well, it is in the script: I reminded myself that the work was, after all, anti-theater. Still, the 10-member ensemble (including Jacob Alexander, Antonio Brunetti, Marzena Bukowska, Nicholas Loumas, Lyndsay Rose Kane, Chris Popio, J. Keegan Siebken, Nicole Wiesner, and Carl Wisniewski) performed splendidly, bringing large life to wordplay in a small space.

Jacob Alexander and Simina Contras in Trap Door's Production of BLOOD ON THE CAT'S NECK.photos by David A. Holcombe

Blood on the Cat’s Neck
Trap Door Theater, 1655 West Cortland Ave.
scheduled to end on December 28, 2013
for tickets, call 773-384-0494 or visit Trap Door

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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