Clones and Lust

'Kitty Kitty Kitty' conveys important ideas about love and narcissism in an entertaining way

If you're the sort of person who does not want to go to the theater to see guys stick their hands down each other's jeans, Kitty Kitty Kitty may not be for you.

Or perhaps this is exactly the play you need to see, for its story transcends gags about hand jobs and may tell you more important things about love and narcissism than you'll find in more conventional plays.

Noah Haidle's Kitty Kitty Kitty, scheduled safely late at night at Live Theatre Workshop, is about a suicidal housecat, known only as Kitty. We find him languishing in what may be a laboratory or a living room. (The set is left over from The Mystery of Irma Vep, but it doesn't seem intended to suggest a specific locale.) Kitty complains that he has no connection to the world, and thus no reason to live. A scientist enters the room with a large syringe; Kitty assumes that he is about to be euthanized, and welcomes the notion, though not without some anxiety. Actually, the scientist is collecting some of Kitty's cells, from which she intends to produce a clone. And so she does, a creature called Kitty Kitty.

The newborn clone can barely move or speak, but Kitty adopts Kitty Kitty as his pet project, teaches him a remarkably wide vocabulary, and falls in love with him. Hand jobs ensue, and the scientist is horrified. Interestingly, her stated objection has nothing to do with homosexuality; it's all about shared DNA, so what they're doing is too much like incest.

Kitty Kitty is sent to live with Mr. and Mrs. Person, two lonely and not entirely agreeable humans. Kitty Kitty is initially miserable and longs for Kitty, but soon enough settles into domestic bliss and forgets all about Kitty.

Kitty, meanwhile, is devastated. But wait—if cloning worked once, it can work again, and soon, Kitty has created three new clones, each dumber than the last: the rather dim Kitty Kitty Kitty, the outright stupid Kitty Kitty Kitty Kitty, and the utterly moronic Kitty Kitty Kitty Kitty Kitty.

Can they give Kitty what he wants? Oh, they're enthusiastic, mindless sex partners, but will that be enough? And is Kitty Kitty truly content with Mr. and Mrs. Person, who are by no means content with each other? And what of the scientist, who is as lonely as the rest of them?

The bare story outline makes the play seem both pathetic and ridiculous. OK, it is, but it's very funny, and in the end, the subject is not oversexed cat clones, but you and me. Well, maybe not me, but definitely you.

Is Kitty merely a narcissist? He is, after all, a cat. And he is initially most excited about his complete compatibility with Kitty Kitty, right down to the flavor of cat food they prefer. But Kitty Kitty is subtly different from Kitty—and in some ways, more complex and even better than Kitty—so it's the differences that become attractive, too.

Samantha Cormier has directed the show with whimsy rather than absurdity, all to great advantage. Playwright Haidle has, to an extent, jotted down his characters in shorthand, but they aren't merely targets of ridicule and satire. As brought to life in this production, most of the feline distractions have been stripped away—perhaps a bit too many. Thankfully, the actors don't slink around in cat suits; they sport little furry ears on their heads, and little tails trail them, but otherwise, they wear blue jeans and white hoodies with wide, dark stripes slashed across them. Cat gestures are few and far between, aside from a bit of face-grooming and some hilarious attention-span trouble from a stray cat played by Danielle Dryer. No, these actors are not trying to persuade us that they are cats. We have met the tabby, and he is us.

Steve Wood continues to grow as an actor with every show, and here, he plays Kitty very persuasively as the familiar dissatisfied sensitive American male. But the actor who really takes command of the evening is Jody Mullen as Kitty Kitty; the material gives him the greatest emotional range, and he makes the most of it. In his first scenes, he has the innocence of a child, and then is more of a bright-eyed, naïve foreigner who doesn't quite speak the language; ultimately, he's most like an ardent young Eastern European intellectual looking for love and acceptance in the New World. Mullen is a very endearing actor, and he's even more effective as a cat than he was as a puppy in the musical Bark! a couple of years ago.

The human characters are played sympathetically by Jacinda Swinehart-Johnson as the scientist, Chadwyk Collins as Mr. Person and even by Carley Preston as Mrs. Person; Preston knows when to put the brakes on her character's bitchiness.

Dryer is a low-key hoot as a dumb alley cat, perhaps more stoned than stupid, and Christopher Johnson, Ally Tanzillo and Michael Martinez are very good as the increasingly cretinous clones. Johnson's clone, the most aggressive of the bunch, initially comes across as a sort of Frankenstein's monster, but ultimately, he's no more threatening than the Cookie Monster. Given the fact that the later clones have been stripped of almost everything but sex drive, make that the Nookie Monster.

Farcical sexuality aside, in the end, you'll likely agree that Kitty Kitty Kitty is sending the right messages about love—whatever you think about guys sticking their hands down each other's pants.

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