Dances with Agnostics: SAVING KITTY

Alexander Cook and Jennifer Coolidge; photo credit: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

Alexander Cook and Jennifer Coolidge; photo credit: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

Presented by The Nora Theatre Company
Written by Marisa Smith
Directed by Lee Mikeska

July 9 – August 2, 2015
Central Square Theater
Cambridge, MA
Central Square Theater on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel (who could use some saving of her own)

(Cambridge, MA) Marisa Smith has written a very good script. Saving Kitty is so good that, if logistically possible, She should get a second production on its feet ASAP. This is because the Nora Theatre Company’s current production stars Jennifer Coolidge. Coolidge’s well-deserved star power overwhelms Smith’s writing (and the stage). It is inappropriately likely that patrons will remember Ms. Coolidge did a show in Boston that one time. They are less likely to remember whose show it was, what it was about, or who the supporting actors were. That’s a damn shame.   

To be clear: Coolidge is hilarious as Kate Hartley, an intellectual housewife hellbent on preventing her daughter’s marriage to a fundamentalist christian. She manipulated the part with the kind of panache attributed to Norma Jeane Mortenson’s portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. Coolidge the actress is fascinating to watch. She disarmed and conquered as the audience hung on her every word. Her one-liners were like silver bullets. No, the issue at hand is Boston’s en masse inability to look past fame to see the performance Coolidge delivered. She was great but she wasn’t the only great element of the production.

Saving Kitty is God of War meets Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. It sets righteously agnostic, liberal Manhattanites against conservative, good christian folk. Kitty (Lydia Barnett-Mulligan) is in television production and she’s in love with Paul (Lewis D. Wheeler), an educator that skews Evangelical.  Huntley (Alexander Cook) keeps checking his phone as his wife Kate (Coolidge) attempts to hurriedly dismantle that travesty that is Kitty’s latest engagement. This is a conversation play. There isn’t much action on stage aside from what happens as the characters talk at each other.

The supporting cast of Barnett-Mulligan, Wheeler and Cook are a sturdy foundation that hold up the production as Coolidge fires her one-liners, execution style. They are the metaphorical adults to her mumbling, sexy toddler soaking up all the energy in the room. It’s good that they’re so capable because trying to keep pace with Coolidge would be exhausting.

The pink and white set by Steven Royal is effortlessly glamorous. It is posh while being livable. It is a space that breathes.

Boston doesn’t see too many Famous celebrities on its stages. Instead, we tend to incubate local talent until it’s ready for more marketable capitalist ventures. This talent goes on to be famous after Boston. Sometimes they come back. It’s understandable that we go a bit bonkers when we have the opportunity to brush shoulders with Celebrity. That doesn’t make it OK.

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