- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Kitty karma runs amok in “Fur and Other Dangers,” a riotous comedy by local playwright Allyson Currin that is part of Source Theatre’s winter repertory series.

“Cats only pick people who need to learn something from them,” observes a character in this rambunctious and affectionate play. The felines have their claws out for Genevieve Purdee (Toni Rae Brotons), a motormouth social climber from Rooftop, Tenn., whose plans for both world domination and becoming the ultimate perky housewife take a wacky spin after she “accidentally” hits a cat with her daddy’s car.

Her lack of remorse — and her fear and hatred of cats — triggers a chain of payback that stretches from 1961 well into the 1980s. The mousers get their revenge by talking to Genevieve, and most of what they say is, well, catty.

What makes matters worse is that the love of her life, husband Jim (Jason Lott), adores cats and passes on this trait to their daughter, Rachel (played with burly panache by Michael Miyazaki). Jim is a Kennedy-esque swain with a social conscience — and he has a soft spot for strays.

Genevieve’s tightly run household is besieged by various kitties, played with such feline aplomb by Jesse Terrill and Diane Cooper-Gould that you swear you can hear tails swishing. The parade of meowers includes: General Lee, a kung-fu Siamese with infinite patience and skill; the hippie stoner Fester, who flashes Genevieve the peace sign every time she gets after him with a broom for mating (“But we’re animals,” he howls); the sneaky Phiddipides; and the snippy diva Toy.

Genevieve starts out thinking cats are snakes with dander, but even she finds herself chatting with Mustard, a senior-citizen fur ball in a pink leisure suit and (what else?) cat’s-eye glasses who is the quintessential Jewish yenta. Yet the cats — and the obvious love her husband and child have for the animals — continue to infuriate and confound Genevieve until she learns to get past her aversion and anger and figure out what the cats are trying to tell her.

Director David Charles Goyette fills the first act with plenty of pop music and gleeful physical humor that complements Miss Currin’s whip-smart dialogue.

You are lulled into considering “Fur and Other Dangers” a fun, fast-moving romp — until the second act, when things take a darker turn. Genevieve and Rachel grapple with death, grieving, overwork, neglected children and sick cats, and the play seems so weighed down with pain you wonder where all the wicked humor of the first act went.

Then Miss Currin pulls the play back by ending it on a grace note as a charismatic male cat comes into their lives. He is silent, and it is frustrating at first that the one kitty with whom Genevieve wants to speak can’t talk back. However, his peculiar, loving presence is just what they need to turn the corner.

“Fur” is a whiskery delight, and much of the joy stems from the fresh, dedicated performances by the up-and-coming young cast. Miss Brotons gives Genevieve the sweet face and hard spine of a typical steel magnolia, but she imbues the character with just enough loopy bend to make her endearing. Mr. Lott’s Jim is an idealistic firebrand without being too goody-goody, while Mr. Merrill and Miss Cooper-Gould combine athleticism and acute observational powers to make the various kitties distinct and hilarious.

“Fur and Other Dangers” might not turn you into a cat person, but it does give you renewed respect — tempered by a healthy fear — for these mysterious creatures.

***

WHAT: “Fur and Other Dangers” by Allyson Currin

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Running in repertory with “Dark Matters” through Jan. 3.

WHERE: Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW

TICKETS: $20

PHONE: 202/462-1073

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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