“Where is my cat?”
So begins the saga of Wink, playwright Jen Silverman’s long gestating play whose title character is said cat. Written in 2013, it’s had several staged readings across the country (including one in 2014 at San Francisco’s Cutting Ball Theater) and is now in its fully-produced world premiere run at the Marin Theatre Company.
That opening line is uttered by Sofie (Liz Sklar), an uptight, upper middle class housewife, to her husband Gregor (Seann Gallagher). Gregor’s cold, emotionless response is a pretty big clue that something’s amiss. A quick blackout takes us to the office of Doctor Frans (Kevin R. Free) where Gregor admits to offing the cat and worse. The good doctor attributes Gregor‘s actions to latent homosexuality and encourages Gregor to take those feelings and just “press them down”. Gregor knows the reason for his actions go deeper and darker than that.
Dr. Frans is also seeing Sofie, who has her own issues and troublesome feelings, which the clueless Doctor also suggests she simply press down and redirect her energies into a hobby like housecleaning.
And then Wink pops back up (in the person of John William Watkins) and hell hath no fury like a cat scorned, or in this case, skinned. He shall have his revenge.
Silverman says her play is about “the possibility of drastic transformation” and her characters do indeed transform. What lies “beneath the skin” in contrast to how we portray ourselves and how our feelings and sense of being come to the surface are at the heart of her script, which brought to mind Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage. Both shows have a signature scene of destruction, with Silverman’s scene far less disgusting and far more amusing than Reza’s.
That scene (think of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane when Charles Foster Kane destroys the bedroom of his soon-to-be ex-wife, and just add lots of cat toys) marks the beginning of Sofie’s transformation and the show leaps into the even more absurd from there.
Often confusing and frequently bizarre, it is well-acted and director (and frequent Silverman collaborator) Mike Donahue keeps things zipping along for its very compact 75 minute running time. Watkins absolutely embodies the physicality and attitude of a cat and the other three cast members keep their somewhat cartoonish characters grounded.
Ultimately, Wink comes off somewhere between cutting edge, new-age theater and a bad college thesis production with a budget. There’s one thing for sure – it’s no Cats. Meow.
‘Wink’ runs Tuesday through Sunday through July 7 at the Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley. Tuesday through Saturday evening performances are at 7:30 pm; there are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm.
For more information, go to marintheatre.org.