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'Blood on a Cat’s Neck' takes audiences out of this world

Published on October 20, 2023

'Blood on a Cat’s Neck' takes audiences out of this world

“Blood on a Cat’s Neck,” Eastern's first theatre production of the fall 2023 semester, followed Phoebe Zeitgeist, an alien sent on an intergalactic mission to observe human democracy and study earthling behaviors.

The play was performed Oct. 12-15, directed by Professor David Pelligrini and dedicated to the memory of alumna Madeline Bernstein ’73, a longtime patron of the department’s productions.

Rainer Werner Fassbender, the show’s original playwright who is known for his non-conformist style, based the lead character, played by Elyon Udokwu ‘25, on the titular heroine from the 1960s comic series “The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist.”

To evaluate the people she meets, the alien imitates their actions and repeats the things they say, despite having no real concept of earthling language. The sentences Phoebe picks up range from cynical philosophies on interpersonal relationships to disdainful comments about somebody’s mother. Eventually, her monkey-see, monkey-do methods of study all come together at the end of the play, where she unknowingly forces the characters to confront their personal demons at a party.

Projections reminiscent of a 1980s documentary interview introduced the audience to the cast of earthlings Phoebe meets whose misfortunes and stories intertwine. Among these are an ill-tempered policeman (Kevin Flaherty ‘24), an astute young girl (Carys Nardozzi ‘26) and an emotionally conflicted butcher (Matt Corbin ‘25).

A central theme is the discordant relationship dynamics between humans, one example being the infidelity of an arrogant soldier (Adam Rodowicz ‘26) much to the dismay of his long-suffering wife (Jasmin Lee Clark ‘24), an unlucky teacher whose family life is crumbling (Wesley Silva ‘24) and a silver-tongued lover (Brandon Young ‘25). The soldier’s mistress (Karynn Hardy ‘25) is a washed-up singer whose intoxicated melodies were accompanied by a live band on stage.

The events of the story primarily take place in a derelict cabaret club. According to Professor Kristen Morgan, scenic designer and projectionist, the set was recycled from the previous semester's production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and repainted to fit a more foreboding environment. The theatre program borrowed props from the Hartford Stage Company.

“I first directed this play 30 years ago as a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh,” said Pellegrini in his director’s note. “In many ways, the conflicts that Fassbender sketches out seem even more relevant now than they did in the mid-1990s.”

Audiences were captured by the deliberately bizarre nature of the play: “I watched the show as an audience member on the final performance, and I was thrilled with the vocal responses of the audience to what was happening on stage,” said Morgan. “The audience was really invested in the characters, and I thought the student cast and crew did an amazing job.”

Written by Elisabeth Craig