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A CurtainUp Review
By Lisa Quintela
Sans claws, fur and whiskers, spectators are not tipped off to her identity until she reenacts her birth by crawling through the splayed legs of her mother, (Keira Naughton) a lofty feline who warns Samantha to not go home with the first person who comes along, but should instead hold out for love. Sent to a shelter, Samantha settles for the first guy that will have her, a stay-at-home computer nerd named Shuman (Brian Hutchison), who is viewed by spectators with equal parts empathy and mockery as he indulges in self-help techniques that include standing in front of a mirror and convincing himself that he's worthy of success and love.
Samantha is quite content with her owner and their daily routine, until she meets Oscar (Mario Campanaro), an alley cat -- think Pepe Le Pew cum Greaser -- who appears outside her door, pledges his love, and tempts her to experience the outside world with him. To flee with Oscar, a conflicted Samantha decidedly misbehaves so that Shuman will throw her out of the house. This leads to an excessively drawn-out therapy session wherein a quirky pet psychologist-in-training, Matilda (also Naughton) draws on her ability to translate cat language, since Shuman can't seem to understand Samantha.
If you haven't caught on that Samantha represents an unfulfilled housewife -- loved by a romantic stranger who promises her the beauty of far-off places, and suppressed by a codependent master who ignores her -- then you're not paying attention to the labored metaphor that's jack-hammered throughout Finkle's plot. Drawing humdrum parallels between men and dogs, women and cats, Indoor/Outdoor dishes out all the relationship clichés: jealousy, disenchantment, and the promise that love prevails.
Although director Daniel Goldstein keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, the poor script waivers between wasteful feline puns, outdated humor (including a Michael Jackson gag), and plenty of pop psychology bantering; Shuman and his pet use the "I feel" method at length to hash out their anger. A talented cast affords some laughs despite the weak script. Campanaro's energetic performance makes the numerous characters he plays entertaining, even if they are more like caricatures. Hutchison is convincing as the light-hearted Shuman, but it's Naughton's performance as the caffeinated Matilda that is most memorable, especially when she exhibits to Shuman, Oscar, and Samantha how to express their feelings through a series of ridiculous physical gestures.
As the lead mouser, McDonnell subtly exhibits docile naiveté and roguish sarcasm, yet her performance doesn't effectively portray her character's emotional arc, but neither does the script. After being let lose to roam free in the outdoors, Samantha realizes that her newfound romance comes with the condition of traveling the world with a nomadic Oscar, but never being able to have a home again. Despite her newfound love and independence, Samantha opts to return to her domesticated life with a better understanding that a home with the now united Shuman and Matilda will make for a happier life filled with unconditional love.
Although Finkle's message may simply intend to express that the grass isn't always greener on the other side, his play surprisingly ends up reverting back to a 1950's paradigm of stifled emotional growth in exchange for something more familiar and stable. Despite these seemingly moralistic and conservative undertones, which are rendered without irony, the play's sensibility is fairly light throughout, with an ending that is both heartfelt and endearing.
The bright hues of David Korins' carpeted set suggest a cartoon-like cat home within a green forest that perks up with Ben Stanton's lighting design. Costume designer Michael Krass smartly outfits the non-human characters in colorful clothing that doesn't mimic the animals they portray. Nonetheless, these trappings, while informing an animal perspective, fall short in their ability to offer insight into a complicated and distinctly human dynamic.
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