(From left: Ray Caspio, Lauren Joy Fraley and Sarah Moore)
We’ve all experienced that weird feeling when our car zips over a small rise in the road and our stomach floats and then starts to fall. It’s kinda fun, if it lasts for a second or two.
But when we experience the death of someone close, that feeling of gut-fall and disconnectedness lasts for hours, days, months. Years. And that’s not much fun at all.
In the interesting and always challenging play Black Cat Lost by Erin Courtney, now being produced by the Theater Ninjas, that feeling is expressed in a multitude of overlapping and intersecting moments.
Structured around Zen death poems (written by audience members as they enter, or provided by the cast), the extremely non-linear play both obsesses and frolics around all the ways we try to engage, and mostly avoid, such monumental loss.
What’s a Zen death poem? Well, it’s usually short, three lines, but not a haiku. Such as: “Forever…/I pass as all things do/Dew on the grass.” It tries to engage the mind just before death which, you know, could be any time for any one of us.
Sure, you can make fun of this stuff. If you just read the last five words of the above poem, it’s a Third Grade thigh slapper: “…do/Dew on the grass.”
But there are telling thoughts in Courtney’s piece. In one vignette, a woman relates how she visited her young son’s elementary school class and observed him, through a window. struggling with his nap-time blanket. She notes, “Is this how death feels? To see the complexities and not be able to act?”
You may find moments that resonate with you; there are plenty of them.
This play is paired with The Refrain, a brief work devised by Jeremy Paul, the director of both plays. It also deals with loss in a similar overlapping, sensory manner.
The performers—Tania Benites, Ray Caspio, Lauren Joy Fraley and Sarah Moore—deliver crisp, sometimes amusing and often intriguing turns that include some singing and dancing (or at least movement).
The take-away from this hour-long production is a window into how we all experience life and loss. Remembering little, understanding less, but still willing to fight the good fight.
Note: This production is being staged at three different venues, so if you plan to go be sure you have the right place and the right day. For details, go to theaterninjas.com
Black Cat Lost
Through Nov. 9 produced by Theater Ninjas at various locations. Details at: www.theaterninjas.com