By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Tim Fuller
Clockwise from top, Stevan Matthew Miller (ball cap), Christopher Younggren, Jeanne Torres, Bree Boyd present "Indoor/Door."
The more you think about “Indoor/Outdoor,” Invisible Theatre's comedy-coated season opener, the deeper it gets. Kenny Finkle is a deceptive playwright.
He starts out wondering “What really is the difference between an indoor cat and an outdoor cat?”
Then before you can say “Andrew Lloyd Webber,” Finkle has written this endearing play about Samantha (Jeanne Torres), an ordinary feline who has watched so much television she can't help believing there must be more to life than free food and a scratching post.
The set-up is simple enough. Samantha is born the runt of her litter, isn't even given a name and quickly enough finds herself looking for love from any humans who stop by her animal shelter hoping to find the perfect pet.
Just when her chances seem most dire, Samantha lures in the hapless Shuman (Christopher Younggren), a nebbishy nudnik who works from home via computer. He doesn't have much personality. She doesn't need much.
Losers attract losers, you might say, but this show is just getting started.
Bree Boyd is waiting in the wings, ready to play several roles in Samantha's life, but most importantly she plays the cat therapist Matilda.
Stephen Matthew Miller has a similar job, taking on several small roles but finding fulfillment as Oscar the roguish outdoor cat who must always sleep under the stars and stay on the move.
Way before intermission we get the idea “Indoor/Outdoor” is really about us. By seeing cats who have problems just like ours, the answers become easier to sort out.
But Finkle isn't so much about happy endings. He's more about insisting happiness is a reward, not a state of mind. To receive that happy ending, you have to work for it. His world is philosophy as metaphor.
Susan Claassen as director respects this mission. There are no campy cat mannerisms involving whisker stroking or paw washing. Torres conveys her cat-ness mostly through slinky moves from place to place with an apparently endless flexibility.
If she suddenly had to leap straight up in the air to sit on a six-foot wall, you have no doubt she could do it.
The people on stage and the tabbies they pretend to be achieve a kind of symmetry here. Not a mix of qualities, they aren't separate beings alternating between human and cat, but a balance so that the lonely cat and the lonely person can immediately relate.
Finkle does make this kind of a plot point when Matilda keeps insisting she understands cat speech. But the playwright can't resist poking fun at pop psychiatrists, either, with their gimmicky games (“Don't tell me what you are, tell me what you feel”...etc).
As we follow Samantha through her fascination with the thrill of becoming an outdoor cat, we are also drawn to some lovely performances by Boyd and Younggren whose characters have tasted little joy in life up until now. Working so smoothly together, the two actors bring a new tenderness to falling love for the first time.
Instead of massive fireworks they find quiet courage, a snowballing strength to believe their own love story might be like the ones they see on the same TV that has been inspiring Samantha all this time.
“Indoor/Outdoor” runs through Sept. 17, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, at the Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave. Tickets are $34, with discounts available. For details and reservations call 520-882-9721 or visit invisibletheatre.com