Theatre on the Ridge’s comedy Pussycat reflects old dichotomy
Whatever Theatre on the Ridge’s latest production, Bill Manhoff’s 1964 comedy The Owl and the Pussycat, may lack in chemistry, it more than makes up for in talent and timing. Manhoff, a TV sit-com writer who contributed episodes to everything from Leave It to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show in the 1950s to Petticoat Junction and The Partridge Family in the ‘60s, has reconstructed here the classic dichotomy of “mind vs. body"; Pussycat concerns itself with a sexy woman who doesn’t trust her mind clashing with an intellectual milquetoast deliberately distancing himself from his body. The results are often quite funny, albeit, in a somewhat-bawdier-than-usual sit-com kind of way.
Doris (Sheri Bagley) shows up in the middle of the night banging on the apartment door of Felix (Rob Wilson). Convincing him that she is a “lost little girl,” a silver-wig sporting, suitcase-lugging Doris bursts into the room upon Felix’s opening the door, chewing out the nerd for getting her kicked out of her apartment across the way.
It seems that Doris occasionally takes money from men for her “favors,” and that the distant Felix has found out and reported this fact only after observing the transactions through his handy binoculars. Upon her discovery of these implements, Doris begins to strangle Felix with her bare hands. “You’re lucky I can’t stand physical violence!” she shouts.
Her anger temporarily spent, Doris insists that Felix put her up for the night. She’s got nowhere she can go, and it’s the least he can do after getting her kicked out. This of course opens up a gigantic can of worms, as the two slowly find themselves attracted to each other. Opposites and all that.
This is quite a different role for Bagley, at least different to these eyes. We recall her excellent performance as specimen-collecting Mary in last fall’s Blue Room production of On the Verge. Doris is anything but a Victorian-era, serious-minded adventurer, what with her predilection for various wigs and slinky outfits and nightwear and her volatile frustration with anything she can’t understand. Bagley does good work. Her echo of squeaky-voiced ‘50s comedy star Judy Holliday in her own inflections lends itself well to the character.
Wilson turns in a solid performance as intellectual Felix. Also a veteran of On the Verge (he portrayed a plethora of creatures and characters), Wilson gets to focus on one role here and delivers some nice physical comedy along the way.
My only problem is this: Despite how good the performers are, and how generally funny their deliveries of the “yuks” are, there still seems to be something missing. I couldn’t quite believe that these two were falling in love. For all the talent the duo brought to their roles, they still lacked a certain degree of chemistry.
Still, they are both worth watching.
Steve Culleton’s set looks absolutely believable, with its old white refrigerator, sink and gas stove. The costumes by Miya Squires, too, seemed quite accurate to the period. Squires co-directed the show with John Marek, who also ran lights and sound. I assume they both contributed to the selection of vintage music that played whenever the "time" or acts changed—Johnny Mathis, Doris Day, Bobby Darin and so on, all of it pre-Beatles top-of-the-pops-type stuff. Quite effective.