Smart Review: PUSSY

The internet today brings us a number of peculiar phenomena, but none so prevalent and inexplicable as cats. If you’re one of those procrastinators who communicate largely in feline-related social media, you might enjoy a play in which a woman crawls about the stage in a positively uncanny impression of a cat. The play, written and performed by Maura Halloran, is somewhat cunningly called Pussy.

Maura Halloran in "Pussy"

Maura Halloran in “Pussy” at the United Solo Festival

Its title both refers to the central kitten’s name and hints at the nature of the relationship between two of the story’s three characters. Halloran alternates between a conservative lesbian, her blithely loathsome lover, and their curious landlady, all distinctly crafted personalities that at first appear caricatured, but emerge gradually as fully imagined women. Halloran has a knack for dialect and physicality, skills that make her a naturally arresting solo artist.

Perhaps her most convincing portrayal is the pussy named Pussy. She moves idly about the stage between scenes, providing adorable, often wondrous transitions. A licked paw becomes a nervous flick of the hair, a distinctly feline arch of the back becomes lounging on the beach – the transformation effect never gets old. Imitating a cat’s bizarre habits is amusing, doing so well proves captivating.

Halloran’s real triumph, though, lies in the sudden yet subtle moments of humanity she bestows upon each character. Ana, a Russian landlord, is all exposition covered in a funny accent until she pontificates about her husband’s death and the difference between being in love and being “fond.” Jo seems to provide the story its villain as she gleefully spends her girlfriend’s money on a beach in Spain, but under her insufferable viciousness lies a very real broken heart. And Leslie, our hero, is just a conservative Canadian cat person until her struggle to reconcile her sexual orientation with her faith, and future, and feelings for Jo, develops into a complicated and ultimately uplifting investigation of self.

What makes this character so appealing is her lack of overt frustration with this improbable compromise. She possesses instead a wide-eyed, almost childlike determination to pursue what she wants – belonging at first, and then uniqueness. A speech in which she resolves to be the best unicorn she can be (“There may not be lesbians in the Bible, but there are unicorns!”) is the poignant high point of this impeccably nuanced solo performance.

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