Playwright Ryan Lisman’s Hollywood Fringe Festival offering, Apathy Killed the Cat, is in desperate need of a dramaturge to shape and trim his script and a much stronger directorial hand than his own. At least Lisman’s opus is not the 826 page play his protagonist Colin (Aaron Stall) has written about his life but it does feel overly long even at 80 minutes. At lights up, Colin is being consoled by his long time live-in girlfriend Lily (Autumn Bruewer) after having lost yet another playwriting contest. Rosebud, the cat he has had since age 8, is dying and Colin’s mother (Robin Roth) is in a catatonic state in the hospital. Colin takes Rosebud to his mother’s hospital bed, along with his 826 page play which he leaves in her non-responding hands. The cat promptly dies and we are thrust into a fantasy sequence where a six-person ensemble wearing only cat masks and their underwear appear to Colin and promptly strip off his clothes. He nuzzles au naturel with the cats for a bit before the scene ends. This fantasy scene repeats itself at least 3 more times, with Colin stripping off his clothes faster and faster the moment the nearly nude cat people arrive. But just whose fever dream is this: Colin’s, his catatonic mother’s, the dead cat’s or just the playwright’s?
Colin and his mother were brutally beaten by the man of the house when Colin was eight. While they were in the hospital recuperating, their dad/husband killed himself. Colin’s older brother Griffin (John Woodley) and younger brother Miles (Ethan Barker) were not home at the time. They visit Colin now to determine the next step to take with their mother. Unfortunately Griffin discovers Colin’s play and is disturbed by the afterward in which Colin desires a three way with Lily and Griffin. Both are appalled by the idea and threaten to leave Colin but he suggests playacting the scene to release his demons. Not wanting to engage in incest the threesome finally agree to do the scene in speedos. It seems to resolve Colin’s sexual fantasy with Griffin and then the three boys are off to the hospital in their speedos to pull the plug on mom. I’m not making any of this up. Lisman raises a lot of issues (is Colin mentally challenged because of that childhood beating? Why does Griffen out himself as gay? Who are these cat people, especially the two who seem to be the leaders of the pack?) then ignores them for the most part. He has created some interesting characters and situations but the whole is not as good as its various parts. His direction mostly just has the cast standing around saying lines. Meow! This needs a rewrite stat!