Bayou City arts lovers are really quite lucky. Even while managing—or dodging—calamities, we have an edgy, creative, and gutsy group in The Catastrophic Theatre, led by the irrepressible Tamarie Cooper. These are the folks who put on the show about a woman who wanted to be a lion. Need I say more? It’s never boring.
Fast-forward to, uh, now, and 2020 seems like one catastrophe after another. So, what could be better than having Cooper and her fellow creatives offer us a variety show of fun to remind us that, no matter what outrageous fortune is thrown to us, things can still be funny. Written by Cooper and Patrick Reynolds, Tamarie Cooper’s 2020: Quarantine Edition! is a mash-up of skits, songs, and running gags. Befitting the bizarreness of 2020, this new reinterpretation of Cooper’s now annual summer stage tradition has gone completely virtual with three online episodes, the third and final of which dropped last week.
Satirizing everything from artistic angst to the horrors of trying to pull off even a simple introduction on Zoom, Cooper has taken the frustrations of the current moment and given us all some much-needed comic relief. She makes even the simple act of getting your makeup right for virtual shows funny. And with cute vintage footage, upbeat music, and a reminder that you don’t even have to wear pants to watch, her show is a fun rollick as it skates between dark humor, serious points (like all the problems in the world—all of them!), and light-hearted, slap-sticky physical comedy.
How many productions pack in a bra removal, pet appearances, competing performances of Broadway hits (you’ll recognize tunes from Cats, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera and so much more in the span of five minutes), and an SNL-style Barbara “Baba WaWa” Walters impression? Like I said, It’s a variety show.
Although Cooper is the star of these episodes, she has a formidable ensemble cast working with her, including some of my favorite performers in Houston, such as Alli Villines, Brittny Bush, John Dunn, and Bryan Kaplun. Kyle Sturdivant is a quirky partner in comedy, and while this is a show, I still felt like we were getting to know all of these performers better as people. Isn’t that a wonderful gift? Plus, when you’re sitting far back from a stage inside a theater, you can’t always see the nuances in actors’ facial expressions. There’s no issues watching the expressiveness of these actors up close in this virtual format. Talk about a silver lining, indeed.
Still, the person who impressed me the most with her range of expressiveness was Cooper herself. With her outlandish, push-the-envelope style, she’s a natural (and hard-working) comedian. I hope she never stops doing these things, but I would also love to see her in some serious-as-a-heart-attack, bring-you-to-your-knees heavy dramas. I have a feeling Cooper’s comedic chops is just a glimpse of her overall acting talents.
Everything in Quarantine Edition! is fast-paced, silly fun, which might be exactly what we need right now (though maybe not what your kids need; watch this after they’ve gone to bed—the language and humor are definitely for grown-ups). Unlike in the real world, the stakes are low here. You have nothing to lose but some worry, stress, and grief. Turns out comedy is a tonic in trying times, and I’ll take a double—no, a triple—I mean, there are three episodes.
Thru Sept 13. $35, or pay what you can. Online. More info at matchouston.org.