Review: ‘P.S. Your Cat is Dead!’ by Dominion Stage

P.S. Your Cat is Dead!, written by James Kirkwood, Jr. and directed by Michael Page, is a great look at different manifestations of schadenfreude (pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune).

Adam Downs as Jimmy Zoole and Lori Brooks as Kate Hough in Dominion Stage's production of 'P.S. Your Cat is Dead!' Photo by Matthew Randall.
Adam Downs as Jimmy Zoole and Lori Brooks as Kate Hough in Dominion Stage’s production of ‘P.S. Your Cat is Dead!’ Photo by Matthew Randall.

Jimmy Zoole (Adam Downs) is an actor/author who just can’t seem to catch a break. After getting fired from not one, but two acting gigs on the same day, he comes home to his apartment to discover that his girlfriend Kate (Lori Brooks) is leaving him. Things only get worse when he discovers Vito (Patrick Newhart) has broken in for the third time. This time, Vito doesn’t get a chance to break back OUT of the apartment; instead, Jimmy catches him and ties him to the kitchen sink. What occurs next is probably not how anyone expected to spend their New Year’s Eve! As Michael Page warns us in his director’s note, “Don’t mess with a man who has nothing to lose.”

Page’s blocking and overall pacing of the play is energetic, keeping the action moving along even when the script does a bit of wheel-spinning. The onstage violence was also choreographed by Page and made great use of the space. There was a moment with scissors that I thought could have ended in bloodshed, but whether it was keen choreography or luck, no actors were harmed and it made for some excellent theatre.

Downs does a brilliant job ensuring that Jimmy is sufficiently miserable and pathetic at the beginning of the play. Watching Downs snap and enact revenge on Newhart was surprising and aggressive while still maintaining humor. Downs makes Jimmy’s journey seem perfectly logical, no matter how absurd things become.

The best acting of the night comes from Newhart. Despite spending most of the show half-naked and tied over a kitchen sink, Newhart’s physicality and movement really shine. Micro-movements and facial reactions add to Newhart’s already varied and tonal voice acting.

Because the majority of P.S. Your Cat is Dead! plays like a two-man show, it’s important that Jimmy and Vito have chemistry. Downs and Newhart navigate the different changes in their power dynamic with ease. They quickly build realistic rapport, making the action feel genuine.

Patrick Newhart as Vito Antonucci and Adam Downs as Jimmy Zoole in Dominion Stage's production of 'P.S. Your Cat is Dead!' Photo by Matthew Randall.
Patrick Newhart as Vito Antonucci and Adam Downs as Jimmy Zoole in Dominion Stage’s production of ‘P.S. Your Cat is Dead!’ Photo by Matthew Randall.

In supporting roles are Lori Brooks and Charles Boone (who plays Kate’s new beau Fred Gable). Brooks plays Kate extremely sympathetically at the beginning of the play, really establishing how much of a loser Jimmy has become. Brooks later has some of her best acting moments when Kate re-enters toward the middle of the play – her comedic timing is really unparalleled. Fred Gable is the perfect foil to Jimmy – charming, confident, and decisive and Boone makes that clear as soon as he enters. Boone’s incredulity and shock over the strange goings-on in his new girlfriend’s ex’s apartment is palpable and hilarious.

P.S. Your Cat is Dead! is ridiculous in all of the right ways. I strongly encourage you to get your tickets early–seating is limited and you’re not going to want to miss this!

P.S Your Cat is Dead! plays through May 18, 2019, at Gunston Theatre Two located at 2700 S. Lang St, Arlington, VA. Purchase tickets at the box office or online.