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Lady and the Tomcat: Cut-Ups and Catnip
Puss 'n Boots? As long as those boots are Manolo Blahnik.
It's all the shoe business you never saw in "Cats": Philadelphia native Kenny Finkle's "Indoor/Outdoor" offers yet another look at a day in the nine lives of the feline phenomenon that has clawed its way into America's id, where cat people are scarier than anything Paul Schrader could have conjured up.
"Indoor/Outdoor," which opened Feb. 22 at New York's DR2 Theatre, is a meow mix of merry mishugas in which a pampered pussycat called Samantha has a life littered with everything she wants - but true love.
As her owners pick up the tab for the spoiled Tabby, she seeks what she can't have - the grass lawn on the other side of the door.
Isn't life just like that?
Exactly - which is why Philadelphian Finkle, surely dogged by cat jokes wherever he lands, gets in his licks about love, life, love lives and the pursuit of a purr-fect existence in the comedy.
For those who have any memory of "Cats," the second-longest running show in Broadway history, "Indoor/Outdoor" is outre: Finkle wants audiences to know that his comedy strays from the preconceived notion anyone might have of cats with terrific baritone singing voices.
"Also," he advises, "I have no connection to any cat public-relations agency, and was not put up by any cat organization to do this in any way."
Scratch a playwright and find out he writes what he knows. "I lived with a cat named Beverly, and we talked to each other," says the Jewish writer of the companion who has left the roost and moved in with Finkle's ex-partner.
"We have joint custody," he laughs of his "half-Jewish cat."
No glass menagerie for him; it's the real thing. "I also had two other cats in my life."
Flexing Those Writing Muscles
Originally, those relationships provided the catnip for what he cared to write about, "a 10-minute play that I thought would be a good exercise."
But as any cat owner will tell you, 10 minutes is never enough to lavish on a pampered pet. Finkle let the playlet evolve. And, after all, he concedes, "I'm not really writing about cats but about relationships."
"Lady and the Tramp" for tomcats? "Samantha is an everyperson, someone who wants to believe in love and the possibilities of love," says Finkle. "She's very bright and full of hope."
It's enough to tuna-melt an audience's heart, which is what the playwright hopes. An acclaimed writer whose work has been staged by some top-notch national companies, including Playwrights Horizons and the Williamstown Theatre Festival - as well as the New York Fringe Festival, where his "Bridezilla Strikes Back" was a monster of a wedding crasher - Finkle has always had theater under his fingernails.
It all goes back to his Philadelphia days, where he was born, and where family - such as Aunt Marilyn, Uncle Harry and Cousin Penny - still reside. Even after his folks moved to Miami, Finkle returned to the city post-New York University graduation to intern at the Walnut Street Theatre.
Residing at 12th and Spruce streets, Finkle then moved on out and up, sprucing up his career by going into the directing program at Columbia University, where he earned his MFA in 1999.
Seven-year itch since? No - directing is his direction, and "Indoor/Outdoor" provides a great compass of compassion for the writer, who concedes, "we're all indoor/outdoor people."
But will Beverly make it indoors to the opening night?
For a feline who's got the world on a string, she's still not invited to the ball - not even for a drink at the local kit/cat bar. "Beverly is proud of what I've accomplished - that's what I'd like to think, anyway - but is somewhat indignant that she hasn't been invited to the show."
Probably even more so that she won't be there for the opening-night party. "We'll probably have pizza - but with no cat-food toppings," says Finkle.
But then there's always hope for a post-prandial pussycat party. After all, Finkle knows how to cater to his cat. Who wouldn't be licking her chops given the writer's family background in running a seafood restaurant?
Claws, meet … claws: "My parents used to own Rock Lobster," says the writer of the local institution where he got his sea legs.