In her newest show, Cat Lady, performance artist Kristina Wong describes plays as "temporary structures for chaos." This approach to theater is evident in the fitfulness of her work, which jumps between mock improv games, edu-tainment children's shows, fake weddings and water gun attacks like a music video cutting between shots.
This structure enables Wong to cover a variety of subjects within her 80-minute performance, this weekend at ODC. Most notable are her fear of becoming the dreaded archetype of a lonely cat lady, the way in which performance creeps into our daily lives, the strategies of male pick-up artists (or PUA, the acronym used in the professional pick-up community), and her cat Oliver's "urinary violence."
But the nonlinear narrative also generates moments that are purely physical -- Wong tumbles through a pile of stuffed kittens, and her cast dons Martha Graham-like body socks and dances -- and resistant to interpretation.
Cat Lady is a slight departure from Wong's previous work, solo performances usually dealing with hefty social issues. Her acclaimed Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest addressed the high rate of depression and suicide among Asian-American women in the U.S., while her Going Green the Wong Way explores the contradictions of sustainable living. Cat Lady resists niche explanation by delving into the existential issues of the heart. Oliver the cat's spraying problem, loneliness, and performance swirl inextricably in the show, which Wong says "has me asking why we settle for faking love, what the meaning of life is, and where do we find the end of loneliness."
Cat Lady is also Wong's first foray into ensemble performance. She is joined by an outstanding supporting cast composed of drag queen Miss Barbie Q, Clayton Farris, and Jabez Zuniga. Together, they reveal similarities between the accumulation of "pussy" by cat ladies and also by pick-up artists, highlighting their similar strategy of hoarding to ward off loneliness.
Wong has clearly done her research on the PUA community, incorporating its lingo (Body Language Positioning, Display of Higher Value, Set, Kiss-Close) into the script and interspersing video clips of PUA bootcamps throughout the show. Clayton Farris and Jabez Zuniga even put their PUA moves to work on unsuspecting audience members milling in the lobby before the show.
The one similarity with her previous work is Wong's blunt, inquisitive humor. She's still investigating social phenomena in a way that balances poignancy with slapstick. She continually skewers herself -- as a cat lover, as a performance artist, as a single woman amidst her married peers, as an activist -- and by doing so allows her audience to view their own passions with a sense of self-deprecating humor.
Cat Lady starts at 8 p.m. at ODC Theater tonight (Friday) and Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $17-$20.