[star rating =4/5]
POP on your headphones and lose yourself in this quirky and touching multimedia tale of love and loss by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.
Described as a “Theatre of Music”, the show is a mish-mash of different genres. Spoken word, theatre, live music, shadow puppetry, and animation all come together to create a new and exciting experience for audiences to enjoy.
Based on the real lives of Joseph Newcomer and Bernadette Callery, The Gray Cat and the Floundertells the story of their 46-year relationship until Bernadette’s eventual death to ovarian cancer in 2012.
During their time together, Joseph created a series of almost 4,000 cartoons featuring Bernadette and himself as the grey cat and the flounder. They chronicled the couples many adventures, both real and imagined, and are used as the backdrop for the performance.
These drawings come to life as animations on the screen while the rest of the show unfolds onstage. As the live band plays and the two actors playing the couple move around the stage, the performance is picked up by a special binaural microphone. The sound is then delivered to each audience member’s individual set of headphones, which creates an immersive and totally unique sound experience.
A bizarre mismatch of styles, The Gray Cat and the Flounder is a show that could have felt strange and jarring but instead works surprisingly well.
From the lengthy, bizarre spoken word description of Bernadette’s library cataloguing system, to the impressively coordinated shadow puppet show, the show transitioned smoothly between genres. It feels like one cohesive whole instead of lots of individual sections, thanks largely to the comedic rhyming narration provided throughout.
This, combined with the immersive sound system and talent of each of the performers, makes for a gripping experience, despite the performance getting off to a bit of a slow start.
By the time the couple finish their final duet, you can really feel the depth of their love for each other. Hands clasped and framed in silhouette, the pair sit surrounded by the memories of their life together as they gaze up at the drawings that Joseph so lovingly created throughout the years.
It’s a tender, moving scene. When the lights come up and it’s time to take off your headphones, you’re left feeling slightly bereft, echoing the profound sense of loss that Joseph must feel at the death of both his best friend and partner in life.
The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble have made a truly touching tribute to the memory of the couple’s life together, and at the same time created an exceptionally uplifting and engaging performance for audiences to enjoy.