On April 14th, 2004, InNewsweely reviewed Ryan Landry’s Pussy on the House at Machine (The Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts), in Boston in This is really good ‘Pussy’ – With Pussy on the House, Ryan Landry creates a warped take on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by James A. Lopata. Adapted from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in Pussy on the House follows fading children’s show star, Brick, who returns to the family polyester plantation so he can reconcile with his dying parent, Big Mama. In Pussy on the House, I created puppets from repurposed taxidermy (Skipper, Brick’s secret raccoon lover and children’s show co-star) and performed in a number of roles, including as Aphrodite’s understudy. There were 20 performances between March 25th and April 24th, 2004.
From in newsweekly v13i13 04/14/04 Review > This is really good ‘Pussy’
With Pussy on the House, Ryan Landry creates a warped take on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by James A. Lopata > arts correspondent:
BOSTON – Ryan Landry has the devastating ability to look at a classic work of art and see a twisted universe. Just in the past year, he’s done so to great effect with Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds in The Gulls and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary?
With his latest, Pussy on the House, it is as if Landry has held up Tennessee Williams’ poetic drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to a funhouse mirror – the play’s elements warp into simultaneously grotesque, humorous and tragic tableaus, all the while maintaining the drama’s essence.
Genius is not too strong a word for Landry’s vision, particularly here, where he has most successfully integrated his signature brand of campy humor into the more dramatic aspects of the source material.
Don’t worry if you’ve ever seen Williams’ original. It’s all there and more.
“Pussy” concerns the fate of has-been children’s television show personality Brick (Chris Loftus, who just want the one thing that his wealthy, but dying Big Mamma (Larry Coen) – owner of the South’s largest polyester plantation – can’t provide: What else? Love.
Spinning around this tragic duo are a panoply of over-the-top, clown costumed personas, led by the indomitable Landy himself, as Big Mamma’s long-time lesbian lover. Landy arrives super-sized glitter glasses, looking like a Dame Edna from the Bayou.
Looking no less ridiculous in a sequined Elvis outfit and thick black handlebar sideburns, James P. Byrne tramps around with balloon-bellied – er, pregnant Olive Another through the plantation proceedings. As Brick’s loud-mouthed and despicable in-laws, they connive with a host of silly sidekicks (performed with odd charm by The Marsian and Keith Orr), to ensure that Big Mamma dies without a will, ensuring that the plantation will be theirs after her death.
Of course, Brick’s wife Maggie will have none of that. As Maggie, Penny Champagne proves her mastery of classic feminine behavior, hauntingly rubbing her arm over and over in worried frustration.
Maggie’s frustration stems from her husband, the crystal meth smoking, liquor imbibing, glue sniffing Brick, whose relationship with his pet raccoon “just aint right.”
The handsome Loftus, playing Brick in a plain, button-down white shirt and slacks, shines as the production’s lone “straight” man. That’s not easy to do amongst so much literal glitter on the rest of the cast. But the glow he brings to Brick during his final redemptive transformation at the end of the play turns the whole dysfunctional family’s bizarre proceedings into a beautifully arched drama.
And then there’s Big Mamma. As performed by Larry Coen, she not only stands as the large heartless Southern plantation owner to be contended with, Coen provides her the strongest dramatic moments of the evening. He is assisted in this endeavor, in no small part, by the talented and cohesive creative ensemble that goes far beyond the on-stage performers.
Lisa Simpson’s costumes, not only provide hideous, outlandish entertainment in their own right, but are dead-on in their illustration of character, right down to the large, gold-sequined, money sign necklace worn with the Elvis suit.
Hanging flowers frame the elements of the plantation environment, in a lush cardboard looking, comic-book-of-a-set by Dr. Windsor Newton, Ph.D.
Fabulous 1950’s, kitschy, lush, orchestral music heightens the oh-so dramatic tension and enhances the poetic moods of the drama in underscoring courtesy of Richie LaDue’s rich sound designs.
While it may be true, as Big Mamma says, that there is no such thing as “pussy on the house” (her version of a free lunch), a Ryan Landry production is the next best thing.
One final note: With three hits in a row in less than 12 months, a new play promised for this summer called Fatal Erection, it makes one wonder how long the prolific Landry can keep it up?