Bride of Wildenstein Synopsis

2009 ©Marsian De Lellis
2009 ©Marsian De Lellis

In Bride of Wildenstein – The Musical, an aging socialite grows fur and claws to recapture her philandering game hunter husband’s attention. Using puppets and masks to augment the body, this solo cabaret performance playfully unpacks desire and the contagion of identity with songs that examine the making of a monstrosity.

The weird and tragic love story wildly reimagines tabloid accounts of the real-life “cat woman”, Jocelyn Wildenstein. As the protagonist’s marriage dissolves, she begins to reinvent herself through drastic measures. But biomedical and surgical procedures to become more feline only heighten her sense of estrangement and embolden her quest to find a fiercer sense of self.


We begin on a Kenyan Game reserve populated by amorous wild creatures – including Jocelyn and future husband, Alec, who are engaged in their own kinky animalistic role play.

Their shaking bed causes a taxidermized lion head to dislodge from the wall of the luxury tent.

When the taxidermy hits Jocelyn in the head, it triggers the memory of a hunting trip in which Alec shot a lion that was attacking her. 

At the moment of impact, Jocelyn realizes she’s been bitten by the love bug and the two begin Stuffed and Mounted,  a duet about falling in love. 

From Alec’s perspective, Jocelyn is the latest acquisition to his collection of taxidermy, purloined artworks, (and presumably other women). Although Alec is overweight with a small penis, Jocelyn sees him as a savior and sings about her escape from the dull drums of the Alps as a low wage seamstress.

But when Alec gifts Jocelyn with a pet monkey, named May Moon, it really hooks her in. 

The love song mutates into a wedding march and a photo of their marriage appears as a New York Post cover story.


After their wedding, on the steps of the church, animal rights activists hit Jocelyn with fake blood to protest her couture fox skin wedding dress. Instead of defending her, Alec becomes aroused by the mere suggestion of blood. The red flag spawns Jocelyn’s solo, He’s a Purr-vert.


In He’s a Purr-vert, we learn about Jocelyn’s humble beginnings.  As the song progresses, Jocelyn has grows older, and Alec’s eye has begun to wonder. So she subjects herself to progressively more extreme beauty treatments. 

Erase any trace of time that’s past 
With closeup shots 
Of laser’s blast

Jocelyn Wilenstein, 2009, Drawing: Marsian De Lellis

In the end, Jocelyn admits that by association she’s also pervert .


Thirty years have gone by. Jocelyn and Alec live in a posh five-story townhouse. After a shopping trip with May Moon, Jocelyn walks in on Alec and the Russian woman with whom he’s having an affair.  She’s dressed as a naughty nurse and changing the diaper of Alec who’s bottle feeding.

It’s not so much the shock that Alec’s an adult baby – Jocelyn already knows he’s a pervert.  It’s that he’s been cheating on her… and so out in the open.


Locked in a bathroom, Jocelyn breaks down in a haunted emotional reprise of Stuffed and Mounted. Somehow her need to be loved, Alec’s objectification of her, and his fondness for felines gets criss-crossed in her neural pathways.  Her mind’s eye flashes to the image of the taxiderized feline head that hit her during Jocelyn’s greatest moment of ecstasy, when for once she felt truly happy and loved. In an emotional reprise of Stuffed and Mounted, Jocelyn vows to recapture Alec’s attention by altering her appearance so that she better resembles one of his prized possessions. She phones a veterinarian.


Jocelyn sings Squirt Puff, Lift Me Up, a song about her radical reinvention, drastic procedures to become more feline, and the lengths she goes to be loved.

2009, Photo: Nick Shoob

Squirt. Puff.
Lift me up.
Here comes first cut.
He’ll bust his nut!

Frown. Relax.
Frown. Relax.
He’ll go ape-shit,
once I shape shift!


The day after the surgery is Jocelyn and Alec’s wedding anniversary.  But instead of celebrating, Alec is nowhere to be found. We see Jocelyn, bruised and bandaged, licking water out of the toilet. She’s having second thoughts about her new appearance and the resulting pain. Maymoon is there to cheer her up. She’s looking forward to getting fur grafts next week

But Jocelyn becomes distracted. She discovers one of the side effects of feline hormones is exceptional hearing, when she inadvertently tunes in on Alec who’s all the way at the other end of the townhouse engaged in phone sex.


In a fit of rage, Jocelyn has marks her territory, scratching up Alec’s art collection. Alec smells of ammonia and enters Jocelyn’s quarters. At first he doesn’t recognize her, mistaking her for an intruder. But when he sees that she’s gotten extreme surgical procedures, he’s disgusted. He throws a blank check at Jocelyn, demanding that she buy some scar cream.


Deflated, Jocelyn hasn’t left the house for days and is on the verge of becoming a shut in. But May Moon sings about the healing properties of retail therapy in Cash the Check. May Moon convinces Jocelyn to take the blank check and go on an epic shopping trip to Vegas.


When Alec learns of Jocelyn’s excessive shopping spree, he freezes the assets. Jocelyn smells something in the kitchen and discovers that Alec has boiled her only friend, May Moon.  Alec terrorizes her with a squirt bottle until she leaves and banishes her from returning to the townhouse, 


During her estrangement from Alec, Jocelyn wanders into a junkyard pumping party.* She encounters a rat doctor. There’s a pigeon recovering from a beak job. A cockroach who’s just had his thorax pumped convinces Jocelyn to inject silicone into her face, so she can feel beautiful again.  An all night orgy ensues.

*a gathering where participants inject industrial grade silicone to create low-cost curves as a dangerous, often fatal alternative to medically sanctioned cosmetic surgery


After living on the streets for a while, Alec’s stretched Hummer SUV limo slows down after passing Jocelyn. Alec rolls down the window. He doesn’t recognize Jocelyn and he solicits sex. Jocelyn asks about the naughty nurse, but she’s died from what sounds like a sex accident. Alec attempts to lure Jocelyn in with tuna that’s tied to his penis. But Jocelyn is insulted and no longer interested.

She smashes his face into the snake skin Prada bag she’s been using as a portable litter box. But instead of being injured, Alec is even more aroused and flings a bill at her. That doesn’t go over so well with Jocelyn and we hear a violent cat attack.


A New York Post headline reads:


Alec is in a hospital bed. He’s flatlining. A stern veterinarian informs Jocelyn that it wasn’t the animal attack that killed him after all, but the feline AIDS.


Jocelyn bids farewell to her once love, Alec. She laments about her current situation and sorted recollections from the relationship in Fucked Up Memories, (an homage to Grizabella’s self-pitying number in Cats The Musical). Just as Jocelyn belts out her last verse, she’s hit in the neck by a tranquilizer dart and dragged away by animal control.


Jocelyn awakens in a haze wearing a cat cone collar. When she attempts to scratch an itch, she realizes that she’s been declawed. A crying baby clues her in to her new surroundings – an infant’s bedroom. She picks up the baby to comfort it. They look at the mobiles and photos on the walls. At first she thinks she’s been adopted by a mommy and daddy. A later realization that she’s been adopted by lesbians further validates her identity as a cat. She soulfully reflects on her improbably life journey to the baby and the audience.

All this for what? Love? How far would I go for love? Was every cut, stitch, and injection done to make someone love me? Or did I do it out of necessity? to free me from cage of destiny…. Do not judge me for my decisions. This is my path. And though you may pass me as I walk, you are not on it. You are on your own. And who knows where yours will go or what decisions you will make. Sometimes people go too far for love. I have walked forever, But as I reach the end, I am realizing this was never done to find the other who would love me. It was to love the other in myself. .. The Bride of Wildenstein!


In the original workshop, while searching for porn, Alec is killed by a LOL Cats computer virus. In the final scene, we hear a purring sonogram and see the silhouette of eight feline fetuses that Jocelyn became impregnated with during a pumping party.  


Bride of Wildenstein was developed at CalArts and the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center with funding from The Durfee Foundation and Ibex Puppetry.