MURDER FOR TWO

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears (and paws and tails). Allow me to tell you about one of my favorite plays in New York. (It’s not Julius Caesar, but I did see a great production set in a women’s prison last weekend at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn—no cats, though. Lame.)Murder for TwoMcGinn Cazale Theatre

My dad-human is an occasional cog in the machine at a local off-Broadway theatre. He wears nice slacks, sweater vests, and button downs that are great for sleeping on and leaving my fur. He tells me he is the “house manager.”

Recently, I was happy to accompany my humans to the final dress rehearsal of a show called Murder for Two, which had transferred from a run last summer at dad’s theatre to New World Stages in Midtown. Dad had gushed, so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

In basic terms, Murder for Two is a musical murder mystery as enacted by two players (Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback) and a piano. The plot is set in motion with the murder of famed novelist Arthur Whitney. Ryback plays the investigator, Marcus, a young cop who is gunning for detective, while Blumenkrantz plays… everyone else. And by everyone, I mean everyone—Dahlia, Whitney’s resentful former-showgirl wife; Barrette, the beautiful ballet dancer with a penchant for murder; Dr. Griff, the friendly local psychologist who just wants a best friend; an entire boys’ choir, and many, many more. It’s a classic whodunit with a twist, or a couple.

Blumenkrantz and Ryback

Blumenkrantz and Ryback

The main twist, and one of the things that makes the show such a pleasure, is that Ryback and Blumenkrantz accompany themselves and each other on the piano. The piano becomes a third character—sometimes as a tool when Marcus wants to convice Dr. Griff to talk in a best-friend-song, sometimes as a nuisance (one character has to run from his deathbed to the piano so that he can “have some music while” he dies), and sometimes as the competitive playing field for impressive four-hand piano stunts (all three players—Ryback, Blumenkrantz, and the piano—have incredible chemistry).

The other element which elevates the show from the predictable is how funny it is. My humans are quick to laughter, which I find irritating since it makes their laps bouncy, but I’m a bit more serious. However, the witty lyrics and book, the impressive physical comedy, and most of all, the tongue-in-cheek, fast-paced, meta-theatrical humor feels very current, and had me about as close as I can come to cracking a smile.

As for the cats… Well. None appear onstage. It’s really a disgrace. I don’t know why a cat couldn’t have been a suspect. Blumenkrantz would have nailed it, considering the skill with which he inhabited around fourteen other roles. Alas, no one consulted me in the construction of this show, so we have to settle for two offstage cats. Two items are hurled offstage—after the first, we hear a pitiful meow, and after the second, a loud roar. I am told no cats (or lions) were hurt in the making of this show.

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Murder for Mew.

All in all, despite the lack of cats, Murder for Two is absolutely worth seeing. My humans have seen it three times (perks of working in the theatre, I guess), and enjoy it more each go.

As for the final Pawprint Plot, Murder for Two clocks in at…

30 points. Still, go see Murder for Two at New World Stages!

M42 plot

I WIN

Special Blog Announcement!

As I’m sure you already know, I’m an incredibly special cat. And for the first time in the history of my blog, SOMEONE HAS ACKNOWLEDGED IT! With gratitude to Playful Kitty, I’m excited to announce that I’ve been award the Dragon’s Loyalty Award.

dragonsloyaltyaward1

1. Display the Award Certificate on your website.

I don’t know how to do this because I have paws. My humans ask your help?

2. Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award.

Check.

3. Present 15 or so awards to deserving bloggers:

There are a number of bloggers whose posts I read with feline fervor. Here is a sampling. If you’re feeling magnanimous, like me, give them a peek!

Cats on Film

Alone with Cats

The Cat on my Head

Cats & Co

SarahRemy

Ringo the Cat’s Blog

I Have Cat

DarwinBookCats

Texas, a cat in… Austin

Ceiling Cat’s Blog

Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

What the Cat Read

rtcvers (my human dad’s blog, sigh)

4. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post:

Check.

5. Post seven interesting things about yourself:

Only seven?

1CatsGroup. I have had three names.

Before I was Franny, I was Lacey. Before Lacey, I was Tabitha. And before I was Tabitha, I had an “ineffable effable / Effanineffable / Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

 

 

2. I am a kitten explorer.

As a young kit, I appeared in a gentleman’s garage in Upstate New York. He was friendly and he fed me and called me Tabitha. But he left the screen door open a2012-12-21 17.17.24nd I had adventures to have. My next appearance was in the Bronx. What happened between Upstate and the Bronx I will never tell. I was collected in the Bronx and an adoption agency called me Lacey. Two months later, after escaping from my temporary holding cell in a PetCo not once, but twice (call me Houdini), I was adopted by my current humans. They named me Franny, like Zooey, like Salinger, because of my angst.

 

3. I don’t like catnip.

I think it’s because I’m simply stronger than other cats.

 

IMG_28034. I have a lover.

He lives across the courtyard from me. He occasionally sits in the window and we stare at each other. His name is Pouncival.

 

 

 

 

5. I am a world traveler.

Okay, “world” meaning “USA.” I have not only traveled many miles on my pink paw IMG_1919pads, but I’ve also flown to my mom-human’s homestead in Idaho twice. I like it there for all the places to hide, but there’s a large golden retriever who thinks I want to be friends and I DO NOT. I also frequently drive by car to my dad-human’s homestead in rural Pennsylvania. There’s another dog there, small and irritating, and I enjoy eying him with disdain.

 

6. I am toilet-trained.

And honestly I don’t understand why I’m the only cat I know who is. Heathens.

 

7. I tried to eat a roasted pumpkin seed this morning, and it was disgusting. I don’t know why humans try to eat anything but meat.

My humans carved this for the holiday. They named him Zooey, obviously to try and give me someone to be friends with. Ha.

My humans carved this for the holiday. They named him Zooey, obviously as a veiled attempt to provide me a companion. Ha.

 

PORTRAIT OF JENNIE

PortraitOfJennie1948-l

My male human fancies himself a writer. I put up with this because “writing” usually means “sitting on the couch in soft pants and thinking,” which ends up providing me a soft place to sleep and a captive ear-scratcher. All day long. I’m telling you, my life is HARD.

Now, my human is a writer of many things, but lately, he’s doing crazy stuff like making up alternate steampunk universes and post-apocalyptic landscapes. To spark his creativity, he’s been venturing into the great canons of sci-fi filmmaking. The limit of my interest in technology begins and ends with the remarkable CGI Richard Parker in Life of Pi (we could be TWINS), but with a soft lap just waiting to be napped in, I resigned myself to settling in for a classic of the genre—1948’s Portrait of Jennie.

The film opens with Joseph Cotten as Eben, a dejected artist wandering snowy Central Park as a pensive voiceover tells us, “those were the years when therewas a hunger in you for more than food… It was a winter of your mind when the life of your genius seemed frozen and motionless.”As a cat, I understood this well. Under an icy arbor, Eben meets a strange little girl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones), dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing. They strike up a merry conversation, and Eben begins a sketch of what will become the eponymous Portrait of Jennie.

Eben’s return to his boarding house is where the reason I’m reviewing this film comes in. THERE’S A CAT! The landlady (Florence Bates) meets Eben at the base of the stairs, and informs him there’s a package waiting. Eben fetches it and leaves, and we’re treated to a brief scene in which the landlady and her elderly friend discuss… something. I didn’t hear a word, because one of the cutest cats ever captured in black-and-white was prettily weaving around their ankles. I got very excited, but I hate to say, this was the beginning and the end of that charming kitten.

The film continues, and Eben runs into Jennie intermittently over the next year. Strangely, it seems she has aged 9045568_origsignificantly between each meeting. By meeting number three, she’s of marriageable age and they become engaged. Perhaps I’m a prude, but wasn’t she thirteen less than a year ago? Anyhow, Eben is naturally a bit suspicious, and does some digging. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll leave the plotting there. The only thing I’ll tell you is that Eben does finish the Portrait of Jennie.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this little movie. It is predictable and a bit trite, but there are also some real gems in the screenplay, though not quite enough to call it “great.” The story is engaging and never lags, and while I wasn’t entirely convinced by the romance, Jennie is undoubtedly magical. The most impressive element of Portrait of Jennie, though, is the massive, atmospheric shots of winter in New York City by cinematographer Joseph August. It’s incredibly beautiful, evocative work, and worth a Netflix queue jump there. My favorite moments were those shot in Jennie’s convent/college, filmed at the Cloisters in Northern Manhattan, right near where I live. I’ve been known to spend time in the nearby park with my humans, but I’m not allowed inside since it’s a “museum.” Like I care. It was a great pleasure, though, to see the nooks and crannies of the Cloisters through the literal lens of 1948. This exemplifies my experience of Portrait of Jennie on the whole—you know what it is, but that doesn’t take away from the beautiful, enjoyable journey.

Me, in Fort Tryon Park (the leash was a compromise).

Me, in Fort Tryon Park (the leash was a compromise).

So, for Portrait of Jennie, a small 30 paw-points, but a good-hearted recommendation.

Till next time,

Franny

Pawprint Plot Jennie