Tuesday , June 18 2024
Catherine Waller in The Creeps
Photo by Andrew Patino

Theater Review (NYC): ‘The Creeps’

After successful runs at Fringe festivals in the 2010s and a production last year at the Flea Theatre, Catherine Waller’s solo show The Creeps has touched down Off-Broadway at Playhouse 46 at St. Luke’s. Perhaps reflecting its peripatetic journey, the current iteration wanders, conceptually confused, with compelling sequences but dead space too.

Unsteadily straddling the line between theater and performance art, the characters that inhabit this show’s dark metaphysical world have connections that are slowly revealed. But much remains unexplained. The show delivers on its promise of “macabre themes of fear, desire, and the unknown,” but with inconsistent force.

Waller is a magnetic presence and a brilliant purveyor of wildly divergent characters. Prancing about, limber as a dancer, in-your-face and sometimes eerily threatening, she talks to the audience to solicit responses and even whole conversations. How much this draws us in depends on the results.

Catherine Waller in The Creeps
Photo by Andrew Patino

The audience participation worked well at the performance I attended, with contributions both funny and touching. The two deepest interactions were both with a character named Bill, a blind furnace-tender who lurks in the basement below a nightclub. The show’s first big scene has Bill discovering and engaging visitors (the audience) and unspooling his sad life story. But this went on much too long, and without focus. (I use the past tense because different audiences may affect the pacing.) The scene sank, gasped for creative breath, sank again.

When Bill returned later it was to close the circle – with help, at this performance, from one vividly present audience member so endearing that hers could have been a written and rehearsed role.

But what happens in between is the emotional meat of the show and that’s where the macabre and disturbing elements manifest. It plunges us into the basest dimension of human nature. Yet Waller leavens the horror with the power of human communication – and pickles it in the vinegar of humor.

Proceed with caution: The evil may be slightly contagious. Bits of it may reflect from the eyes of an audience member across from you in this in-the-round staging. Or from yours into theirs as Waller’s victim-child challenges you to tell a joke or begs you for something you can’t give.

The Creeps runs through Nov. 5 at Playhouse 46 at St. Luke’s. Tickets are available online.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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