Sunday, February 15, 2009
KBAQ | CurtainUpPhoenix.com

“An Impending Rupture of the Belly” is a deeply dark comedy about a guy who society and circumstances pushes over the edge so his weird worries dominate and direct his life. He’s convinced the apocalypse is just around the corner and, as he prepares for the birth of his first baby, he becomes obsessed with planning for things unlikely to occur.

But with our times so unusual and the economic situation so bizarre, the play may predict a reality that might soon become more apparent. People like Clay Stilts may be lurking in society’s shadows.

Leave it to Stray Cat Theatre to find different plays than our mainstream theaters produce. This local premiere staging of Matt Pelfrey’s play is staged with his usual artistic panache by Ron May. You’ll laugh at Clay’s shenanigans but you’ll leave wondering if anyone you know or come in contact with could be a real life Clay.

Stray Cat has found its audience and the capacity crowd at Friday’s opening night laughed abundantly but left reflecting on what they just enjoyed.

Clay’s pregnant wife, Terri, is more of a realist than Clay. She thinks his planning and plotting is weird and she urges him to stop. But Clay handles his mundane job with the same skepticism that he handles his personal life. His errant neighbor, Doug, has a dog that favors Clay’s lawn for elimination, but Doug doesn’t believe in picking up after his pet. Clay’s drastically violent solution perplexes everyone and signals the end of Clay’s control.

Compounding his thinking is Clay’s peculiar brother, Ray, whose obsession with his large appendage turns him into a loser.

May’s brisk staging zings along punching up every funny moment but also telescoping the truth behind the humor. His cast couldn’t be better. Michael Peck starts off seemingly normal. As his ideas grow more bizarre, he transforms into a weird person that explains his erratic behavior. Tom Leveen is over-the-top as Clay’s brother, Ray, making his bizarre approach to life fitting. Courtney Weir, the play’s only “normal” character, plays Clay’s frustrated wife, while Scott C. Jeffers tackles two small roles as people who bisect Clay’s life with comic fervor.

Please be warned that as much as I enjoyed “An Impending Rupture of the Belly,” it is not conventional theater and may not appeal to those who prefer unadventurous plays.

“An Impending Rupture of the Belly” may tell us something about future reality as it entertains but makes you see what weird extremes can do. It continues to February 28. For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theater box office at 480-820-8022 or go online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: B

An Impending Rupture of the Belly