Despite much administrative disorganization among the staff, the H.R.D.C. has managed to pull off the second in a series of successful Loeb Ex shows. Catch-22, adapted from Joseph Heller's famous novel of the same name brings together commendable directing an uproariously funny cast and an innovative set design. The result: a nearly flawless production that leaves its audience in hysterics most of the time.
The Loeb Ex itself may seem like small performance space when compared to the Agassiz--and definitel when compared to the Loeb Main stage--but many creative possibilities lie within its black-painted walls. Fortunately, the set designer (Abigail H. Gra '99) has realized some of these possibilities. The set itself consists of four small stages, one against each wall, and the central floor space. Thus, the audience tucked neatly into the corners of the theatre, views the production from number of different angles. Theoretically, it is even possible to see the production four times and get a different perspective each time.
Jeremy L. McCarter '98 and his cast of talented actors negotiate this creative set with energy, enthusiasm and wit to spare. Like the wacky stream of militar characters who spin around Yossarian,--the wartime pilot who believe that everyone is out to get him--the setting of the play switches from stage to stage so smoothly that even if one's view is slightly blocked due to a distant sea (or a tall person in the front), it will no be for long anyway.
And what wit the characters do have. With the exception of Bryan W. Leach '00 as the staunchly paranoid Yossariar everyone in the cast exhudes two distinct talents: the ability to play a number of extremely different characters, and the ability to make each of them as delightfully absurd as possible. The script itself a tight-laced tango of double entendred and hysterically ironic scenarios, could only be mastered by a group of actor with impeccable comic timing and greaversatility. Particularly notable are Jame A. Carmichael '01 as the dry Lt. Co-Korn; Michael P. Davidson '00 as the stereotypical Italian brother; Mattias Frey '01 as the timid Major Major Matthew E. Johnson '99 as the boomin Col. Cathcart; Ollie M. Lewis '00 as the dying Clevinger; Andrew K. Mandel '00 as the expressive Chaplain; and Joe A
Yossarian himself is rarely given the opportunity to participate in the deft comic timing that is going on all around him, which only adds more humor to his plight. As Yossarian, Leach remains stoic and earnest, but inevitably boring compared to his neurotic comrades. Watching him grow increasingly frustrated at their madness gives the audience fodder for amusement rather than a plea for sympathy. Leach portrays the perfect Yossarian--a man who has as many cyclical complexes as those around him, but whose personality grows pale in comparison to the army-green circus going on around him.
Since Catch-22 is about an armed force that wanted a few good men and no women at all, it is not surprising that only three women, each assigned fairly minor characters, round out the otherwise allmale ensemble. As Nately's whore, Chloe Cockburn exhudes plenty of passionate rage with an Italian accent, but little else. Kathleen Conroy plays Nurse Duckett with plenty of attitude; unfortunately, her quiet voice prevents most of the audience from enjoying her quips. Dana Scardigli, with another Italian accent, is decent as the contrary Luciana, and hilarious as a weeping soldier's mother.
Although the novel Catch-22 was written decades ago, many of its sublime messages still ring true. Although a world war may not be going on, corruption in the military and the government runs so rampant today that audiences may find the story both funnier and sadder as a result. The irony in Heller's jokes becomes even more bitter, and the pain found in the show's few tragic scenes cuts even deeper. As an independent piece, the play Catch-22 is indeed humorous and intriguing. But as a commentary on the modern-day world, it becomes a scathingly sharp piece that leaves one laughing in the theatre, but haunted by its underlying messages for days afterward.