Stray Cat Theatre strikes again with a compelling, uproarious, and perfectly incisive staging of Brandon Ogborn's The TomKat Project, the quasi-fictional accounting of the very public and stormy relationship between Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, and David Miscavige.
Directed by Louis Farber, this production is like SNL on steroids, but with a top gun cast, nimbly firing off memorable caricatures of the famous, infamous, and those on the periphery of fame. It's a roast that will leave you breathless with the weight of the fast and furious performances of seven actors who are at the top of their game, playing over fifty distinct roles.
Chris Mascarelli plays Cruise like a fiddle, plucking away mercilessly at the vainglorious actor's vulnerability at one moment and his superficial machismo at another. His recreation of the couch-jumping incident where Tom unabashedly declares his love for Katie in a 2005 interview with Oprah is pound for pound hysterical. Likewise, he delivers the goods in his reenactment of Tom's same-year fiasco with Matt Lauer about prescription drugs. Whether he's fending off advances from male admirers, consorting with Miscavige, or playing the control game with Katie, Mascarelli's Tom is a haunting but comic parody.
Brandi Bigley's Katie is a marvelous contrast to Mascarelli's celebrity psycho. She captures the apparent sweet innocence and vulnerability of the aspiring actress who becomes ensnared in the sinister web woven by the leader of the Church. Like Tom, Katie shares a wonderment as to why they've had such bad luck with the opposite sex.
Enter the leader of the Church, who sees Tom's and Katie's respective need for connection as the key to a glorious opportunity for matchmaking. David Chorley delivers a scathing, jaw-dropping, and hilarious portrayal of a charlatan and puppeteer in action, a needy nutcase wearing the mask of a nefarious tyrant, swooning over Tom and ever-conspiring to control his flock.
Tim Shawver is remarkably versatile and engaging as he switches roles as distinct as Katie's father, Steven Spielberg, and Sumner Redstone, the Paramount mogul who severed relations with Tom because of his erratic behavior.
Chanel Bragg is wildly amusing and spirited in her varied portrayals of such luminaries as Bert Fields, Tom's attorney, and Nicole Kidman, and, especially in her turn as Oprah.
Kellie Dunlap brings an energy to the stage that is vivid and inspired. Whether she is channeling the voice of Suri, Tom and Katie's lovechild in the form of a balloon, or Sharon Waxman, the New York Times journalist who covered the Cruise implosion, Ms. Dunlap is immensely engaging and riveting.
Thank heavens or, more rightly, Mr. Ogborn for a play that courageously skewers the celebrity kebabs and nabobs upon whom, with endless fascination, society dines.
Thanks loads to Mr. Farber and an extraordinary ensemble for an extraordinary staging of this play.
By all means, run to see this show. Every zing will pull the strings of your heart and mind.
THIS IS AN ABRIDGED VERSION OF THE ORIGINAL REVIEW - READ IT IN ITS ENTIRETY BELOW
Stray Cat's THE TOMKAT PROJECT Is Satire on Steroids - A Well Done Roast!