‘Cat Patrol’ review: hot tuna

New comedy sketch series in new Portland theater space has great human appeal, but needs more rodents

by CS ELIOT

Hello. CS Eliot here with my purr-ceptions of the sketch comedy show, Cat Patrol, playing one more time Friday at Portland’s new Ape Theater.

At least they call it comedy. To me, it was episode after episode humans talking, no birds or scurrying rodents to hold my attention — and a couple of moments of unrelenting horror! It just needed one thing: me.

Totman, Little Edith and Jessup in ‘Cat Patrol.’ Photo: Alicia J. Rose.

Alissa Jessup, Chris Caniglia along with Brooke Totman moved The Ape Theater into the basement of Portland’s Alberta Abbey on June 1, this year. They turned the basement into a 30-seat black box theater in less than three months. Jessup and Caniglia met in New York, moved to Los Angeles and now call Portland home. Totman, an Oregonian born in Roseburg, moved to LA and now also lives in Portland. All three are accomplished artists in TV, stage, scriptwriting, improv and comedy.

I’m not crazy about the name The Ape. I thought The Mousetrap Theater was perfect and emailed my vote to Alissa and Brooke hundreds of times. No reply.

The Ape Theater: Improv, Theater, Sketch

Jessup and Totman wrote Cat Patrol in addition to acting in it. I’d heard that there was a role for a black cat named Lena in their show, so I paid a mole to sneak me a script. I yowled with laughter reading it. And after I shredded it as I do the toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom when I’m happy, I forwarded a clip to J&T of me in action in hopes of landing a part in their production.

CS Eliot does the sidestroke.

No reply. It’s humiliating, but I finally had to resort to begging to sleep with Jessup and Totman in order to even audition for the part of Lena in a recurring sketch, The Twins. Heavy petting was involved.

While I was mostly treated as a sex object at the audition, sometimes Jessup and Totman listened to my ideas. For instance, “Meow Meow Meow Meow” is my favorite song and I convinced J&T to use it as a music number in their opening sequence. They ruined it by using a clowder of human dancers instead of cats or kibble or, well, me.

The Purina Meow mix commercial

Racing through thirteen sketches in one hour, the fast-paced show delivers plenty of tuna, starting with the first live vignette: A botched Brazilian in an L.A. salon featuring a casting director who wants a wax and waxer who wants a job. What happened next still gives this hairy pussy nightmares. It made a terrifying horror show, yet the humans inexplicably laughed.

Still, despite Jessup’s wails, I would have played the role better than any human, as long as a stunt pussy was involved for the gory part. If you’re going to wax a pussy, use a real one! I play a great victim.

The perfect Brazilian

The rest of the sketches span from recurring shorts like Darth Vader lip-syncing pop songs in his breathy bass, to longer episodes like dance choreographer, Mac and his out-of-work ex, Patsy, begging for a part in Mac’s chorus line. This Bob Fosse-like mini-soap opera included my favorite laugh: “Your hips, they shine too bright!” My human slaves say that about my ample hind quarters all the time.

Shiny hips.

I could barely keep up. Then I had to face my disappointment in The Twins episode on opening night — when they used another, far less talented black cat to play Lena. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, since they obviously can’t tell the differences between humans or cats. “They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike. What a crazy pair!” These twins, they talk at the same time (Alissa Jessup reads minds!), they dress alike, sometimes in vibrant matching shirts beaming sincere platitudes like “UNIQUE” in metallic rainbow lettering.

At one point, the crazy ladies pick up and torment a feline (should have been me), cackling all the time despite its desperate struggles, until the impostor cat actor lost her nerve and squirmed free. Another horror show! And again, the humans laughed and laughed. What a cruel race they are.

The Patty Duke Show.

I didn’t spot any cats or rodents in any of the other sketches, yet the humans continued to howl. I could recite the plots but the humor really comes out of the quirky characters the team has created through claw-sharp writing and even sharper acting, so you just have to go see it before it closes. Even my good friend, Skipper, flew in from the coast to catch the show, despite the fact that I wasn’t in it.

Skipper. Photo: Craig Pratt.

While he likes chicken and some liver, he found Cat Patrol’s meow mix did deliver. But next time, they should use me.

The Ape is hosting more shows, improv comedy classes, and other events.

CS Eliot.

Cat Patrol’s final show (depending on which website you believe) is at 7:30 on Friday, September 15. Tickets available here.

CS Eliot works for food. And LOTS of it! He’s a Portland based feline actor who covers cat related art and entertainment. He is available for character roles, stunt work and tuna. Contact his agent, Maria Choban.

 

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