'Church of the Passionate Cat'

Underbelly Theatre takes you down some delightfully mean streets in its immersive noir adventure

Fur-well, my lovely: Private dick Molly Maguire (Hannah Kenah) investigates the bottom of a glass under the watchful eye of gal Friday Ivy (Erin Barlow).
Fur-well, my lovely: Private dick Molly Maguire (Hannah Kenah) investigates the bottom of a glass under the watchful eye of gal Friday Ivy (Erin Barlow).
Courtesy of Stephanie Busing

In March of 2013, a room that I was sitting in suddenly went dark, and I was whisked away into an underground world of runaway orphans, midnight circuses, complimentary muffins in strange rooms, and breakneck escapes through butcher-paper forests before being led up a winding staircase into a magical dance party. This thrillingly theatrical odyssey, titled Slip River, was devised for that year's Cohen New Works Festival by a quartet of the UT Department of Theatre & Dance's most enterprising and inventive students at the time – Katie Bender, Stephanie Busing, Abe Koogler, and Gabrielle Reisman. Their show topped this crusty old arts writer's list of favorite theatrical experiences of 2013 and won the Austin Critics Table Award for outstanding production of a comedy. Now, the masterminds of that exhilarating exercise have banded together under the name Underbelly Theatre and concocted another immersive adventure. Church of the Passionate Cat ushers its audience into "the city's most secretive nightclub," a noirish den where a mysterious minister for a strangely feline faith may hold the key to redemption for a drunken, down-on-her-luck detective. It is, we are told, "a murder mystery turned on its ear," a whodunit with a jazz beat.

Part of the delight of Slip River was not knowing where I was being led and what surprises lay in store around the next bend (a 19th century underground railroad for orphans headed by Beyoncé?!), so I wouldn't want to spoil that wonderful unexpectedness for myself or you, dear reader, by learning too much about this new Underbelly project. However, I did tease out this much from one member of the company's gang of four: "We work to delight, frighten, and move our audiences," allows Bender, and in The Church of the Passionate Cat "each audience member will start in one place and end somewhere else. They will be offered a beverage and a delicious snack. They will be welcome to join us in a song and be asked to give something up. Finally, while I can't promise that audience members will experience a life-altering, ecstatic spiritual transformation, it's certainly possible."


Church of the Passionate Cat runs May 8-18, Thursday-Sunday, 8pm, with additional show Saturday, 10pm, at the Off Center's Center Center, 2211 Hidalgo. For more information, visit www.underbellytheatre.com.

READ MORE
More Austin theatre
Making Room to Play
Making Room to Play
Create Space Austin kicks off the drive to secure more performing venues in the city

Elizabeth Cobbe, April 15, 2016

Exibitionism: Road to Nowhere
Detroit
Capital T Theatre's Detroit is a destination worth visiting, but you won't want to live there

Robert Faires, Sept. 5, 2014

More by Robert Faires
Spectrum Theatre Company's <i>Spunk</i>
Spectrum Theatre Company's Spunk
This Austin company weaves three classic tales by Zora Neale Hurston into a spirited service full of sass and grit

July 29, 2016

Hyde Park Theatre's <i>The Flick</i>
Hyde Park Theatre's The Flick
Annie Baker's drama movingly shows us that the drama in a movie theatre isn't only on the screen

July 22, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Church of the Passionate Cat, Austin theatre, Underbelly Theatre, Katie Bender, Stephanie Busing, Abe Koogler, Gabrielle Reisman, Slip River, Austin Critics Table

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)