Review: “The Big Cat”

Selected Shorts: “The Big Cat”

Saturday, March 7, 2015
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX

by Jessica Harper-Lee Powell

On Saturday, March 7, 2015 the Dallas Museum of Art presented “Selected Shorts: Surprised by Love,” which is part of the Arts & Letters series. It was practically a full house in the Horchow Auditorium, with only a handful of empty seats left towards the middle of the sections.

The evening was hosted by Jane Kaczmarek, best known for her role as Lois on the hit comedy Malcolm in the Middle, with a guest list that included the Emmy-winning actress Mary Kay Place and Tony Award winner René Auberjonois. When the lights dimmed a few minutes after 7:30 p.m., our host was welcomed to the stage to start the night off by reading “The Proxy Marriage” by Maile Meloy.

Both Ms. Kaczmarek and the audience were moved to tears and laughter over the course of the story, which follows a young boy named William, and his love for a girl named Bridey Taylor.

The second reader of the night, Mary Kay Place, performed the short story “Who Am I This Time?” by Kurt Vonnegut. Written from the perspective of a director, this story is about two unlikely outcasts who find love through the characters they portray. The story was funny, witty, and aptly named, and Ms. Place kept the audience laughing throughout the entire piece.

After a brief intermission, the last of the guests was invited to the stage. René enraptured the audience with a short from author Louise Erdrich, entitled “The Big Cat”. René’s enthusiasm and lyrical ability to bring the words to life transported the audience from the crowded auditorium room in downtown Dallas to a small house in Minnesota where Elida’s husband lay awake in his in-laws’ house, listening to the symphony of snores he likened to a metalworking shop. René carried the room with him on the journey of this sleep-deprived husband, through the mutual divorce from Elida, the blissful affair with uninterrupted sleep he found shortly thereafter, and his remarriage to the well-off Laurene Schotts, who, unlike Elida, slept “like a drunk kitten.” It was difficult to predict how the story might end, and listeners found themselves hoping that the husband would reconcile with Elida, even knowing the sacrifice of sleep the husband would be making. Needless to say, René kept the audience entranced from beginning to end with his liveliness and charisma, and after the last line was spoken, I daresay not a single person in the room could have been disappointed with his performance of the piece.

My only regret of the evening was having to leave directly at the end of the performance and not getting the chance to say hello to René and thank him for the fun evening. Anyone who hasn’t seen René perform live should definitely make a point of it, as he is just as brilliant in reading a story as he is in performing on television and film.