New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

Big News! The 2019 People's Choice Awards Winners Announced
Click here for the story!

Review of Saving Kitty at NJ Rep

By Gary Wien

(LONG BRANCH, NJ -- JULY 27, 2013) -- In the 1988 hit film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, there's a line in which Jessica Rabbit says, "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way." That was the feeling I was left with after seeing "Saving Kitty" at NJ Rep. With the character named Kate, playwright Marisa Smith has created one of the most annoying, mean-spirited characters I've ever seen. If you're a fan of watching people on "American Idol" rip into the contestants you'll probably enjoy this play; if not, you're in for a bit of a rough ride.

The play is centered around Kate (the mother) who is determined to prevent her daughter from marrying a Born Again Christian. She's supposed to represent an "ultra-liberal" who constantly attacks religion because she's a non-believer, but, to me, she just seems like an evil mother and the type of rather bitter human being that is often heard on talk radio these days. In fact, if we weren't told by the daughter that her parents were liberals, I could just have easily thought we were watching people on the other side of the political spectrum. I'm fairly sure that not every liberal is an atheist and not every conservative is a believer.

"Saving Kitty" is sort of a take off on the Guess Who's Coming To Dinner concept of the daughter bringing her boyfriend to meet the parents for the first time. The play begins with Kate wondering what type of guy Kitty (the daughter) would bring home. Will he be black? she wondered. Of course, that wouldn't be a problem. In fact, she believed she would be fine with just about anybody Kitty could bring home. But she never imagined she'd bring home someone religious.

"Thirty-five percent of Americans -- possibly more -- consider themselves Evangelicals," said Kitty.

"Well, none of them live in Manhattan," her mother replied.

The play is supposed to show that liberals can be just as insensitive as conservatives are often portrayed -- especially when dealing with religion; however, instead of inspired debates about religion, we're treated to a barrage of one-liner attacks on virtually every religious group. Paul Cook (Kitty's boyfriend) is apparently from the "turn the other cheek" world and takes the verbal insults hurled from Kate over and over again without putting up much of a defense. Kate quizzes him on evolution, the role of women in the family, and the religious school that he's going to start in the Bronx. While Kitty is proud of the way Paul "stood up to her", that barely comes across. It looked pretty much like a one-sided fight to me. In fact, much of the defense came from Kitty herself.

"Paul is very enlightened," Kitty explained.

"That's what they said about Jim Jones... right before the Kool-aid," quipped Kate.

NJ Rep always has fine actors and this play continues that trend. Sarah Nealis (Kitty) and Christian Pedersen (Paul) are especially good -- so much that I wish we saw more of them and less of the mother. John Fitzgibbon (a veteran of NJ Rep plays) does a nice job as the father in a rather limited role. And Judith Hawking does as well as one can with Kate, a character that's just so annoying that it distracts from the play's message. Looking back, Judith probably did an amazing job with Kate, but it's just a character that doesn't deserve to be the star.

The scenery design by Jessica Parks is terrific as well. NJ Rep always does such an amazing job utilizing every inch of space it has. In this case, the set is a posh New York City apartment, complete with a bar that's used so often it should get a stage credit.

"Saving Kitty" does have many funny moments, but the majority of the religious jokes didn't hit home in the audience on the night I went. It was equal opportunity offensiveness with jokes about Evangelicals, Muslims, Jews, Nazis, the English, Puritans, and Born Agains. Designed to be a satire, it just seemed a bit too over the top for me. Kate, a former soap opera star, is so shrill, so mean towards just about everyone that it makes you wonder how in the world her husband stays with her. In the end, she's so overbearing and annoying that's it's difficult to watch. One doesn't get the feeling she's having a nervous breakdown or anything, it seems as though this is the way she acts all of the time. It's a shame that she's the focal point because it really is a good concept for a play, but it loses much of its punch with her character.

In the end, the play is a bit of a wasted opportunity. Marisa Smith is right in believing that this is a topic worth pursuing, but it shouldn't be shown in such a one-sided affair. In my opinion, the play would have been much more powerful if there was a true good versus evil (or believer versus disbeliever) discussion. There's so little back and forth that nobody's mind would be able to be changed now. With a stronger defense by Paul and Kitty, the playwright might have been able to not only show how inconsiderate some people (in this case, liberals) could be, but might have been able to show how wrong they can be as well.

Even though I was disappointed in this play, I commend NJ Rep for presenting original dramas and comedies all year long. While most theatres in the area are presenting the same old traditional musicals during the summer, it's refreshing to have the opportunity to see new works.

"Saving Kitty" runs now through August 25 at NJ Rep (179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ). Following this run, NJ Rep will present "Broomstick", a national New Play Network Rolling World Premiere by John Biguenet September 19 - October 13.

Photo by SuzAnne Barabas

For more by this author, click here

More Articles You Might Like

NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
The Simon & Garfunkel Story Comes To The Basie On January 23
The Simon & Garfunkel Story Comes To The Basie On January 23
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present  Murder Mystery Weekends
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present Murder Mystery Weekends
"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
The Theater Project Presents 5th Annual One-Act Play Competition
The Theater Project Presents 5th Annual One-Act Play Competition
Centenary Stage To Hold Non-Union Open Call Auditions For 2019 Summer Musical Season
Centenary Stage To Hold Non-Union Open Call Auditions For 2019 Summer Musical Season

Event calendar
Saturday, Mar 23, 2019


Earthshare NJ Rocks @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

GEORGE & BRENDA'S ANNIVERSARY BASH @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 12:00pm

LIONEL RICHIE @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Brute Force & Daughter of Force @ Randy Nows Man Cave, Bordentown - 8:00pm

Diva Moments @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 7:30pm

Janet Gardner LIVE at DingBatz @ Dingbatz, Clifton - 7:00pm

Family Matinee: Tito and the Birds @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 4:30pm

Kashmir: The Live Led Zeppelin Experience @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm

DvoŇô√°k | Liebermann | Mazzoli @ Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton - 8:00pm

TEN (TRIBUTE TO PEARL JAM) @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 7:00pm


Panama Dead @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Mamma Mia @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Native Gardens @ Eagle Theatre, Hammonton - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

The Source by Jack Canfora @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Sassy Mamas presented by Dunbar Repertory Company @ Middletown Arts Center, Middletown - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

New Jersey Theatre Alliance's Stages Festival @ WheatonArts, Millville - 2:00pm

CURIOUS GEORGE: THE GOLDEN MEATBALL @ The Growing Stage: The Childrens Theatre of New Jersey, Netcong - 4:00pm

FINDING NEVERLAND @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

Ken Ludwigs The Gods of Comedy @ Matthews Theatre @ McCarter Theatre, Princeton - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Theo @ Marion Huber Theater @ Two River Theater, Red Bank - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

A Man and His Prostate with Ed Asner @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 2:00pm


Brian Regan @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm


Sensory Friendly Theatre: NJ Ballet's SLEEPING BEAUTY @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 2:00pm


HudsonWay Immersion Camp FREE FAMILY DAY @ HudsonWay Immersion School, Stirling - 12:00pm

View all events

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.