New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

Big News! Emily Mann to retire as McCarter Theatre's Artistic Director following 2019-2020 season
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

Circle Players Presents "After The Revolution"
(PISCATAWAY, NJ) -- Circle Players presents After the Revolution by Amy Herzog, weekends from February 1st to February 17th. The production is directed by Alicia Harabin. In the play, Emma Joseph is a bright, hard-working, law school graduate continuing her family’s business of fighting for progressive ideals. 
Black Box PAC Presents "Significant Other"
(TEANECK, NJ) -- Black Box PAC's first main stage show of 2019 is Significant Other by Joshua Harmon. BBPAC is no stranger to Harmon’s work, as one of the first hits at the Black Box Performing Arts Center was Harmon’s hit Bad Jews. Significant Other follows the perpetually single Jordan Berman and his trio of girl friends as they navigate dating, relationships, and supporting those you love. Performances run from January 24 to February 10th.
The Theater Project Presents 5th Annual One-Act Play Competition
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- Which play will be voted Audience Favorite – the romance, the thriller, or the comedy?  And which author will take the $500 Judge’s Award?
Dreamcatcher Presents World Premiere of "Psychodrama"
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre will present the World Premiere of Psychodrama by Montclair playwright Phoebe Farber. This seriocomedy unfolds in a divorce support group where a new leader introduces unorthodox methods that just might work. Psychodrama runs February 14-March 3.
Centenary Stage Presents Henrik Ibsen's "Enemy Of The People"
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Randall Duk Kim and Anne Occhiogrosso headline Centenary Stage Company’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, February 15 through March 3 in the Sitnik Theatre of the Lackland Performing Arts Center, Hackettstown, New Jersey. Adapted by John Alan Wyatt and directed by Anne Occhiogrosso, the production will feature Randall Duk Kim as Doctor Thomas Stockmann supported by an acting company of professional and local talent from the tri-state area and Centenary University. The full-scale production marks the culmination of the 2018 Gates Ferry Lecture Series: “What is Truth?”

Emmy-Winning South Oranger, Andre Braugher
​​​​​​​“I’m Andre Braugher and I’m here at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, SOPAC, rehearsing a new play by Julia Doolittle called ‘Tell Them I’m Still Young.’”
Laiona Michelle Talks About "Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical"
This might be the right time for Nina Simone—15 years after her death. That’s what Laiona Michelle thinks, and, in a way, Michelle will be testing that idea by bringing the singer-activist to life in a world-premiere musical show at George Street Playhouse. Michelle wrote the show—“Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical”—and she will appear in the title role at the New Brunswick theater from January 29 through February 24.
It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 

Event calendar
Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019

Sorry, no events listed for today.
Here are some upcoming events.

Rechnitz Halls DiMattio Gallery, Monmouth University @ 10:00am
West Long Branch

Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University @ 7:30pm
West Long Branch

New Jersey Repertory Company @ 8:00pm
Long Branch

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.