My Friend, The Cat
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
May 25, 2007
Phil Geoffrey Bond, who the theatre world knows as a writer and as a prolific presenter of cabaret (now at the Laurie Beechman Theatre), has written a tribute to Chesterson, the cat who was beloved to him for more than a decade. My Friend, The Cat traces Phil and Chesterson's relationship, from their first meeting (at a "crazy cat lady's house" in Hell's Kitchen, when Phil was a young NYU student and Chesterson a tiny kitten) through their time living in various (and progressively nicer) apartments, up to Chesterson's illness and death. The story is narrated by Phil, and punctuated with several songs performed by cabaret artists Alysha Umphress, Brandon Cutrell, Julie Reyburn, and Lisa Asher.
Most vivid, though, are the photos of Chesterson (occasionally with his owner) that are projected throughout the show. Chesterson exhibits all the personality and attitude that Phil avers, and his likeness prompts much ooh-ing and aah-ing from the audience whenever it appears on screen.
The story told here is, unsurprisingly, as much about Phil's maturation from uncertain college kid to savvy theatre professional as it is about the kitty. What emerges is a portrait of a man with a great deal of love to give and a very catlike cat (see, for example, the poems of T.S. Eliot) who was lucky enough to find the owner that suited him. (Isn't that what cats always do?)
Bond's writing and performance here are heartfelt; so much so that the final moments, delineating Chesterson's battle against cancer, are wrenching and hard to take.
The songs that accompany the tale range from Charles Chaplin's "Smile" (the musical highlight of the show, performed by Asher) to the probably inevitable "Macavity" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats.