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It's Storm Central at Baby Screams Miracle at Catastrophic Theatre

In rehearsal for Baby Scream Miracle
In rehearsal for Baby Scream Miracle
Photo by Brian Kaplun
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A windstorm out of all proportion whirls itself up. A small religious family hunkers down for the duration, bolstered — perhaps or maybe not — by the arrival of an estranged daughter. And the term duration takes on a whole new meaning as the storm dies down, but comes fiercely back again and again.

Although playwright Clare Barron has set this in eastern Washington State, everything about it will sound achingly familiar to Houston area residents. Knowing that rain and wind can morph into bad storms and devastation has been a teachable moment we're all tired of sitting through as our sense of safety has changed.

Actor/director Jeff Miller read the script for Baby Scream Miracle, found himself laughing at its extremes and thought it would be perfect for Catastrophic Theatre. Asked about the meaning of the title, Miller responds in true Catastrophic fashion: "It's a Rorschach test."

Explaining why he wanted to direct this one, Miller says: "I tend to like plays that will make me laugh and I don't know why or even if I should be. I think a lot of Catastrophic plays are like that. I find myself laughing fairly inappropriately at times and getting side-eyed by a lot of audience members sometimes and the more I do that, the more I'm probably enjoying the play."

As the play starts, married couple Carol and Gabe are praying together at night — including the plea that their shy daughter Kayden will become more outgoing. The storm hits, shattering windows. The next morning after everything has died down, Gabe's daughter Cynthia and Carol's mother Barbara come by to help clean up. But  the storm comes back, louder and more terrifying than ever. Soon they lose their power. Complicating everything is that both Carol and Cynthia are very pregnant.

The other main character is, of course, the storm wreaking untold death and destruction, calling upon the Catastrophic lighting and sound designers to pull out all the stops in this one-act, 105-minute production, Miller says.

After the family finally flees the house that has been torn apart, they drive to a motel. The extreme devastation and bodily injury are described in a detail that's not for the faint of heart. "They talk about a decapitation. It is extreme. Even Clare talks about the play wants to be as violent and bloody as it can be but its soul is still very low-fi. There is that type of spectacle in it but in a sense it's a family play. That takes place in a house. That's torn apart in a storm. Onstage," Miller says.

"But there's no decapitations onstage," he assures.

"This play it's surrea,l it’s dark, it’s funny. I'm drawn to those types of plays," Miller says. He's also drawn to plays that don’t have a really strong linear narrative, that aren't trying to teach a specific thing or aren't morality plays, he says. "I tend to like the things that I need to bring myself to that play and make it what it is. Especially with Catastrophic audiences, I trust them so implicitly that they'll enjoy that as well."

And just remember as Miller says: "It's funny. It's a comedy."

Performances are scheduled for November 22 through December 15 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays at MATCH, 3400 Main. For incormation call 713-521-4533 or visit matchhouston.org or catastrophictheatre.com. Pay What You Can. Suggested $35.

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