Much has happened since The Catastrophic Theatre produced Sam Shepard's Buried Child in 2016. We lost the American playwright last year and, only a month later, our region was kicked to the curb by Hurricane Harvey.
Very few of us are doing better than we were two years ago. The gig economy is at an all time high and some folks are still trying to get back into flood-damaged homes. So the timing seems spot on for Catastrophic to mount the first in Shepard's series of family tragedies, Curse of the Starving Class, with its message of hopelessness and futility.
"It’s very relevant today. People digging themselves out in 'Sam speak.' He’s talking about the American Dream." says Jeff Miller, who made his directorial debut with Buried Child and is stepping in again to direct Curse. "In this play — Sam will tell you — he’s not really sure what the American Dream is but he knows it doesn’t work."
Originally written in 1978, Shepard rewrote the play during the economic collapse of 2008, and Catastrophic is producing that updated version. "It was relevant around the country. People losing their homes and their jobs. It's the same today," says Miller. "I would describe it as a dark comedy. It does have drama — it's dark — but it's also very, very funny.
Luis Galindo has the role of Weston, a father who hates living in poverty so much he drowns himself in drink and gambling. Jayden Key is teenage son Wesley, who dreams of going somewhere far away and enjoys pissing off his sister. Courtney Lomelo plays the mother, Ella, who circumvents her husband to hatch an escape plan; and Sarah Becker is the pubescent daughter who surprises everybody with her career aspirations.
Rounding out the cast are Ronnie Blaine, Troy Schulze, Charlie Scott, Kyle Sturdivant, and Abraham Zeus Zapata. Sturdivant also does double duty, sharing assistant director duties with Jacey Little.
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Catastrophic has a long history with the works of Shepard, even dating back to the company's earlier incarnation as Infernal Bridegroom Productions.
"Sam is really, he’s a special playwright for Catastrophic. He’s been part of Catastrophic from the early days," says Miller. Artistic Director Jason Nodler directed Suicide in B-Flat during IBP's 1995-1996 season, Cowboy Mouth (co-written with Patti Smith) in 1997 and, in 2001, the one-acts Action and Chicago.
Miller says that after Shepard's death in July of last year they really wanted to go back and revisit the playwright's work. "Shepard is really part of
Curse of the Starving Class is scheduled for September 28-October 21, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and October 15, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit catastrophictheatre.com or matchouston.org. Pay what you can, $40 suggested ticket price.