"By the Bog of Cats" had a great stage, but mediocre performances



The CSULB theatre arts department presented Marina Carr’s “By the Bog of Cats,” under the direction of Alexis Macnab, from March 14-23 on the Studio Theatre stage.

The Irish play detailed the struggles of Hester Swane (Alyssa Garcia) after her lover Carthage Kilbride (Deon L. Jones Jr.) leaves her for the younger and wealthier Caroline Cassidy (Nora Hall), and she finds herself haunted by ghosts of her past and future.

If there’s one thing this play did right, it’s that it captured the essence of its Irish roots through its technical elements.

The scenery was excellently crafted and, along with the lights and sound, captured the ambiance of the play’s time period and themes. The costume and hair and makeup—which were significant in many scenes of the play—made the characters believable. All these elements worked together to make the play authentic.

However, the acting of this play was its downfall. Irish dialect is obviously foreign to anyone not from the country, but it seemed that much of the time many of the actors were so focused on keeping their accents that they forgot about their acting.

Much of the cast’s diction was nonexistent and powerful lines went unnoticed because it was not understandable. Then there were others, like Garcia, who maintained the intensity of their characters, but lost the accent—abandoning the Irish roots the play was based on.

There was, indeed, a standout in the cast who maintained the purity of her character as the love child of Hester and Carthage, Josie—played by Carolina Montenegro. I did not feel, at any point, that Montenegro ever exaggerated the characteristics of a child, but rather, made the character genuinely believe that she was an innocent little girl stuck in the middle of a horrible parental situation.

Although the staging was a bit bizarre at times, the actors did do a good job at making it work and ultimately sold each movement they made to the audience.

“By the Bog of Cats” was an overall strange play, but its twisted plot definitely benefitted from a great technical crew that salvaged an otherwise mediocre performance.

For the rest of the CSULB’s theatre arts performance season, visit http://csulb.calrep.org/calendar.

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