“Year of the Rooster” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – December 8, 2014

This review aired on KBAQ December 8, 2014



Stray Cat Theatre, Tempe Performing Arts Center

Tempe, AZ

Stray Cat Theatre comes up with another off-center winner in the hysterical “dark” comedy “Year of the Rooster” by Eric Dufault.  Unlike most local theaters that do holiday shows during December, “Year of the Rooster” is certainly not a show in that genre as it tackles Gil Pepper’s mundane and uninteresting life.

Pepper’s one distinction is his prize-winning rooster, Odysseus Rex, known as Odie, who with manipulative conniving strategy wins cock-fights against formidable challengers.  This chatty rooster’s drive is to kill his foils in the ring and the machinations of his owner’s weird life as a McDonald’s clerk is utterly wacky making for a bizarre comedy that leaves audiences guffawing wildly.

As always in Stray Cat production’s, staging, this time by Michael Peck, allows both the company’s artistic and associate directors, Ron May and Louis Farber, to star in the zippy production.  May plays Pepper with understated but pointedly sly humor while Farber successfully tackles the double role of Dickie Thimble who eggs Pepper on and Bat-Dolphin, Odie’s prime opponent.  The pair couldn’t be better and Austin Kiehle (Keel) is a hoot as Odie, the head-bobbing rooster.  Kiehle is masterful impersonating the driven-to-win rooster.

More brightly comic supporting performances come from Kadie McFadzen as Pepper’s weird 70-year-old mother, Lou, and Osiris Cuen in the double role of Philepa (Phil e pa), Pepper’s wacko McDonald’s co-clerk, and Lucky Lady who is involved in an unusual way with the rooster fights.

Peck’s rapid-fire, split-second comic timing staging makes “Year of the Rooster” the wildly funny black comedy it must become to work.  There isn’t a misstep anywhere in “Year of the Rooster” but be warned that if you shy away from off-center, terribly bleak black comedies, “Year of the Rooster” isn’t for you.  If bizarre humor tickles your fancy and if you aren’t obsessed with seeing a holiday season tribute, “Year of the Rooster” is a refreshing alternative and earns five stars out of five.  It continues through December 20.

At the opening of “Year of the Rooster,” Stray Cat Theatre made an unexpected but welcome announcement that beginning next season, the company will move from the soon-to-be-demolished Tempe Performing Arts Center to the new Tempe Center for the Performing Arts and its intimate Studio Theatre.  This is exciting news and it is great that one of the Valley’s two alternative theaters will continue to produce its welcome non-traditional theater.   For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-227-1766 or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: A