So My Grandmother Died, Blah Blah Blah is Paul Tei's funny, trippy mind blast

If you like shows that combine witty comedy, textually dense psychodrama, trippy-ass quests of intellectual expression, philosophical meanderings, and comedic kitsch, Mad Cat Theatre Company's So My Grandmother Died, Blah Blah Blah is the show for you.

Written and directed by Mad Cat's Paul Tei, the play accomplishes all of the above through an array of batshit characters you'd normally run into while tripping on shrooms. The kinetic, frenzied production plunges the audience into the mind of a struggling comedy writer trudging through the emotional baggage of her personal life, her relationship with her family, and her floundering career, all while grappling with a stubborn case of writer's block as she pens a eulogy for her dead grandmother.

Overwrought plot synopsis? You bet! And that's only the tip of the crazy.

Melissa Almaguer in So My Grandmother Died, Blah Blah Blah
Courtesy Mad Cat Theatre Co.
Melissa Almaguer in So My Grandmother Died, Blah Blah Blah

Location Info

Map

Light Box at Goldman Warehouse

404 NW 26th St., #100
Miami, FL 33127

Category: Performing Arts Venues

Region: Midtown/Wynwood/Design District

Details

Written and directed by Paul Tei of Mad Cat Theatre Company. Starring Melissa Almaguer, Troy Davidson, Erin Joy Schmidt, and Ricky Waugh. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday Through September 10 at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., Miami; 866-811-4111; madcattheatre.org. Tickets cost $24 for general admission or $12 for students with ID.

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Polly (Melissa Almaguer), the struggling writer, has flown from Hollywood, California, to Hollywood, Florida, for her grandmother's funeral. As she opens her laptop to begin writing the eulogy, the audience becomes Alice in Polly's Wonderland of imagination. Her subconscious is our guide into a world of lost love, Wikipedia entries, and the need to unload a crap-ton of emotional baggage. Polly's mind is a whirling, harried minefield of voices and personalities that come from her own Greek chorus, a trio of "deconstructionists" named Troy (Troy Davidson), Anne (Anne Chamberlain), and Ricky (Ricky Waugh). Those voices in your head? They're people dressed in 19th-century garb. Oh, and a pirate.

The deconstructionists, who hilariously morph from one personality to another, feed the audience a healthy dose of information about an eclectic array of subjects through monologues and soliloquies — from Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar!) to Ezra Pound (anti-Semite!) to an obscure G.I. Joe character named Barbecue ("Knowing is half the battle"!). They all somehow relate to the story.

As Polly sifts through her mental encyclopedia, information mostly gathered from the Internet (she is a 21st-century girl, after all), she tries to overcome mental and emotional hurdles. Her grandmother died, her career has stalled, and her boyfriend abruptly left her. It's the ingredients for the perfect shitstorm that has her in a funk while her family is relying on her to come through with that damn eulogy.

Through it all, Polly is looking for her Hedda Gabler moment — a breakthrough for the modern heroine and a way to get rid of that nagging writer's block. (Gabler is a character from a 19th-century play. She is considered the female Hamlet. So My Grandmother Died is a wealth of information, I tell ya.)

Her struggle with the eulogy becomes a source of friction between Polly and her two older sisters. There's Monica (Erin Joy Schmidt), a new mother who hears all of Polly's thoughts because she can read people's minds. And there's Annabella (Deborah L. Sherman), a modern dancer who can read people's souls. Her sisters mean well, but they get in the way as Polly tries to sort through some very personal stuff. Meanwhile, their mother (Beverly Blanche) is a rock, while Dad (George Schiavone) keeps to himself as he listens to Miami Heat games on the radio, occasionally blurting out gems like, "I'll tell you why Miami is great: corrupt government, a failing school system, and the Miami Heat!"

The deconstructionists dart all over the stage, making sense of Polly's plight for the audience, taking on multiple guises, and expounding on her mind-blasts, from Zsa Zsa Gabor to Oprah. They reference Daniel Tosh and Inception, and they sit back and nod whenever Polly's dad yells out, "Goddamn Chalmers!" in frustration as he listens to Heat games (he is clearly my favorite character).

Tei's aim is to explore the Internet's impact on our lives and reveal how communication has been stifled. He channels our real struggles with pain, loss, family, love, and resolve through Polly's mind's eye.

The knowledge bombs dropped on the audience are a clever device, making the play a sort of organic Wikipedia. Watching the action unfold, I realized each of our lives is essentially an unfinished Wikipedia entry. And this truth aids Polly in marshalling the inspiration to write about her departed grandmother. It's a tool to help her find the answer to the grandest question: "What does it all mean?"

Throughout the production, the characters get into the habit of breaking the fourth wall and making the audience a part of the performance. Mad Cat went to great lengths in its stage design to bring home the illusion — wrapping the makeshift theater in black curtains with written pages haphazardly strewn across them, and upside-down umbrellas filled with discarded papers hanging from the ceiling. It's like being sucked into a Pink Floyd album cover.

Toward the conclusion of So My Grandmother Died, one of the characters confronts Polly and says, "I won't mind it so much if these people [the audience members] walk away from this play and say, 'What was that?' But what I do mind is if they walk out saying, 'What the fuck was that?'"

Neither happened, but it's still some trippy shit that drives the message home. The madness eventually subsides, and we all find our Hedda Gabler moment.

Mad Cat Theatre Company and especially writer/director Paul Tei understand that theater doesn't resonate without a nuanced script, fascinating characters, a story that's daring and original, and well-timed Oprah jokes.

 
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11 comments
cljahn
cljahn

And how were the performances? I get that you like the script, what about the acting? The directing? If I want to do this play in the future, do I want to? I can't tell from this. You have completely failed to differentiate what works because of Tei's work as playwright, what works because of directorial choices, what works because of performances, and you've barely touched on the technical elements.

As a review, it's worthless. It's shame no editor stepped up to make sure the basics were covered.

Chris Joseph
Chris Joseph

And you continue to completely fail at not being a total nick-picky douche.

cljahn
cljahn

Is that really the relationship you want with the guy who is posting links to your reviews all over the internet, even though they're not very well written?

Rather than calling me names, you could write better reviews. After all, that's all I want. And I'm telling you exactly how to do it, even. Give me what I want, and there will be no nitpicking, and you'll even get compliments; I've already demonstrated that.

And imagine how much more traffic I'll drive to you when I like the product.

Chris Joseph
Chris Joseph

Dude, please understand this. Tattoo it on your giant ego if you must: I honestly, truly, with all my heart and soul, do not give a sack of shit what you think of my writing.

I asure you, you are in the minority as far as those who don't like how I write.

I PROMISE you that.

You don't get to decide how and what I write.

I got this gig for a reason.

You're just a lowly fucking blogger for a reason.

You're not the expert you make yourself out to be.

Get the fuck over yourself.

But, you're right.

Responding to you makes it look like I care.

I don't, dude. I just feel sorry for you.

So, this will be the last time I respond to anything you have to say.

You're not worth it.

As I said: You're a fly I can't swat away.

But flies have short life-spans. They feed off other people's shit and they die and are forgotten.

Rest well, Professor Dickweed.

cljahn
cljahn

Chris, if no one cared about the feedback, you'd have ignored me from the outset. Let's face it: it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

But who's really sad; the theatre enthusiast who takes time to collate a website so theatre-lovers can find all the articles and reviews about local theatre, or the local theatre reviewer who calls the enthusiast names for demanding reviews that actually say something about the production in question?

No need to answer; it's pretty obvious which one it is.

So you can either grow up a little, learn from your critics, and become a great writer. Or you can childishly call me names, and continue to churn out reviews that don't tell us what we need to know about shows until your publisher realizes that the number of hits on your reviews are dropping off. And when they research WHY your numbers tailed off, they're going to find opinions on the matter.

Either way, there will eventually be better reviews coming out of the New Times. It's up to you whose byline they bear.

Chris Joseph
Chris Joseph

News for you chap: THEY DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR FEEDBACK. Truly and honestly. They think you're fucking joke.

And don't flatter yourself. You're not "on my back." You're just a fly I can't swat away.

So, yea. 'Preciate the feedback!

It's not going to change how I write.

But reading Anon's first comment, I must make this correction: You're not a douche.

You're just..... sad.

Anonymous
Anonymous

You don't seem to notice anything including your own assinine pomposity. Want fries with that?

cljahn
cljahn

Sorry, anonymous, I didn't notice you were gone. Good luck flipping those burgers!

cljahn
cljahn

When you grow up a little, you'll learn that the way to deal with a harsh critic isn't to call them names, but to say "thanks for your opinion, and thanks for reading," and disengage.

If what you did for a living was worthless, I wouldn't be wasting time trying to get you to do a better job of it. It's frustrating to see all that typing, and all we get to read is dreck. Sorry that pisses you off. But the only way you will get me off your back is to improve, and all the name calling on the planet will not change that.

Sure, I could do all of this on my blog - and I do it there, too. But while I have no idea if your editors are reading my blog, I know for damned sure they are reading this feedback.

Anonymous
Anonymous

CLJ, your self-importance is beyond delusional. I (and others) have stopped going to your site because your pontificating has gotten well in the way of the purpose of your blog. Those of us who have worked with you are well aware of your love for your own voice. Your blog has become irritating and self-defeating. I will further frustrate you with my anonymity as this tiny community is too narrow and incestuous to accept any negativity pertaining to any aspect of the theater scene. You are not nearly as respected as you perceive. Many laughs are attained at your expense.

Chris Joseph
Chris Joseph

Giving tips and points is one thing. What you do is out and out douchey, friend-oh.

Calling what I do for a living "worthless" is douchey.

It don't float your boat? All good. Wanna say I suck on your blog? Go to it. You won't be the first... and there is a contingent out there who feel differently than you.

I understand the whole different strokes for different folks and all that shit.

Wanna give me tips, I'm game. Wanna be critical, coolio. But don't be a douche about it, is all I'm sayin.

You don't think this review meets whatever grand standard you have for how Every Review Ever In The History Of Everything Should Be Written? Fine. But it's not worthless. Jesus man... you accuse ME of overusing the adjectives.

Either way....

Gonna write em the way I write em, dude.

Hate or don't.

All good either way.

But you come to my link and leave douchey comments, I'm gonna call you a douche.

 
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