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My Friend, The Cat

Animal lovers are sure to relate to Phil Geoffrey Bond's chronicle of the life of his cat, but the show suffers from too much sentimentality. logo
Phil Geoffrey Bond
with Chesterson the cat
Anyone who's ever loved and/or lost a pet is sure to relate to Phil Geoffrey Bond's My Friend, The Cat, which will be seen periodically this summer at the West Bank Café's Laurie Beechman Theater. This musical memoir chronicles the life and death of Bond's beloved cat Chesterson from his days as a kitten to his final moments in an animal hospital. Bond delivers the tale as a series of autobiographical monologues, and while the writer/performer's love for his deceased pet shines through, the work itself suffers from an overabundance of sentimentality.

For the majority of the show, Bond sits on a stool speaking into a microphone; his script lies open in front of him as he regales the audience with humorous anecdotes, such as how he would keep his cat cool during hot summers by putting him in the refrigerator for short periods of time. While several of the stories are amusing, Bond tries too hard to convince the audience that his cat was truly special. Moreover, he goes a little too far in comparing Chesterson to a son. If done in moderation, this might be more palatable, but Bond's frequent exclamations of "That's my boy" grow a bit wearisome.

The writing is fairly straightforward, with very little irony or any other literary devices that would allow for a layering of meaning. Although Bond includes one story about how Chesterson ruthlessly attacked his feet one night -- drawing blood in the process -- there seems to have been very little conflict between man and cat. More effective in building dramatic tension is Bond's description of the animal hospital and seeing Chesterson hooked up to an elaborate life support system.

Interspersed with Bond's monologues are several songs chosen to thematically complement his words. These range from the wistful "My Buddy" to the whimsical "McCavity" from -- what else? -- Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats. They're sung variously by four musical guests: Lisa Asher, Brandon Cutrell, Julie Reyburn, and Alysha Umphress.

While they're all fine singers, the only one to go above and beyond the call of duty is Cutrell in two beautifully performed solos. The first, Babbie Green's "At the Pound," is a delightful ode to the joys of getting a new pet. Cutrell's energy is so infectious as he describes the initial thrill of discovery that you can't help but grin right along with him.

Later, he performs a devastating rendition of John Bucchino's "Temporary," that coincides with the portion of the narrative in which Chesterson is gravely ill and about to die. The song -- sung with a sadness laced with bravery in the face of adversity -- says more about grief than the rest of the entire show.

It would have made an effective ending, but afterwards there's yet another story and another song: "One True Friend" by David Foster, Carole King and Carole Bayer Sager. While Asher sings it very sweetly, it doesn't have the dramatic weight of the previous tune. Bond's point has already been made, and anything else is just unnecessary.

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