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REVIEW: The Colony of the Cats

by Rebecca M. Alvin

Every year, Stephen L. Russell creates theater for children that doesn’t talk down to them, that entertains them as well as their parents, and that often combines traditional folk tales with modern references, mildly political undercurrents, and a bit of a Marx Brothers sensibility. This year is no different as WHAT for Kids! presents a revival of Russell’s 2003 play The Colony of the Cats.

Mae Cutrona (left), as the evil sister Peppina, menaces three of the cats in The Colony of the Cats at WHAT for Kids. The cats are (left to right) : Kayleigh Brown, Iona Skye McKenna Kaplan, and Maya Lima. Photo: Stephen Russell

Based on a Sicilian folk tale, the story is most easily described as Cinderella meets Cats. Lizina (Emily Nyerick) is a very unhappy, but beautiful young woman who slaves away to take care of the house and everything else for her self-absorbed, dim-witted sister Peppina (Mae Cutrona) and her oblivious mother (Paula Erickson). When she finally decides she’s had enough of their abuse, she runs away from home to go live with the peculiar Father Gatto (Dick Morrill), a walking, talking cat who lives with several kittens up on a hill nearby and has trouble finding a housekeeper who wants to clean so many litter boxes. Lizina, finally at her wit’s end, applies for the job and finds a new, more appreciative home for herself. One day, while walking through town, she is spotted by Prince Carlo (Jack Barry), who is anxious to find a wife, if only to get his mother Queen Regina (also played by Erickson) off his back. When he sets out on a search for Lizina, things get turned upside down as Peppina and her mother try to throw him off track.

The weird performances in The Colony of the Cats are all very good, with Cutrona standing out as a natural born comedienne. Costuming and sets are all cleverly created (by Sabrina Kane and Michael Steers, respectively) and Russell’s work as writer, director, and sound designer creates a wonderful fantasy world that children will surely enjoy and parents will also get a kick out of it, to boot.

WHAT for Kids! productions, as a general rule, are better for kids in the 8 – 12 age range. For one thing, the performances are at night, but also the humor can be appreciated better with a little bit of life experience, in order to get the references and age-appropriate double entendres. That being said, I took my 6-year-old to see it and he laughed out loud for a good portion of the show and gave it a thumbs up!

The Colony of the Cats is performed in the WHAT for Kids! Tent, 2357 Rte. 6, Wellfleet, Mondays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. through August 24. For tickets ($10) and information call 508.349.WHAT or visit

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Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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