Paws for thought: Humans play cats and their owners in ‘Indoor/Outdoor’

Richard Gracyk plays Schuman, owner of Samantha, who is played by Nikki Stark. William Koseluk photo
Richard Gracyk plays Schuman, owner of Samantha, who is played by Nikki Stark.
William Koseluk photo

“Indoor/Outdoor” is a play wherein humans play cats and intermingle with other humans who play their owners, but before you conjure up visions of a certain Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with make-up and furry costumes, it’s not like that.

Instead, there’s little in appearance to tell the difference between the two, as the cats walk upright and dress like humans, but in Kenny Finkle’s comedy its the obsessions, distractions and attitudes that quickly set them apart.

John Fuentes, playing Oscar the sexy alley cat, with Samantha the cat William Koseluk photo
John Fuentes, playing Oscar the sexy alley cat, with Samantha the cat
William Koseluk photo
Mr. Finkle’s play opened in Burbank in 2005 at the Colony Theatre to great reviews. Sitting in the audience was Larry McLellan, who has now mounted his own production that opens Saturday in Lompoc. He was charmed. He is, you might surmise, a cat lover. He has eight cats at home and volunteers at a local cat shelter called Viva. (That shelter will be one of two in town, as well as the Lompoc Library, that will be honored with two benefit performances after the main run.)

“It’s a very fun and crazy comedy,” Mr. McLellan says. “And the message is, if you love somebody, set them free.” The star of the show is Samantha (Nikki Stark), a cat adopted from a shelter that desperately wants to go outside. That upsets her owner Shuman (Rick Gracyk), who doesn’t want her out in the dangerous wide world. Things get so bad than Shuman brings in Matilda (Kristina Kupihea), a pet therapist, while Samantha can’t resist the calls of Oscar, a sexy alley cat played by John Fuentes. Rounding out the cast is Rebekah Ostlund, who plays Samantha’s mom.

Casting proved fruitful, and an open reading last year drew more people interested in the roles than any previous production. “It’s so different it piqued a lot of people’s curiosity,” Mr. McLellan says. “I could have cast it on that day.”

Instead they cast this June, and have been rehearsing for six weeks. Nikki Stark lives in Lompoc, goes to Allan Hancock college, and counts this as her sixth show with the company. But it’s her biggest to date, requiring her to be on stage the whole time, and to deliver monologues that frame the action. It’s exactly the role an up-and-coming actress loves.

Mr. Gracyk has done four shows with the company. (Mr. Fuentes works with Mr. Gracyk at their day job and was instrumental in roping his friend in.) Ms. Kupihea got the role almost immediately by making Mr. McLellan laugh as soon as she read her lines.

The show also allows Mr. McLellan to indulge his love of early ’80s pop music, like Culture Club, Howard Jones and the Thompson Twins, because that is what Shuman loves – and what drives Samantha crazy. (Yes, you can expect to hear “Stray Cat Strut.”)

Lompoc Civic Dinner Theater has been going strong for 42 years, and recently has seen an uptick in attendance with the closing of the Circle Bar B’s theater. (Mr. McLellan says Susie and David Couch, who used to run the Circle Bar, have been very helpful in directing their fans of dinner theater to this venue.)

Mr. McLellan could play it safe for this theater, but believes there’s a market for new plays as long as they bring something new, quirky and interesting. Better still, he was able to reach out to the playwright and ask questions during production.

“He emailed back immediately,” he says. “He offered to help in any way possible. It’s easy to reach out to playwrights compared to best-selling authors. Playwrights want to have their plays performed and they’re willing to reach out to companies who want to do that.”

“Indoor/Outdoor”
When: 5 p.m. Saturdays, Sept. 12, Sept. 26,
Oct. 10, Oct. 24
Where: Village Country Club,
4300 Club House Rd., Lompoc
Cost: $45 (includes dinner)
Information: (805) 735-2281

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