I have seen the future. And it is ruled by cats. At least it is in Ellen Warkentine and Andrew Pedroza's LOLPERA, a fantastical absurdist opera that uses the internet phenomenon lolcats set to music to tell its story. Yes, you heard that right! Inspired by, and made up entirely of, captions from the hilarious photos found on the I Can Has Cheezburger website, an anti-utopian planet of cat urchins is caught between the forces of good and evil in the year 2084. It's a world where Basement Cat (Angel Correa) will do anything to steal your soul, where Astro Cat (Michael Burdge) searches the universe for the holy grail of Catcotopia (the elusive cheezburger), and where omniscient Ceiling Cat (Steve Sornbutnark) is always watching you...
If it all sounds ridiculous, you can bet it is. But the wacky cast of twenty directed by Angela Lopez, along with eight musicians, plunges into the hysterio-mania with the utmost sincerity and therein lies the secret to the show's success. In less capable hands LOLPERA might be nothing more than a cacophony of silliness but Warkentine, Pedroza & company have created a theatrical experience that transcends the ordinary by using it to explore deeper questions about the memeing of life. And boy is it a ride!
A video screen scrolls through images of some of the most well-known lolcat photos while the ensemble sings their captions as lyrics in the intricate labyrinth of sound created by the writers. It's a little shocking that no one has thought to create a piece based on them before, especially once you see how well they translate from one medium to another. And the score is terrific. This epik opera is filled with warped carnival-esque ditties, haunting astral themes, bluesy jazz, reggae, tango, and even a little Gilbert & Sullivan patter.
Though not all of the singers have the vocal ability to do the piece full justice, they are a spicy bunch fearlessly committed in every scene. Andrew Pedroza is a revelation as Dreamer Cat dancing with spastic abandon, "I Danss cuz I Happy," but still must go to his day job to prepare for the coming of Cheezburger. The striking actor could easily have stepped out of any post-apocalyptic movie and is a driving force in the piece. His brother, handlebar mustachioed Anthony Pedroza, is Lolrus, who comes to town and spends all of his time hilariously bemoaning the fact that, "They stole my bukkit!" Eventually, all the lolcats find themselves in a final battle for their lives. It's good vs. evil, and not all will survive.
Inescapable parallels are drawn between the kittehs' search for meaning in the fragmented world of the future and today's over-stimulated, excess-driven society. As we become more and more advanced technologically are we also becoming less aware of the dividing influences around us? And what of the masheen? Once the music is over and the laughter has ended, you may find yourself pondering LOLPERA's bigger questions. Then again, you just might be headed to In-N-Out Burger for a good old dubble dubble.
LOLPERA is currently playing at the Hudson Theatre as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Remaining performances are June 20 and 24. Following its Los Angeles run, LOLPERA will be performing at the New York Fringe. For more information go to www.lolpera.com.
Photo: Andrew Pedroza as Dreamer Cat in LOLPERA
Photo credit: Matt Kollar
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