Miami’s Mad Cat Theatre Company has just turned 14. As founder-artistic director Paul Tei helpfully explains before his newest show, since he launched the company in 2000, it’s easy to keep track of the birthdays.
Celebrating with fresh art, Tei and his collaborators have come up with Mixtape 2, a collection of short plays and films in the company’s new home at Miami Theater Center’s SandBox. The Miami Shores locale, by the way, comes in for choice comedic digs from some of the writers.
A mixtape, if you don’t know, is a custom-made cassette tape featuring a variety of music that’s meaningful to the guy or gal who compiles it. Inspired by that free-form notion, Tei and company have come up with an eclectic evening loosely organized around the theme of impending change.
One character, the tormented Syd (actor-playwright Theo Reyna), also helps tie the content together. Delivering bridging passages written by Tei, Syd visits his storage unit-turned-home, watching the different pieces unfold as if they’re memories or ongoing angst plucked from his piles of boxes.
Among the pleasures of Mixtape 2 is watching the talented actors in Karelle Levy’s futuristic costumes play crazily different human beings. In the terrific ensemble are Jessica Farr (also one of the playwrights), Erin Joy Schmidt, Carey Brianna Hart, Noah Levine, Troy Davidson and Joe Kimble.
The theater and film pieces in Mixtape 2 are a mixed bag in terms of style, clarity and impact, though one person’s hit might be another’s miss. Many deal with personal, political or cultural chaos, some playing those worrisome themes for laughs.
Tei’s dense Mortal Immobile introduces a younger Syd and his parents, a successful mom (Hart) and out-of-work dad (Levine). In Elena Maria Garcia’s Blind?, Schmidt plays a nervous focus group member who concedes that being told what to think is much simpler than trying to figure things out. Farr’s odd Enemy at Home deals with the deadly repercussions of 9/11.
Andres Rey Solorzano’s beguiling House Show presents Levine and Farr as intimate friends who find that his imminent departure has rekindled something between them. Farr’s haunting Nadie, featuring Kimble and Davidson, is built around a tragedy involving a tagger and the cops. Tei’s Wish You Were Here, taking a page from American Horror Story, is the wonderfully goofy tale of honeymooners in New Orleans.
Mixtape 2 finishes strong with Reyna’s The Scottish Play, featuring Levine and Schmidt as the personifications of England and Scotland, battling over their “daughter” Oil (Farr); Deborah L. Sherman’s Unearthed, in which brother-sister pairs sit in nervous vigil as their mothers are dying; and Kristina Wong’s The Rapture, which draws humorously disturbing parallels between the selling of Jesus (Davidson) and teen vixen Courtney Stodden (Farr) on the Internet.
Best of the films are three by the Wet Socks Ensemble, two featuring Erik Fabregat and Ralph de la Portilla as dueling candidates for Miami Shores ombudsman, and one ( Super Satan Hot Licks) about aspiring guitar player Fabregat and his fiery “teacher.”
Long-form theater fans may not dig the short works and mixed-media blend of Mixtape 2. But that’s a big part of what keeps younger audiences coming back to Mad Cat.