The Catastrophic Theatre previously staged The Designated Mourner in 2010, in a production The Houston Chronicle called a “quietly stunning realization.” Although it takes place in an unspecified time and place, its themes are immensely timely especially right now, and Catastrophic Theatre artistic director Jason Nodler decided to offer a limited run of the play as a necessary add-on to the current season. Greg Dean as Jack and Paul Menzel as Howard return from the 2010 cast and are joined by Patricia Duran (Middletown, The Pine) as Judy.
Through a series of intertwining, confessional monologues, three characters reveal the harrowing details of an unnamed country in the near future in which a popular uprising has deemed the arbiters of high culture to be enemies of the state and targeted them for execution. Following Jack (“a former student of English literature who went downhill from there”), his wife Judy, and her revered yet controversial writer father Howard, the play explores love, sex, morality, the idea of “the self,” the struggle between high and low culture, and what it means to designate groups of people as “enemies.” In many ways, it’s a simple play—just three people talking to the audience and sometimes to each other—but it contains almost indescribable beauty, heartache, and release. And in light of the present state of the world, it feels more urgent than ever before.