Last week, Map of Heaven opened with its world premiere performance at the Ricketson Theatre after being selected from last year’s New Play Summit for a full production at the Denver Center Theatre Company. Following in those footsteps, and the acclaimed The House of the Spirits before it, this week sees the world premiere of The Catch.
“If you had to describe what the play is about, it’s really about these two characters, Gary and myself (Michael Nomura), who are in a battle, who have both laid claim to have caught this ball that has broken the record for most home runs in a season.”, says Pun Bandhu, who plays Michael Nomura in DCTC’s production as well as in the workshop performance at Hartford Stage.
Bandhu’s obvious affection for the play may be due to his long history with this world premiere. Although he was a part of the workshop production, he had to re-audition and temporarily re-locate to Denver in order to stay involved, Bandhu was grateful for the rare opportunity participate in a world premiere of a piece in which he feels deeply invested.
“I wanted to be involved with this really fantastic piece that I was involved in from the very beginning… Lou Jacobs is our director and he sometimes will defer to Kent (the playwright) and will actually encourage us to even if it’s not our scene to say, ‘that didn’t make sense to me,’ and ‘why is this happening?’ We don’t have the luxury of having a dramaturg in the room with us, and so in a way we were all each other’s dramaturgs, which is empowering as an actor, having agency, it makes you really care for the project. ”
While this new play might center around baseball, it really is using America’s favorite pastime to explore themes of optimism, father-son relationships, and generally the different manifestations of the “American dream” itself. “It’s about America, really, and it deals with a very specific section of American history just coming after 9/11, the dot-com boom, everyone was spending, everyone thought the real estate market would just keep on going, and then when everything sort of collapsed, it was about not only about American determinism in a way, and perseverance, but also a chance to sort of look at our past mistakes.”
Like so many Americans did during the recent economic collapse, the main character, Gary, falls into a long string of misfortunes, starting with his business failing. His unemployment is quickly teamed with a separation from his wife Beth and his diabetic father needing to move in with him due to a dangerous sugar-overload. Watching a ballgame on TV with his dad, Gary gets the idea to try to catch baseball star Daryll Love’s record-breaking ball to sell it for millions. He figures out where the odds are best for him to be sitting in the stands. Through all of the hard times before and after this event, Gary maintains a keen sense of optimism that drives him forward. But in a world where people are concerned daily for their financial and employment security, is there room for that optimism?
“I think that people need that optimism, in a way. Both perspectives are provided in the play. He’s trying to get back together with his wife, they’re separated, and she’s really the realist, and so much of their inability to communicate anymore is because she just wants him to come back down to earth, be realistic, at least tell me, it’s OK for you to say if things have hit the fan. And his father, too, is this real brassy guy who’s like, you live in a dream land. And yet at the same time, Gary sort of signifies the American Dream, that the minute you quit dreaming, it wouldn’t be American, because it’s the land where anything is possible. So both of those perspectives are sort of clashing in the play. I think that different people might have different aliances with different characters, but in the end I think that Gary’s optimism will win them over.”
So in the face of unexpected misfortune, is it really best to bury your head in the sand, and engage in fantsy at the expense of reality? The Catch exlores just that.
“You know, and there’s a really interesting section of the second act where there’s so much about willfully ignoring history, in a way, that is so endemic of our mentality as Americans, you know, and yet at the same time, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. And so there are so many different levels to it, and textures, I think it’s going to be something that people love.”