Casa 0101 brings a fresh approach to life and death in new play

JOIN ME–  The spirit of Papa Encarnacion, played by Henri Madrid, left, finds Martha Encarnacion, played by Maria G. Martinez, with Mercy the cat, puppeteered by Beatriz Eugenia Vasquez, by her bed side. (Photo courtesy of Ed Kreiger)
JOIN ME– The spirit of Papa Encarnacion, played by Henri Madrid, left, finds Martha Encarnacion, played by Maria G. Martinez, with Mercy the cat, puppeteered by Beatriz Eugenia Vasquez, by her bed side. (Photo courtesy of Ed Kreiger)

By Sergio Berrueta

Casa 0101’s new play addresses the sensitive issue of life and death in a light-hearted yet realistic manner in their new play “A Cat Named Mercy.”

“A Cat Named Mercy” is a touching play that is compelling in its premise, terrific in its cast and delights on a visual standpoint.

The play weaves the tale of Catalina Rodriguez, played by ELAC alum Alex Ximienez, a 26 year-old nurse assistant working at Elysium Estates nursing home trying to get through life. Her home life is rough dealing with her blind mother Mama, played by Blanca Araceli, as her personal life in the workplace creates a hectic balance between the two.

One day, her boss Joy Acosta, played by Mirnerva Vier, tells Catalina they are downsizing and cutting her hours and benefits as Catalina goes part time while newbie Kate Scott, played by Marquel Skinner, goes full time.

Catalina is enraged with losing her health benefits when she suddenly gets a call from her doctor, played by Rebecca Davis, that she has a cancerous tumor in her ovaries.

Catalina suffers a panic attack until she is comforted by an alley cat she names Mercy, puppeteered by Beatriz Eugenia Vasquez, after warming up to her.

From this point on, Catalina begins to devote her time to the patients of Elysium Estates from the saucy Southern-fried mess Kitty Randolph, played by Susan Davis, the charmingly nice widow Mr. Smith, played by Henry Aceves Madrid, and the incredibly frightened of lonliness Martha Encarnacion, played by Maria G. Martinez.

They find comfort in Mercy after coming to the realization that they may go soon, leading Catalina to choose to let their lives run it’s course or help them by taking fate into her own hands.

“A Cat Named Mercy” has much to cover in its overall run of two and a half hours trying to resolve the main plots and subplots from a whirlwind romance with Randolph’s grandson Brad, played by Alex Denney, to Catalina’s phone encounters with a 911 Operator, played by Michael Cota, but it succeeds in balancing the plots with a tight-knit cast and impressive use of visuals in its storytelling.

GHOSTLY– The spirit of Marga Rodriguez, played by Maricela Guardado, left, visits Catalina Rodriguez, played by Alex Ximenez, center, accompanied by the spirit of their mother Mama Rodriguez. (Photo courtesy of Ed Kreiger)
GHOSTLY– The spirit of Marga Rodriguez, played by Maricela Guardado, left, visits Catalina Rodriguez, played by Alex Ximenez, center, accompanied by the spirit of their mother Mama Rodriguez. (Photo courtesy of Ed Kreiger)

Ximienez as Catalina is played brilliantly by portraying her as confused yet determined as she attempts to stay in control of her destiny, even if all seems lost at the end. She shows the heart of Catalina being torn between what she perceives is right in her eyes and what seems right in the eyes of others. Her relationship with her mother and the patience is delicate due to their time soon coming to an end.

Another highlight is Susan Davis as Kitty Randolph going from her racist Southern ways into a kind, caring woman waiting for her twilight years to finally fade into the unknown oblivion. She plays it with such care as she knows it will be all over soon.

The visual elements are striking showing the light of the afterlife as a shadowy and mystical place in the person’s creation, rather than the typical “angels and clouds” cliche that is portrayed time and time again.

The plot dealing with the choice between life or death is shocking by showing the benefits of what it has as well as the long term effects it has when one must chose to stop their destiny. It is a topic that is rarely handled well, but “A Cat Named Mercy” succeeds in the triumph of putting a delicate yet realistic spin on the subject.

The play is written by Josefina Lopez famous for writing the screen play for “Real Women Have Curves.”

“A Cat Named Mercy” is now playing and runs until February 23 at the Casa 0101 Theater located at 2101 E. First Street in Boyle Heights.

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