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Cat’s Meow : Talking with Jeremy Myers of Pussy on the House

By Tony Peregrin in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 15, 2011 3:00PM

Jeremy Myers is "Maggie the Cat in Hell" in "Pussy on the House." Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios.

Meet Maggie the gorgeous, sexually frustrated, southern belle wife—she’s dragged a bed up to the roof in a desperate attempt to win the attention of her husband Brick Pollup, the tragic, handsome, ex-TV star.

Sound (sort of) familiar? It should—Ryan Landry’s Pussy on the House is a parody of Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, but it’s also a love letter to the great American gay playwright, Tennessee Williams. Pussy on the House covers topics such as gay marriage and same-sex adoption with such melodrama and gut-bursting laughter that Williams himself would have found the play as irresistible as cat nip.

In Pussy on the House—directed by Matthew Gunnels and presented by Hell in a Handbag Productions—Maggie (Jeremy Myers) battles Mae (David Cerda), her determined and very fertile, harpy of a sister-in-law for their rightful place in the Pollup family legacy led by Big Mama Pollup (Honey West)—the “richest, butchest lesbian in six counties who built the biggest polyester plantation the South has ever seen.”

Brick (Eric Lindahl) is Big Mama’s favorite, but her natural son, Gooper (Christopher Carpenter), an estranged Elvis impersonator, thinks differently—especially since the union of Big Mama and her lesbian lover, Sukie (Ed Jones) is not legal, or “normal” in the eyes of proper society.

Pussy on the House originally opened in Boston in 2004 and was the recipient of the prestigious Elliot Norton Award.

“When I saw the show I was blown away by the fact that although there were these hysterically, over the top moments, the cast still managed to convey the very the very real emotional heft in the original work,” says David Cerda, Artistic Director of Hell in a Handbag.

Chicagoist chatted with Myers, 27, a resident of Edgewater Beach, about preparing for this hilarious interpretation of the iconic Elizabeth Taylor role, and we discovered that while he pays proper homage to the legendary actress—he’s certainly no copycat.

Chicagoist: How did you get involved with Pussy on the House?

Jeremy Myers: I read about the audition notice and I immediately felt like this would be a fun and different project for me to work on. I contacted David [Cerda], the Artistic Director for Hell in a Handbag Productions, and I was scheduled to come in and read some sides. Like any audition, I was just trying to make some choices, and find as much truth in the material as possible. I guess they saw something they liked! I happily accepted the role when they contacted me a couple days later.

C: Maggie the Cat is an iconic character: How did you prepare for this specific interpretation of her character?

JM: She is iconic! I’ve watched the film quite a bit, and have really studied what Elizabeth Taylor did with the role. I use her and the film as a reference point for speech pattern and physicality—and then I try to find that within myself. I am not trying to replicate Elizabeth Taylor or impersonate her. But I’m using her as inspiration to create the character for myself, in her image.

Maggie and Brick.jpg
Jeremy Myers is "Maggie" and Eric Lindahl is "Brick" in "Pussy on the House." Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios.

C: Is it possible that some fans of the Elizabeth Taylor classic might be offended by Pussy on the House, or do you think they’ll enjoy it all the more because they have such an affinity for the film?

JM: I don’t think fans of the film will be offended—that certainly isn’t the intention. In fact, I really look at the piece as a love letter to Tennessee Williams. The structure and content of this show are very similar to, and parallel, the original in many ways. Pussy on the House is a parody, but it also has a lot of heart. The world and the stakes Williams created in the original seem so heightened to begin with, and this just takes it a bit further. I think, and I hope, fans of the film will enjoy the twists Pussy on the House adds to the story.

C: Talk about what it was like to work with Honey West in this production. You’ve never portrayed a woman on stage, so I’m wondering if you picked up anything by watching her perform.

JM: I adore Honey West! She is just so sweet. Admittedly, I was really intimidated to go into this project knowing that Honey was involved. I told her that last week, and she laughed. It seems funny now, admitting that. But, having never performed in drag, I just kept thinking ‘Oh, I have so much to prove to her, I have to be perfect,’ you know? As it turns out, I’ve been in good hands with Honey, as she’s been so encouraging and very supportive, and she’s offered me some great tips! It’s been fun watching her find, and create, the role of “Big Mamma.”

C: As people are leaving the theater, what do you hope they are talking about, or what do you hope they take with them from Pussy on the House, in terms of the current events touched on in the play such as gay marriage and same-sex adoption?

JM: Well overall, I hope that people leave feeling entertained and with smiles on their faces. As I’ve said before, though very funny, the show does have a lot of heart. It does speak to current issues and brings up gay marriage. I think it presents, and ultimately laughs at, the negative and ignorant ideas out there that gay marriage isn’t normal or natural, and therefore is wrong. I hope we show that a family doesn’t have to be a dad, mom, and 2.5 kids. A family just needs to have love, and can come in all shapes and sizes. But, then again, I think most people coming to see Pussy on the House will know this already.

C: With a title like Pussy on the House, I’m guessing the dialogue is full of double entendres and euphemisms.

JM: Twat did you say? I cunt here you....

The Athenaeum Theatre
Studio Space #3
2936 N. Southport Ave.
Previews: Sept. 23, 24, 25, 8pm
Runs: Thursday, Friday Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 5pm until Oct. 30
Admission: Thursdays and Sundays, $20, Fridays and Saturdays- $25
Reservations: (800) 838-3006 or go to Brown Paper Tickets.