The cast of The Flea Theatre’s ‘Locked Up B*tches.’ (Photo: Hunter Canning)
By Winnie McCroy
Playwright Catya McMullen brings the world premiere of her new play Locked Up B*tches to Off-Off-Broadway’s Flea Theatre this month. The entertaining satire was developed in 2015 as part of their late-night play competition SERIALS, and is scheduled for late-night viewing in the subterranean Siggy Theatre, named for Flea founder Sigourney Weaver.
The play is a profane sendup that’s Orange is the New Black with a soupçon of Hamilton. The plot follows Pipsy (Emma Orme), a pedigreed Cocker Spaniel who ditches her shock collar for a solo promenade around the park and ends up behind bars at the Bitchfield Animal Shelter. There, she rubs up against a wide swath of churlish dogs and cats doing hard time, while coming to terms with her powerful attraction to her former feline lover All-Licks (Charly Dannis).
You’ll meet the full cast of characters, from the redheaded kitchen maven Bull (Ryan Wesley Stinnett) to the wild-eyed, free-humping hound Crazy Tongue (Adama B. Jackson). Trans-canine Sofurry (Tamara Williams) runs the lockup’s beauty parlor but secretly wishes she could be a cat like her new boy toy Feelaca (Marcus Jones, with a beatbox on his back doling out synthesized purrs). There’s even prison guard Pubestache (a very fit Alex Haynes) and his sidekick Dogget the hound (Lacy Allen), who predictably sniffs out tail and gets sassy twerker Pouty Bitch (Xavier Velasquez) pregnant.
The action loosely follows plot points of the Netflix prison comedy, with the dogs pitted against the cats for lockdown domination, which initially manifests itself in control of the prison kitchen. In one of the oddest and most compulsively watchable performances I’ve recently seen, Bre Northrup plays Pawsatucky as a bald, wrinkled cat with a nervous disposition and a deep-seated revenge fantasy against Bull, the hound she believes shaved her beautiful leonine mane two years ago, leaving her bald and neurotic with “creases in my skin [that] look like a vajayjay.” With her half-wit friend Feelane (Leila Ben-Abdallah) in tow, Pawsatucky single-mindedly focuses on allying her fellow felines into a ‘cat power’ movement to wrest control from the “ruff bitches [who] run the show.” As Purritza notes, “this pussy grabs back,” and before long, they are fighting like… well, like cats and dogs.
As the battle for domination rages, Pipsy tries to deny her feelings for All-Licks, but the two end up singing a duet about the time they spent in Europe smuggling drugs and having interspecies sex, to the tune of Pat Benatar’s “We Belong,” à la “Woof Along.” Meanwhile, Pipsy’s mate, male Cocker Spaniel Dog Jason Biggs (Philip Feldman), circumnavigates the globe trying to find her and bring her back to their cozy West Village walk-up.
Original music by Scott Allen Klopfenstein grafts these canine and feline-related puns atop popular songs by Eminem, Tupac, Aerosmith and The Notorious B.I.G., to alternately hilarious and groan-worthy effect. Flea Resident Director Michael Raine directs the 25-plus-member cast through elaborate song and dance numbers, with many of the songs delivered as raps, having a Hamilton effect with hounds instead of Founding Fathers.
If you’re a fan of yelling, barking, cursing, filthy puns that deftly handle issues of race and class, and almost constant singing and dancing, this show is for you. Although the level of onstage talent is widely uneven, there are some truly skilled players in the cast, and the play proves to be an entertaining diversion for a late-night crowd that skews quite young.
So head downtown and discover, like Pipsy eventually does, that “we’re all more than just felines and canines. Everyone’s a little bit messy and gross like a bitch, and we’re all a little fancy like a pussy.” BarkBox be damned.
Locked Up B*tches
The Flea Theatre’s Siggy Theatre
20 Thomas Street, New York City
Through April 28
Winnie McCroy is a longtime arts and entertainment writer who lives in Brooklyn with her wife and her giant Rottweiler, Dixie Carter.