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Puss in Boots--The Adult Version

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Feral Theatre Company, at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, Baird Hall.

Anyone who's ever kept a cat knows it's debatable who calls the shots, master or pet. British writer Angela Carter's bawdy, slightly dark retelling of the Perrault fairy tale, which she originally published in her 1979 short-story collection The Bloody Chamber and later adapted for radio, portrays a feline Figaro who arranges assignations between his randy young owner and the heavily guarded wife of a misanthropic miser. Eventually the matchmaking mouser contrives to bring the lovers permanently and wealthily together by killing the old man--cats are always getting underfoot, and a staircase can be dangerous...

This low-budget stage adaptation, directed by Cliona Maher, adopts a quasi-commedia style that's sometimes effective (Brian Jude Leahy as a Pierrot-like hero foolishly serenading Gail Ellis's cooped-up Columbine) and sometimes not (the grotesque masks worn by Gretchen Massey in various roles, which often muffle her dialogue). Tim O'Shea, whose Puss narrates the show in story-theater style, isn't always convincing in his catlike movement; and he and the other actors lack the vocal technique to sustain the comic text's long, classically arching phrases or to communicate with finesse the double entendres about mouse holes and pussy petting. But the performers' playful charm and Carter's droll, literate wit (aptly amplified by the sound-track music, Rossini's "Duet for Two Cats") make for a diverting and sometimes very amusing alternative to holiday kiddie fare.

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