Catalyst Repertory's 'Bat in the Wind': The dark side of interdependence

No less an innovator than Steve Jobs, who also had his useful demons, may have spoken the key to the

Randy connects with Taylor after his fashion.

perils of the creative process faced by Taylor, the struggling playwright who frames the action of Casey Ross' new play, "Bat in the Wind." The Catalyst Repertory production opened over the weekend at Indy Eleven, Indy Fringe, where it will run through March 17.

"Creativity is just connecting things," Jobs said. "When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it — they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while because they were connecting experiences they've had to something new."

Taylor re-creates his role from a shorter 2023 Fringe festival version of the play; Dane Rogers takes the other role as Randy, a boozy neighbor washing up as flotsam and jetsam on life's ruder shores. Taylor's attempts at making theater are thwarted by his isolation and addictive personality. At the outset, he feels superior to Randy, who seems to be a thoroughly damaged alcoholic and witless ne'er-do-well. Taylor  clads his difficulties in a gauzy garb of words — the only skill he commands, as Randy brutally points out in a rare moment of clarity.

The trajectory of the 90-minute one-act drama, set in the men's adjoining apartments in a sketchy urban neighborhood, pivots from Taylor's conviction that he is a superior kind of failure to Randy toward a reversal of status. The blocked writer is aware of Randy's long-ago victory in an international arm-wrestling competition, but that explains little to the playwright, who is mired in a script going nowhere about his failed romantic relationship with a prickly, controlling woman named Shelley.

Taylor's creative effort draws Randy's strong criticism. 

When Taylor finally "sees something" (in Steve Jobs' sense) in his rocky interaction with Randy, it turns out to be the wrong thing, and promises no positive way out of his dilemma. It's a typical will-o'-the-wisp glimmering to an addictive brain fueled by cigarettes, alcohol and a little cocaine.

The final scene and the violence that leads up to it may offer a solution, but the audience is not encouraged to find more than a faint smear of hope there, set against the hopelessness of a bat in the wind, an image enunciated by the expiring arm-wrestling champ. 

I admired the sneaky way Ross introduces Randy's access to long-hidden inner resources, though I'm not convinced the turnaround is adequately prepared for. The men's unlikely hanging out is the key, as it is in so much finding of common ground from initial enmity and guarded loneliness. The writing is witty and revealing, qualities sometimes deliberately veiled by Taylor's tunnel vision and Randy's oafish inebriation and irritating neediness.

Maybe it would take another visit to the show or a study of the script to reveal the plausibility of the characters' status exchange to me. At any rate, there's nothing missing in the insight Zachariah Stonerock's direction gives to the performers, who are fully invested in their tasks. Be prepared to be emotionally slammed as well as entertained, and if you have problems with secondhand smoke, consider this forewarning. 


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