One weird Easter


I blame the cats. The Russian cats. The Moscow Cats Theatre. First of all, when the cat circus comes to town, I'm pretty sure there's a law on the books that you don't miss it under any circumstances. Actual performing cats! Kitties in little sparkly ruffs, scampering across high wires and jumping through hoops! Who passes that up??

Pretty much everyone I happen to know, it seems. I was already in a grumbly mood because I didn't get a scrap of ham all day, nor did I even come near any sort of ham, or even spam -- dude, I didn't get corned beef on St. Patty's, either, so the holiday-meat-deprivation pity party is only getting worse. On Thanksgiving I fully expect to be hunched over my Hello Kitty toaster, jar of Smuckers in hand, weeping over birds that are going uneaten. Yeah, I'm bitter. Feed me a cheeseburger, I'll get over it. Anyway, the point is, I was already in a grumbly mood, like I said, when I hauled my carcass down to the Palace of Fine Arts. Alone. To see performing cats. Once I got there, I actually ran into some folks I knew -- but the off-kilter tone of the day was already set.


The program declares the Moscow Cats Theatre to be the "world's only," and frankly I'm nowhere near shocked. What's that expression about such-and-such being as difficult as herding cats? Yeah. The American cats I've known haven't been much for training, other than to come running when the can opener appears. Turns out Russian cats are only slightly smarter. For every amazing feat -- and there were some, including a chubby orange guy who scuttled along two wires using only his front legs, which looked all for the world like a pair of gymnast's arms -- there was a trick that fell flat. And that must happen a lot -- whenever a feline got finicky, another would shoot out of the wings, understudy-style, and get the job done in most cases.

I tell you, I've seen few things as odd as a hairless cat laying on its back in a little box, frantically turning a beach ball over and over in its paws.

Overall, it's not like the show sucked -- but there was a lot of clowning (literally -- the handlers were all clowns, and there was nearly as much juggling and plate-spinning as there were cat antics) and a mildly tragic techno soundtrack, as well as exaggerated sound effects. A tap-dance number embellished by sound-FX taps that didn't quite match the footwork, for example. There was also a dog that appeared from time to time, serving no purpose other than to look cute and maybe keep the seemingly already-freaked cats even more in line.

I dunno, man. If the all-dog circus, or the all-monkey circus, or a bicycle-riding bear comes to down, I will probably have the same urge to attend. What is it about performing animals, aside from a certain archaic-sideshow-exploitation quality, that I find irresitable? Can't really say. I once knew someone who trained her dog to do about 47 different tricks, and I'd demand a demo every time I saw her. Anyway, you missed the Moscow Cats Theatre, cause they were here for a one-shot gig. Too bad for you. Me, I'll be keeping this experience in my mind-bank of weird, weird, weirdo weirdness.

Also from this author

  • "All our families are f-ed up:" Director David Dobkin on his Duvall vs. Downey drama 'The Judge'

  • Go for Goth

    'The Guest' filmmakers talk Carpenter, moody music, and finding the humor in horror

  • You better recognize

    Under-the-radar artists (and a misunderstood legend) get their due in Mill Valley Film Fest doc