The Catastrophe Club

Bronson's, Manhattan

Is this the end of the world, or the beginning of the next adventure?

By Andrew Andrews

Zizzy (Cassandra Nwokah) begins to suffer a seizure as Therese (Sue Kim) stands by in Sea Dog Theater's production of Devin Burnam's The Catastophe Club. Original photo by Jeremy Varne.

The year is 2520, and we’re attending an illegal gathering in an incredibly-intact, off-limits archeological site called Bronson’s—an underground establishment where people used to congregate to share ideas about the state of the world while consuming intoxicating substances.

Our host, a programmer named Ruth, has created a simulation of a typical evening here five centuries ago, based on records that were preserved just a few years before the great flood and freeze that wiped out much of civilization around the year 2025.

The characters in this simulation are replaying the lives of four scientists caught between impending doom on a global scale, and a more personal health crisis for one of the friends.

Although not an immersive play so much as an unusual venue, this experience begins with a secretive email announcing a map point for the gathering.

Upon arrival, you’re encouraged to check your belongings, order a specialty cocktail, take a seat and strike up a conversation with the other patrons around you.

The “front of house” staff is friendly and tries their best to acclimate their guests to the peculiarities of the space.

Our performance began nearly thirty minutes late, presumably because some attendees didn’t get the memo telling them where to go.

The seating was a little too crowded, and it was not clear that the drinks were not complimentary until I was presented with the bill.

My opinion of the experience started to improve when the show finally started. I enjoyed the performance, and the actors were well-cast and delivered their lines convincingly. The script itself is smart and full of philosophical witticisms, some of which might have come from Star Trek.

The Utopian yet dystopian future hinted at by the host is an interesting concept, and though I detected a few incongruities among the limited details, they weren’t too distracting.

Although the piece clocks in around ninety minutes, it did start to feel a little long toward the very end, but wound up nicely. And while we couldn’t see all of the action as the performers moved around the venue, I suspect you can avoid that annoyance if you sit at the bar stools overlooking the pit area, instead of in the pit itself where most of the audience is seated.

All told, Sea Dog Theater’s production of Devin Burnam’s The Catastrophe Club is anything but a disaster!

Andrew Andrews attended The Catastrophe Club at Bronson's in Manhattan on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 @ 7:00pm to write this review.