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Theatre Talk reviews 'The Catastrophist'

The topic is current and spellbinding. Presented by San Diego Repertory and streaming through July 25, "The Catastrophist," is about the world's most prominent virologist, Dr. Nathan Wolffe.

Playwright Laura Gunderson has first-hand knowledge about the most prominent microbial researcher, she is his wife and mother of their two sons.

Gunderson is lauded as the most produced living playwright since 2016, and is the playwright in residence at Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley where this play was produced, directed, taped, and distributed. This one-man-one-act play is directed by Jasson Minadakis, the resident artistic director at MTC.

Dr. Wolffe graduated from Harvard and Stanford after extensive study in the viral sciences. His research laboratory is in the viral epicenter center of South Africa.

He said, "I am always in search of the next pandemic." His life's work is to control zoonoses, which is the transition of a virus from animals to humans like Ebola, swine flu, bird flu, and HIV. Dr. Wolffe hopes to stop the next viral outbreak before it turns into another world-wide pandemic.

That said, the script is carried by the story-telling ability of William DeMeritt. While a very gifted actor, this viewer was lost when he shared stories about his Jewishness. This actor does not fit the ethnic profile which adds confusion not clarity to his presentation.

As a journalist, one must pose this question: would artistic director Jasson Minadakis in his quest for "equity, diversity, and inclusion" cast someone like Caitlyn Jenner as Rosa Parks? Or does that door only swing one way?

The story about Dr. Nathan Wolffe is a 10. Casting is a 5. DeMeritt's acting ability is a 10. Average is 8.5 for this production.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected]


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