In an upcoming Yale Cabaret show, two classic superheroes will not save the world — but they will save a beauty pageant.
“Episode #121: Catfight” opens tomorrow night. The show satirizes a “Batman” television series from the 1960s and focuses on themes of misogyny and gender roles from the mid-20th century. Steven Koernig DRA ’16, who co-wrote the show with playwright Tori Keenan-Zolt, said the characters’ popularity in American culture allows audiences to understand the complexities in the production.
“People can instantly recognize these characters and their relationships, and so, from that, really think about the plot and enjoy the humor and the level of intricacy and layers that we put into it,” Koernig said. “I think that it’s something that you can connect to quickly and enjoy even more because of that.”
The play follows Batman and Robin, who learn of Catwoman’s plan to ruin the Lady Gotham Scholarship Competition. Hilarity ensues as the duo decides to try and save the pageant. The show notably features a number of gender swaps, as Robin and Batgirl dress up as one another.
Koernig and Keenan-Zelt said they based the play on the Batman series because it is a personal favorite of theirs. Koernig noted that he first watched the original series many years ago. The duo said they became interested in the challenge of depicting the television show’s theatricality on stage, adding that they ultimately decided to “amplify” the original show by exaggerating the absurdity of the show’s misogynistic aspects.
Hugh Farrell DRA ’15, one of the Cabaret’s three co-artistic directors, noted that when he and his co-directors first received Koernig and Keenan-Zelt’s application to stage the show at the Cabaret, the play’s script was already near-finalized. Keenan-Zelt added that the comedic elements help to highlight the more serious undertones of sexism and other societal issues.
Farrell also discussed the ability of audiences to relate to the main characters. He explained that Batman is a superhero who is relatively comparable to viewers because he does not possess supernatural powers. Farrell noted that the show provides a more lighthearted balance to previous productions such as “50:13,” which had mostly dark, mysterious storylines. Will Rucker DRA ’15, another co-artistic director, added that the gender-related themes in “Episode #121: Catfight” anticipates the upcoming Yale School of Drag, a celebration of Drag arts and culture that will take place at the Cabaret next weekend.
Performances of “Episode #121: Catfight” run through Feb. 7.