Naturally, given the fact that we are nearly a year into said global pandemic, much of the attention the play received focused on Gunderson’s realization that was “waking up every day next to someone who specializes in pandemics when we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”
The virology is certainly central to the play, dubbed The Catastrophist, Gunderson’s new solo play, directed by MTC Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis, that was filmed on the MTC stage and premiered Jan. 26 and runs through Feb. 28, co-produced by MTC and Round House Theatre in Maryland.
But what shines through even more acutely is the death of the couple’s relationship, and the care Gunderson took in portraying her husband in a multi-faceted way. “At its fiercely beating heart,” writes theater critic Sam Hurwitt in the Marin Independent Journal, The Catastrophist is a nakedly, deeply personal play that viewers can’t help but get swept up in, feeling its ache almost as if it were their own.”
Gunderson said as much to the Marin IJ last month: “Every play is about people, and this is a person I know very, very well and love very much, so I can translate that kind of intimate knowledge into a play.”
Gunderson, Minadakis and William DeMeritt, who plays Wolfe, created a theatrical production that avoided being dominated by the pandemic that we’re all living through every day. “A lot of the real gut punches in the play have nothing to do with that and everything to do with all-too-relatable expressions of familiar grief and personal health worries,” Hurwitt writes.
Fortuitous timing aided that effort, as the play is set in 2016, so while some of its talk of massive loss of life exacerbated by loss of livelihoods speaks very much to present concerns, it’s written not so much speaking to the present moment as predicting it. That is, after all, what Wolfe set out to do, Hurwitt writes.
That effort is also aided by William Demeritt, whose performance as Wolfe “is smart and sexy enough to make the character’s snark compelling and his enthusiasm for science contagious,” writes New York Times theatre critic Jesse Green.