by Scott Miller
The "Hearth" sequence, in which Pippin becomes involved with Catherine, is unlike
the rest of the show and consequently, it is also problematic. It can easily be long and boring,
and one remedy many directors have found is to eliminate Theo, Catherine's son (again, you
have to have permission from the licensing agent to do that).
There are several things that don't seem to make sense about Catherine. She's the only
character who narrates her own segment. Is this a clue that she's going to rebel against
Leading Player or is it just a poorly written sequence? Catherine is a player just like
everyone else in Pippin's "life" -- she isn't really a widow any more than Fastrada is really
Pippin's step-mother. Why, at the end, does Catherine end up on Pippin's side?
We can assume that, like all the other players, Catherine starts out the show working
toward Pippin's failure. At some point though, she begins to have genuine feelings for him,
and decides she won't work against him anymore. This interpretation makes sense if you
leave in the interruptions by Leading Player that have been cut from the licensed version of
the show. Catherine asks Pippin very sweetly if he will stay with her to run her very large
estate. Suddenly, Leading Player appears out of the shadows (or from the out in the house)
and reminds her that the line is to be read naggingly; they even argue briefly. Later, Catherine
accidentally says a line incorrectly, and again Leading Player appears and corrects her. And --
here's the significant part -- Leading Player warns her that she'd better stick to the script
from now on. He senses her reluctance to follow the plot as it's laid out, and he's not happy
After Pippin has left Catherine, the lights begin to go out on the scene but Catherine
asks for the lights to be held for a moment, and she sings "I Guess I'll Miss the Man." In the
Broadway production and in most other productions, this song is not listed in the program
because Catherine is not supposed to be singing it; Leading Player doesn't know she is going
to sing it. It's not in Leading Player's script. In the New Line Theatre production, Leading
Player and a few of the other Players began to come out on stage during the song to see what
was going on. When Catherine finishes, she suddenly sees Leading Player is standing right
next to her, glaring. Catherine quickly leaves the stage.
Her actions show us that Catherine is straying from the plot and Leading Player
worries that Catherine may be a threat to his control. It's a perfect set-up for Catherine's
unexpected appearance during the final sequence, which makes Leading Player terribly angry.
Catherine's appearance here needs to be set up earlier in order for it to make any sense. Her
decision to stand by Pippin is a tremendous defiance of Leading Player, and the audience
needs to be prepared for this turn of events. We need to see her growing fondness for Pippin
over the course of several scenes and her reluctance to see him kill himself.
The Grand Finale...