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Working Magic With Pippin
by Scott Miller

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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 about it.

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...



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