Friday, February 11, 2011

Dog Act

Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum

In Liz Duffy Adams' amazing new play Dog Act, presented by the Flux Ensemble Theatre, the apocalypse has come and gone, and various tribes scramble to survive in a barren, unfriendly landscape. Zetta Stone, of the Vaudevillian Tribe, and her companion Dog (a young man undergoing a voluntary species demotion) are on their way to China for an important gig. This description, part of which is directly from the Flux Theatre's website, does as good a job describing Dog Act as "it's about Russia" does describing War and Peace. Dog Act is a meditation on religion, civilization, responsibility, morals, the implacability of the life force, and how the arts/media bring meaning to people's lives. It's also extremely entertaining, breathtakingly imaginative, and quite funny (especially in the second act).

Adams and director Kelly O'Donnell, with the help of a wonderful cast and a superb creative team, bring to life an entire world, fascinating and frightening, on a small stage with limited scenery. The different patois Adams has created for the different tribes are totally convincing as future forms of English (and not difficult to understand). Members of the Scavenger Tribe talk in a combination of Shakespearean English and obscenities, including the perfectly delightful phrase "for-fuckin-sooth." The Vaudevillians use mangled versions of sayings from TV shows that went off the air before their grandparents were born.

Each cast member makes a strong, important contribution. I was particularly impressed by Lori E. Parquet's subtlety, Liz Douglas's intensity, and Becky Byers perfectly calibrated insanity.

As a reviewer, I sometimes feel tired and jaded. It can seem as though everything has been said and all that's left for theatre is different combinations of tired tropes and creaky cliches. But then I see something like Dog Act (although there really isn't anything like Dog Act) and I am reminded of theatre's power and beauty. Dog Act only runs through February 20th. Here's the website. Go!

(Reviewer's comp; second row center.)


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