BWW Reviews: DOG ACT - Intriguing Intellectual Fare
Main Street Theater's regional premiere production of Liz Duffy Adams' DOG ACT is a dark and challenging show that is fantastically moving and altogether enjoyable. Skillfully directed by Andrew Ruthven, DOG ACT tells the tale of Rozetta "Zeta" Stone and Dog, traveling vaudevillians, as they journey across a barren, post-apocalyptic United States in search of passage to China. Along the way, they encounter and team up with Vera Similitude and Jo-Jo, an enigmatic duo that vacillate between being helpful and deviously sinister. The piece really comes together in the second act, when the cast rehearses their vaudeville act, showcasing the play within a play that fully discloses the parable-esque themes of both the framing narrative and the vaudevillian act that the characters perform.
The star of the show is language. Liz Duffy Adams' use of language, ranging from the basest and foulest to the most highly elevated and poetic does take a bit of getting used to, but after a few minutes, the audience can follow along without much trouble. The dialog is also peppered with some neologisms and witty plays on words. In this play, Liz Duffy Adams creates a world that is verbally reminiscent of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, but unique and original in its own right. Due to the graphic nature of some of the language, viewer discretion is strongly advised by this reviewer.
Tamara Siler, as Rozetta Stone, offers a memorable performance and gets several opportunities to show off her beautiful voice. Tamara Siler's ability to captivate through monologues is impressive, as she easily enraptures the audience in each monologue and makes them feel shorter than they actually are. Tamara Siler's effortless portrayal of Zetta, an insightful and nurturing matriarch and friend to the outcast known as Dog, is both moving and heartfelt as she powerfully delivers a role of indestructible devotion.
Playing Dog, a human who is voluntarily undergoing species demotion, Philip Hays adequately handles the emotional depth of his character. There is a weighty back-story behind this character, and Philip Hays unfolds each element with care and precision. Showcasing the characteristics of a dog, Philip Hays admirably evokes a sense of loyalty and friendship to his traveling companion Zetta and delivers a performance that truly moves the audience.
Beth Lazarou expertly portrays Jo-Jo. Holding Jo-Jo's mysteries close, Beth Lazarou never fully reveals all of her character's motivations and desires. Beth Lazarou's performance is fascinating and ambiguous, allowing each audience member to have differing takes on the character and what the meanings behind her actions were. Beth Lazarou's character of Jo-Jo is one of the most complicated characters in DOG ACT. However, she delivers a powerful performance with many layers, impressively showing the audience a spectrum of a girl ranging from wild and savagely fearless to completely human and emotional. Also, Beth Lazarou's portrayal of Jo-Jo's storytelling ability is definitely some of my favorite moments from the show.
Vera Similitude, as portrayed by Celeste Roberts, is ideally menacing and complex. The characters all fear the roaming scavengers; however, Celeste Roberts' Vera may be the plot's central antagonistic force. Like Beth Lazarou, Celeste Roberts adds a layer of ambiguity to her portrayal of Vera, ultimately ensuring an interesting and thought provoking experience for the audience. Moreover, Celeste Robert's delivers a strong performance that commands the audience's attention, taking them through a wild roller coaster ride of emotions. In her portrayal of Vera, Celeste Robert's authentically commits to her character's many roles providing the audience with moments of laughter, anger, and the occasional pity.
David Wald, as Coke, and Ross Bautsch, as Bud, are wonderfully loathsome and despicable as the uncouth and base scavengers. David Wald and Ross Bautsch are hilarious and deftly deliver DOG ACT's most foul and base language. The audience never knows when two expect these two to show up, keeping the audience on their toes anticipating each zany moment with these characters.
Just as impressive as Liz Duffy Adams' command of the English language is Macy Perrone's mesmerizing costume design. Repurposing shower curtains, bottle caps, trophy statuettes, zippers, sliding locks and more, Macy Perrone expertly crafts intriguing costumes complete with fantastical jewelry pieces that are impressively telling of the post-apocalyptic scenario, while maintaining a quality that is fit to be pinned and repined on Pintrest.
Jodi Bobrovsky wholly captures the vaudeville spirit with a multifaceted cart that serves as the set and odd props that feature mundane objects that range from keys to electric stove burners in intriguingly unique ways. There is a keen attention to detail that is both savage and practical in these designs, fully transporting the audience to Liz Duffy Adams' post-apocalyptic vision.
DOG ACT is one of the most oddly entertaining and emotionally probing experiences audiences will have at a live theatre for some time. It is a deeply complex show that requires the audience's full attention as much as the talents of the cast and creative team to successfully pull off. If you're looking for a distinctively intellectual experience with as much substance as there is heart, this one is for you.
Main Street Theater's stirring regional premiere production of Liz Duff Adams' DOG ACT runs until July 29, 2012 at their Rice Village location on Times Boulevard. For more information or tickets, please visit http://www.mainstreettheater.com/ or call (713) 524 – 6706.
All photos courtesy of Kaitlyn Walker.