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Review: Theatre Artists Adapt To A Drastically Changed World as The Seeing Place Presents Liz Duffy Adams' DOG ACT

The 2004 absurdist play streams as a benefit for The Food Pantry at St. Clement's

In this time when theatre artists are reinventing their professions to adapt to a world where public gatherings promote fatal consequences and the hot social media topic involves reinventing the industry so that the eventual return of live performances contains greater inclusivity onstage, offstage, in the audience and in media coverage, that invaluably thought-provoking Off-Off Broadway company, The Seeing Place Theater (which makes a point to engage the talents of members of underrepresented communities and casts a majority of roles with women or non-binary performers) offers a futuristic glimpse of artists adapting to a changed culture in Liz Duffy Adams' 2004 absurdity, DOG ACT.

Review:  Theatre Artists Adapt To A Drastically Changed World as The Seeing Place Presents Liz Duffy Adams' DOG ACT
(Top) Erin Cronican and Brandon Walker,
(Bottom) William Ketter and Hailey Vest

Following in the paw prints of co-producers Brandon Walker and Erin Cronican's previous Zoom-platformed presentations of Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and Jane Martin's Pulitzer finalist KEELY AND DU, DOG ACT is performed by actors in their own individual locations directly facing viewers through their screens. After two livestreamed performances, it is available for YouTube viewing through February 12th as a benefit for The Food Pantry at St. Clement's.

Cronican directs and plays the symbolically monikered Zetta Stone, a somewhat frazzled vaudevillian in a post-apocalyptic America who, along with her stage partner Dog (William Ketter, playing a human undergoing "voluntary species demotion"), is walking to China for a gig.

Laura Bonacci's backdrop provides a cartoon image of a show wagon parked in a depleted landscape, granting a touch of whimsy to a scenario involving a dangerous world of survivors fighting for what's left of food and water on a planet that has succumbed to quick and violent climate changes. Only narrator Weronika Helena Wozniak appears isolated in darkness.

Stone n' Dog are soon joined by two more show people, elegant Vera Similitude (Walker) and eccentric Jo-Jo the Bald Faced Liar (Hailey Vest). The last of a dissolved performing troupe, they find their new pals' wagon full of costumes and props very inviting.

Review:  Theatre Artists Adapt To A Drastically Changed World as The Seeing Place Presents Liz Duffy Adams' DOG ACT
(Top) Jon L. Peacock,
(Bottom) Robin Friend

Decidedly uninvited are Elizabethan-tongued Bud (Robin Friend) and foul-mouthed Coke (Jon L. Peacock), a pair of scavengers on the prowl for whatever they can steal or salvage.

While all characters speak English, the absence of unifying electronic communication has accelerated the separate evolution of the language among factions who keep to themselves. This is particularly evident in Zetta's grammar and word usage. Cultural classics from long ago like THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and even the comedy bit Who's On First have been preserved in newer forms long after their original versions have become faint memories.

Savvy playgoers may begin anticipating the arrival of Godot, as the author eschews linear plot for a flowing blend of encounters, anecdotes and routines. This reviewer will leave it to the more scholarly among us to find deeper themes within Adams' text - perhaps involving the role of artists as the preservers, through song and story, of the aspects of our culture we cling to during times of hardship - but it's also the kind of play where one can kick back and enjoy the abstract assortment of stimulations presented by an endearingly vibrant company of troupers.

Presenting Theatre of the Absurd on a platform that limits physical encounters is a tricky task, and The Seeing Place Theater is to be admired for pulling this one off with verve and sincerity. Next on their schedule is Lynn Nottage's extraordinary drama about the mixing of labor issues with personal relationships, SWEAT.



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