BWW Review: BLACK DOG Battles Abusers in South Austin, TX
Performing at The BARn off Brodie Lane in South Austin, BLACK DOG presented by the Bottle Alley Theatre Company is an immersive theatrical experience, not designed for the faint of heart. Reflecting on the anger and frustration abuse survivors experience, this piece ventures deep into the female characters psyche, providing a taste of what they desire. No doubt inspired by the ME TOO movement, BLACK DOG is a performance piece written by Chris Fontane and directed by Dani Stetka - familiar faces and contributors to Bottle Alley. This tragedy is performed creatively by three actors, about the hardships of Ophelia (played by Rachel Holderbach) and Rainey (played by Sara Cormier). The third character is Sam (played by William F. Reed), who represents the abusers of a variety of women, including our protagonists. Overcome by revenge and pain, Ophelia and Rainey capture, torture and kill men who have abused women. However their will for revenge does not stop there. The desire for blood and retribution propels these ladies to cannibalize their victims, or at least openly fantasize about it. Needless to say, given the premise and rhetoric of this performance piece, it is not appropriate for everyone. Like a pickle shot, there is no middle ground.
The storytelling written by Fontanes, compels the audience to ask many questions the words spoken will never definitively answer. The dialogue is delivered almost exclusively from the female actors directly to the audience. Touching and raging, their monologues paint many pictures and tell many stories, but never connect all the dots. Holderbach and Cormier were passionate in expressing their characters past pain, however there were clear pacing and cadence issues upon delivering their long winded monologues. Interjecting sporadically was the man in the hot seat, Sam (Reed). His physical presence and stature added much to the shows presentation, making the ladies revenge much more dominating and sweet. As ominous as all the characters are portrayed in this show, the thematic introduction of insanity begged the question if the story was real or not. Or if it is all inside Ophelia and Rainey's mind. At least, it did to me.
Popping the hood on the symbolic clues sprinkled throughout this piece by Fontanes, the creative details are indeed there. Ophelia translates to "help" in Greek and Rainey means "Queen" or powerful, clever. The soliloquies performed by these actors would support their namesake. It is a creative and witty detail to provide a deeper meaning to these characters intentions. Shedding their sense of inhibition, the characters quite literally wear black dog masks for a portion of the show. The black dog traditionally being a demonic symbol, the women transform into hellhounds hunting their prey with little mercy. The masks added a spooky element, and in addition to the creative lighting and direction designed for this piece, the overall aesthetic was chilling and unnerving for the audience. It is important to note that violence and nudity is present within this show. The nudity within the show was tasteful with little impact on the plot. Despite the gruesome subject matter, the violent segments are mostly spoken with a few key action sequences portraying the bloodshed.
As self-described DIY punk performers, this ensemble is clearly experimenting with thought-provoking, immersive and original work. BLACK DOG delivers on Bottle Alley Theatre Company's mission and promise to push the boundaries. As the Texas nights cool-down this fall, The BARn will be heating up with revenge for the ladies of BLACK DOG. Dried blood, women scorn and an enemy to pay the price, what more could an audience ask for in the weeks leading up to October.
Bottle Alley Theatre Company
Written By: Chris Fontanes
Directed by: Dani Stetka
September 13 - September 23, 2018, Thurs. - Sun. 8PM
6218 Brodie Lane
Austin, TX, 78745
Tickets are $10
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/BottleAlley/
Photo Credit: Bottle Alley Theatre Company