BWW Review: THE FOUND DOG RIBBON DANCE at CoHo Productions
Dominic Finocchiaro's THE FOUND DOG RIBBON DANCE, currently in its second-ever production at CoHo Productions, is one of those rare pieces of theatre that makes you fall in love with theatre all over again. And not just theatre -- I fell in love with the play, the playwright, the entire cast, my fellow audience members, and humankind as a whole. This enchanting play gets right to the heart of human vulnerability and our desperate need for -- along with the various reasons we have difficulty achieving -- connection with other people. It's beautiful, quirky, and now on my list of favorite shows ever.
THE FOUND DOG RIBBON DANCE is quintessentially Portland, which undoubtedly lends to its charm. Norma (Beth Thompson) is a professional cuddler who has found a stray dog (Clifton Holznagel). While posting found dog posters on a coffee shop bulletin board, she meets Norm (Tom Mounsey), a 42-year-old barista who enjoys ribbon dancing to the music of Whitney Houston. The play unfolds in a series of semi-vignettes about Norma's work, Norm and Norma's relationship, and her attempts to find the dog's owner.
In a talkback after the show, Finocchiaro said his initial goal was to write a rom-com. While it is both romantic and funny, THE FOUND DOG RIBBON DANCE is so much more than whatever you might associate with that genre. It explores intimacy in the human-est way possible, with compassion for people just exactly as they are, warts and all. It's also a statement about the importance of touch in combating loneliness. Norma greets all of her clients with a hug, even before exchanging any words -- imagine how different our daily interactions would be if that were the norm. (For an interesting discussion about what we lose when we stop touching one another, check out this article in the Guardian: No Hugging: Are We Living Through a Crisis of Touch?)
All of the actors give open, unguarded performances -- especially Mounsey, who as Norm wears his heart on his sleeve, and Thompson, who as Norma comforts others in their vulnerability while having no idea how to be vulnerable herself. I'm always skeptical about people playing animals, but Holznagel is an exceptional dog. And Marty Beaudet, Deborah Jensen, Heath Koerschgen, and Conor J. Nolan are all excellent in their parts as cuddling clients / potential dog owners, roles which as a whole cover the entire continuum of human emotions.
Overall, watching THE FOUND DOG RIBBON DANCE felt like being held in a loving embrace. Also, the ribbon dances are the best things ever.
THE FOUND DOG RIBBON DANCE runs through March 7. I couldn't recommend it any more highly. More details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Owen Carey