iunie 2022
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Romanian version here.

In mid-May 2022 I got the chance to watch online the performance Dog Act, with a text by Liz Duffy Adams and directed by Andrew Ruthven, a Main Street Theatre revival after the original production in 2012.

Positioned in a post-apocalyptic universe, the performance follows two vaudeville actors through their difficult journey to China, the land where they hope to do their thing. In spite of a rather gloomy premise, the show maintains a positive course and leaves the impression that is rather a satire to other productions that treat this subject only from an alarmist and disquieting point of view, lost into a type of pessimism that cannot foresee the glimmer of hope that occurs even within the most gruesome scenarios. A spark that resides, here, in the stories the two characters want to tell through their music, risking their lives on a road of which end might not reach it at all (an idealist interpretation, almost martyred, because there are other motives as well, much more pragmatic).

However, there are also strained moments, sometimes tragical, that outline a much more composite and realistic universe, where the appearances can be deceiving, where the past comes back furious and vengeful, no matter how hard it is disowned, and where the foreign danger can infiltrate in the form of friendly interests. Dog Act includes all of these and is successful in retaining a sustained rhythm and preserving its unpredictability the whole time.

The cast is chosen with inspiration, in such a way that the acting of all actors manages to coagulate and to keep the story exciting. The first protagonist is Tamara Siler as Rozetta Stone, the only member of the 2012 production team returning, with a strong performance, full of personality and scenic vivacity. The protagonist is Jose E. Moreno as Dog, Rozetta's fellow traveler, a human who decides to demote its status and to assume the identity of a dog. Moreno's performance is well dosed, versatile and invigorating. In fact, one of the main reasons we can consider Dog Act as being a success is due to the protagonists' stage matching, being able to synchronize every time and to maintain on the same line.

Shondra Marie and Chaney Moore join them as Vera Similitude and Jo Jo Bald-Faced Liar, who pretend for their part to be vaudeville actresses so they can stay close to Rozetta Stone and Dog. Vera is the brain, the one who speaks classy and persuasively, a woman of high culture. On the other hand, Jo Jo is the brute strength, short-tempered and obedient enough to enforce anything she is told to do. Vera Similitude has pivotal role, because she is the one that reveals Dog's tumultuous past, the fact that he is a fugitive and his desertion led to the ruination of the citadel he once used to live in. It only can be inferred, but is a solid guess, that Dog's transition from human to an alleged canine species was conducted to bury his history and to start a new life, by the sharp need of redemption.

Not in the least, it must be mentioned the flavorful performance of Trey Morgan Lewis and Nathan Wilson as Coke and Bud, two specimens who don't hesitate to do anything for their own survival and interest. Paradoxical, compared to the characters core, their speech is so poetical that seems to emerge directly from Shakespeare's plays, to which is inserted in a substantial manner, sometimes tedious, that specific fuck, harmoniously integrated, though, in character's foundation through Lewis and Wilson's humor and genuineness.

Andrew Ruthven proposes an exhilarating show, on a similarly intriguing dramaturgical structure that Liz Duffy Adams' text offers both through the subtleties it contains and that can be read, understood and applied to the immediate reality, and through the possibility of multiple ways that can pe approached. Back to Andrew Ruthven, he assembles a rousing experience both by the premises that are inserted during the show, and by the chosen point of view to tackle and to portray the end of the world and what is beyond the event itself.

A subtle directing that offers a certain amount of leeway to the actors on stage, but one who can and know how to accommodate whenever there is a turn, pushing shortly enough to hold everything on the same level. Moreover, an angle that picks the playfulness at the expense of overwhelming storytelling. It is important to credit Afsaneh Aayani too, who is the set designer, who creates visually in the same manner, mentioning elements like the floor with a drawing of Mona Lisa in the style of pop art, or Coke and Bud's cans armors (resembling the steampunk style) and their cardboard crowns with empty bottles of Coca-Cola and Bud Light.

Because of the characters' nature, the show offers a short performance within performance, where the stories of the past are recounted, especially those from the Bible, wherein the music and the acting that are characteristic to the vaudeville merge with the medieval mystery plays.

Good for a laugh, upbeat, colorful, with multiple changes of tone, with a cast that stands up to an auspicious degree, Dog Act is much more comprehensive that it might seem at first, being capable to keep the audience entertained and stay natural itself.

Dog Act - Main Street Theatre Houston
by Liz Duffy Adams
cast: Tamara Siler, Jose E. Moreno, Shondra Marie, Chaney Moore, Trey Morgan Lewis, Nathan Wilson
director: Andrew Ruthven
set designer: Afsaneh Aayani

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