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Oakland Tribune, September 10, 2004


A Brechtian "Dog"

-- Chad Jones


Liz Duffy Adams' "Dog Act" opened Monday night at the Thick House in San Francisco, where the show runs through Sept. 19 before moving across the Bay to Shotgun's new home, the Ashby Playhouse in Berkeley.

At first, as Adams and director Kent Nicholson unleash this "Dog," it seems there's reason to be nervous. Here's another post-apocalyptic drama attempting to marry Brecht with a 21st-century pop sensibility. Rozetta Stone (Beth Donohue) and her "dog" (Richard Bolster) are vaudevillians scraping their way through the barren wasteland. They forage for food and most often end up eating a hybrid fish-squirrel they call "squish."

Adams imagines language in the ravaged future to comprise slang that has been remembered incorrectly and grammar that has been twisted nearly beyond recognition.

Malapropisms abound, especially among the Scavengers (Eric Burns as Coke, Dave Maier as Bud) stalking the traveling minstrels. The Scavengers' language is part Shakespearean, part variations on the f-word.

The real triumph of the two-act, two-hour "Dog Act" is that it manages to become more interesting with each scene. Adams spins language like a juggler twirls chain saws. What could be dangerous and lumbering becomes deft and surprisingly graceful. Adams and Nicholson are in firm control.

The cast, which also includes fantastic C. Dianne Manning and Rami Margron as fellow travelers on the road, creates a believable world in which most traces of modern civilization have evaporated.
Scrambled references to the Bible, evolution, "Peter Pan" and Abbott and Costello keep things interesting, and by the time the vaudevillians actuallyturn their cart into a stage and put on a show, we're completely caught up in their world.

"Dog Act" is an unusual, challenging play that creates its own rules but honors the oldest rule of all: good storytelling is its own reward.

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