Updated: Mar 8, 2019
★★★★★ - Irresistible
With all that’s going on in the world, with the rise in anxiety and blood pressure, we could use a little comedy; something to laugh at. Cockroach Theatre Artistic Director Daz Weller brought two short plays by a couple friends in Australia.
“The Dog,” by Brendan Cowell, and “The Cat,” by Lally Katz, have both, according to Weller, played successfully in Sydney, and elsewhere Down Under, but this brings their talent to tickle the funny bone in the U.S.
Director Matthew Morgan has chosen his cast well; Anthony Meyer, April Sauline, and Jonas Woolverton, do double duty and appear in both plays.
“The Dog” takes place in–where else–a dog park. Yale Yaendel’s set puts the action against a cyclone fence, complete with a rather full Doggy Waste Station which foreshadows trouble, and the fun starts immediately.
Meyer kicks things off with Sauline as dog owners who meet for the first time. In a series of scenes, Woolverton appears as Ben’s roommate, Marcus. There are the expected antics as the two men woo the same woman. Though the two men don’t appear together until the final scene, the tension between them is always evident. While Sauline basically plays the sounding board allowing the men to vent, she’s steady throughout, and her timing is impeccable.
The cliché goes “like cats and dogs.” But “The Cat” is the second act of the evening. If this decision was his, Morgan showed brilliance with the order of things. The script is witty, a bit far out, and he assigned the roles perfectly.
This time, Yaendel uses the entire performance space, giving us a variety of locations, each one specific. And Ellen Bone lights everything so well, overlapping cues to keep the action moving along at a clip.
And, here is where the cast truly shines. Meyer and Sauline play dual roles in this one. Meyer is Albert, who is being divorced by Alex, and appears as Jeff, Alex’s new lover; Sauline plays Alex, and Albert’s new lover, Sophie. Got it? Good. The divorcing couple must share custody of the Cat.
If it’s possible to steal the show, Jonas Woolverton does it, even though Meyer and Sauline match him point for point. They’re all always in the moment, but, if you know cats at all, Woolverton’s Cat is perfectly convincing in movement and antics.
One of the surprises of this script is that it’s a musical. I refuse to give away the other surprise because, to my delight, it caught everyone off guard. Alex and Albert have a duet that is hauntingly beautiful; you can’t help but be moved as they deliver “In My Life,” by composer Aurelien Budynek. Meyer has a nice baritone, clear and vocally acute. Sauline’s lovely alto is a perfect match and the two voices blend with precision.
There’s only one choice of the entire evening that bothered. Woolverton is clad in a black body suit, complete with tail, a rhinestone collar, and a headpiece with ears…that move the entire time. There were times my attention was drawn to the ears instead of actor’s actions. The worst part about those moments–audience laughter signaled I missed something.
Regardless, forget the cute kitten videos on Facebook. This is a completely delightful evening. It funny, it’s poignant, and I promise you’ll get plenty of laughs. And if you miss one or two jokes, it’s still one completely satisfying night at the theatre.
[Word count: 570]
What: The Dog / The Cat
When: 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through November 11
NO PERFORMANCE on November 2 due to First Friday.
Where: Art Square Theatre, 1025 S First St, #110
Tickets: $15 - $25 (www.cockroachtheatre.com, 725- 222-9661)
Producer: Cockroach Theatre; Artistic Director: Daz Weller; Director: Matthew Morgan; Scenic Design: Yale Yaendel; Lighting Design: Ellen Bone; Stage Manager: Rebecca Sass