Review: Dog Act

It's the end of the world as we know it, and this meta-vaudeville feels fine.

APOCALYPSE BOW WOW Wight, left, pretends he's a dog in the ruins of civilization.

APOCALYPSE BOW WOW Wight, left, pretends he's a dog in the ruins of civilization. Photograph: Isaiah Tanenbaum

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Liz Duffy Adams clearly loves the language of old plays. She adorned her lusty historical comedy Or, with Restoration folderol and now even her dystopian fantasy Dog Act swaggers around in borrowed Elizabethan finery. This passion for the poetic propels her texts through Shakespearian neologisms ("It scramooshed!" shouts a ruffian as his prey runs off), swooping iambs and modern, pizzicato vulgarity. Adams has the chops for these ambitious, language-based frolics, so even if this particular production feels a bit too long and rather dramaturgically...scramooshed, you have hope that the next one may be great.

In our not-so-distant future, apocalypse has come, and the only surviving form of entertainment is itinerant vaudeville. (Did the radiation make the tired old form rise from the dead? Details remain unclear.) Our heroine is Zetta (Lori E. Parquet), a tatty impresario pushing her wagon-cum-stage and aided in all things by her trusty sidekick, a human-identifying-as-canine called Dog (Chris Wight). The story is essentially a buddies-on-the-road drama: The two meet new companions, elude a band of ruthless scavengers and press on to an uncertain goal.

The real unlikely pairing here, of course, is the hyperliterary verbiage and the annihilated terrain. (The aesthetic is a close cousin to steampunk, with that same touching faith that utter societal devastation will clear the way for awesome retro outfits.) Some patchwork linguistic textures work wonderfully, but Adams relies too frequently on characters coaxing one another out of sullen moods with a song and, as expositor, she stays almost dangerously aloof. The production is uneven as well. Paquette takes to Adams-speak like it's her native tongue and minuscule Becky Byers excels as a feral storyteller, but the others (especially during their vaudeville bits) lack confidence. Director Kelly O'Donnell's scrappy production frequently has to strain for its rollicking tone, and nothing wears badly like effortful rollicking. Yet I found I never lost patience with it, perhaps because of Adams & Co.'s  palpable goodwill. The show's charm lies in that insistent love of all things theatrical; if you're susceptible to that type of puppyish enthusiasm, Dog Act will paw its way into your good graces.

See more Theater reviews

Clemente Soto Vlez Cultural Center (see the Off-Off List). By Liz Duffy Adams. Dir. Kelly O'Donnell. With ensemble cast. 2hrs. One intermission.