The Dog in the Manger

By Lope de Vega. Dir. Dave Dalton. With Jeremy Beck, Robert M. Johanson, Abbie Killeen. Sanford Meisner Theatre (see Off-Off Broadway).

DON'T TOY WITH ME Beck, left, gets all huffy with Killeen and her doll.

DON'T TOY WITH ME Beck, left, gets all huffy with Killeen and her doll.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

Adapting a classic play for modern audiences can be a fool's errand. Too little tinkering leads to academic dryness; too much can create a strained product with scant resemblance to its source. So hats off to the group Quinnopolis, NY, whose production of Lope de Vega's 17th-century Spanish comedy The Dog in the Manger manages, for the most part, to stake out a satisfying middle ground.

The story involves your basic romantic triangle: Countess Diana (Killeen) loves her secretary, Teodoro (Johanson), who is betrothed to her servant, Marcela (Beck, in drag). But Lope was a sly dramatist, and his limning of the idiosyncratic whims and vanity of what could have been stock figures is expertly mirrored in director Dave Dalton's streamlined staging. By embracing a postmodern, borderline snarky performance style, the cast paradoxically manages to locate the essence of Lope's manipulative lovers (as well as several secondary characters) with delightful precision.

The only sour note is hit by the unnecessary interpolation of contemporary pop lyrics into the dialogue (even though Brian Minter's contributions on keyboard and guitar are quite lively). Despite this misstep, The Dog in the Manger neatly marries the stylization of classic drama to the arch attitudes of the present, a combination that beats the odds to deliver an evening of devious entertainment. In this adaptation, the real fools are not the adapters but the characters, revealed to us in all their strutting, fatuous glory.—Jeff Lewonczyk