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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
By Jana Monji
If you're a racing fan who likes to gamble on dogs or horses, you'll find this odd little interactive play annoying. From the display of greyhound racing memorabilia and the informational statistics in the cramped lobby of this small black box venue, you'll sense a negative vibe.
The Cynics doesn't celebrate dog racing. In contradictory ways, however it does make the culling of doomed dogs seem darkly funny. That's why the humanitarian aspects of the lobby display don't fit comfortably with the fun the audience has playing God (or at least the animal control executioner).
Our narrator, Scapino (Patrick Day), is dressed in the shabby chic of a different era. In his derby, a long brownish topcoat and dark leather pants he is a modern interpretation of a Dickens' hero or villain. Speaking in rhyme he introduces us to the track where seven dogs compete for our favor with monologues that explain their wants, their needs and their willingness to please. After the hounds have finished their pleas, the race begins and the actors run out of the theater as the audience votes for the dog that will die. Slides of dogs actually racing are projected at the back of the stage.
Scapino (Day) picks up the votes. As they are tallied, a delightfully scummy huckster, Master Sergeant (Jack Gogreve alternating with Chris Williams), attempts to sell the audience some cheap item as he leers and oozes slime. The dogs slowly return to the stage only to have Death (Bryan Price) leash up and take the unlucky poochoff stage where we hear a very vicious whack. The Master Sergeant changes the racing board on stage left and makes sure we understand which dogs have gone to the doggy graveyard.
Day and Williams have set the characters of the seven dogs according to the seven deadly sins. If you aren't Christian or have forgotten your Sunday school lessons, the deadly sins are pride (also vanity), envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. By the voting, the audience members supposedly reveal something about themselves. But really, isn't it just a popularity contest?
Most of the dogs are double case. On the evening reviewed, Williams (alternating with Chuck Meyer) was touching as the misfit dog, Lucky, who was tortured by self-doubt only to find comfort in some narcotic weed. As the lustful Dirty Knees, Elena Almas (triple cast with Bert Rotundo and Donnie Jeffcoat) was winningly Southern belle slutty. Kathryne Dora Brown's Bo Jackson If Yer Nasty managed to be cute despite her dog's anal retentiveness that was only relieved by pills.
People in the audience did murmur their regret when their pals or favorites got taken to their doom but this show will hardly pass as a lesson on racing morality. Though viewing fellow humans acting as doggishly as they can with wire muzzles and whining did inspire many a giggle, Day and Williams do manage to convey the sliminess of racetracks and gambling and how begging to live distorts character.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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