The Pet Goat Convention
nytheatre.com review by David Johnston
August 15, 2004
After watching The Pet Goat Convention, I read the press release and realized I had just seen “an outrageous farce.” I was surprised to read this, as I found this play wretchedly unfunny and incomprehensible to boot. I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with something constructive, some redeeming facet to the evening. But what can I say? Everyone tried? The actors knew their lines? It started on time? I can’t even figure out what the title means.
The Pet Goat Convention seems to be about a really bad New Year’s Eve party. Jay (Philip Burke), a young music industry executive, is the host. It seems Jay’s friend Ray (Jeff Auer), a musician without a record contract, has made a boor of himself at the party. This charmless blowhard then decides to sit under a couch-pillow fort until someone gives him a record contract, which doesn’t exactly make for gripping theatre.
In the meantime, Dave and Deb, refugees from a nameless country, arrive at the apartment in the middle of the night—to clean. Cleaning consists of pretending to wash many, many beer cans, which also does not make for gripping theatre. At this point, I began to feel genuine sympathy for the actors.
Before the end, I found out this is really some sort of post-apocalyptic world. I think. There’s a strange pitch for American Express and a Brechtian rock song about how crappy everything is. Oh, and an implied gang rape of a woman gagged with duct tape, which also failed to strike me as a laugh riot.
Responsibility for this appalling time-waster lands squarely on the head of writer/director John Del Signore. The dialogue has all the comedic sparkle of a trip to the laundromat, and the characters just make no damn sense. (If Ray wants a record contract, then why is he particularly nasty to Cal, the one guy at the party who could—uh—get him a record contract?) As a director, Del Signore falls flat, too. The actors behave as if they’re in different plays and the pacing is deadly.
As far as the actors go, Philip Burke and Neil Butterfield strive bravely. Larry Weeks is interesting as a sleazy, coked-up rock photographer. The other actors may be competent. There’s just no way to tell.