Shoot the Dog
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
July 20, 2006
Shoot the Dog, a play by Brittany Rostron, is about a boy who wants a girl who has ditched him. He silently broods in a bar while surrounding patrons try to get him to forget his troubles by listening to theirs. Their stories deal with family expectations, class, race, and culture, and the barriers these pose to freedom.
The story starts with Danny, a white college student, ordering amaretto sours in a bar where he wallows silently because his white girlfriend Jessica is cheating on him. Jax, the sharp black owner/bartender with a penchant for lowlife night clubs, presses him for details, when in walks Yasmine, an attractive East Indian regular whose eyes light up when she sees Danny. Danny repeatedly rejects their suggestions to "shoot the dog"—i.e., drop the girl and move on to freedom.
In trying to persuade him, they reveal their own webs of family expectations and disappointments. Jax, with an MBA from Cornell, comes from a wealthy Upper East Side family who does not want him working in a bar. Yasmine, once in a traditional Indian marriage, broke loose, much to her father's disapproval. She stopped speaking to her father, freeing her to pursue a fair-haired, blue-eyed boyfriend, whose mother disapproved of her because Yasmine would not have passed muster at the country club. Now her father is dead, the boyfriend gone, and she is alone.
Drinks flow, and Jessica—new date in hand—enters. She is coarse, uncaring, and bigoted. And, though she dismisses her date, and Danny subsequently dismisses her, Danny, who is accused of being spineless, knows exactly what he wants, and it is not the freedom that Jaz and Yasmine propose. It is Jessica that gives Danny a reason to get up in the morning. And, it is not long before he leaves the bar to get her.
Dennis X. Tseng directs, keeping the pace crisp and the cast natural in their element. While Matt Wise could be a college student, he is not the young Danny that Jax keeps referring to. Garrett Hendricks gives Jax the polish of his character's wealthy background while embracing the diversity he loves in the bar. Kari Floberg does a good job in eliciting Yasmine's reaction, "This is Jessica?" Siobhan Parisi gives a spirited performance as Yasmine and could easily be taken as the protagonist if the playwright chose to make her so. Thomas Matthews rounds out the cast as Raz, the white boyfriend. The distinctions of race and class are diverting, but finally seem incidental to Danny's determination to stick with Jessica regardless of whether she was good for him or not.
Presented by Thirsty Turtle Productions, the play's other credits go to Ian Crawford for lighting design, Fred Nicolaus for sound, and Katja Andreiev for costumes.