nytheatre.com review by Robert Attenweiler
August 22, 2010
This morning I woke up, fed my cat, played with my cat, told my cat how cute she is, and then went to see a play about dogs: Becca Schlossberg's fine new play 3boys, currently running at the 4th Street Theatre. In it, the three actors play dogs on a dog farm in an allegory of obedience and freedom.
Too often, allegorical works struggle because they are constantly pointing at the connections they're trying to make. This is not the case here. In its best moments, 3boys nails it: the canine premise melts away and the audience is left with well-expressed humanity.
The play opens with Lee (Alex Engquist) telling the puppy, Zip (Patrick Horn), an admiring story about his good friend Comet. Zip laps this up and Lee uses the story to teach the younger dog everything from vocabulary to what happens to a dog's testicles after he is neutered. The two dogs have a nice relationship, but Lee is clearly sad that Comet is no longer around. Comet is a breeding dog and was recently taken by some farmers to do just that. Lee is also different from the other dogs, as he was rescued by the farm's owner and not raised there like the rest. Zip tells Lee that Comet has returned, but that he is tied to a tree by the house. Lee visits his friend (played by Matt Brown) who is no longer heroic but dark and moody, afraid of humans and yearning for freedom. Lee keeps trying to reach him and, we learn, that his and Comet's relationship was...shall we say, more than just friendship.
The three actors, Engquist, Horn, and Brown, strike a perfect balance in this ensemble piece. Brown is conflicted and brooding, but still vulnerable. Horn leaps around and is eager to please. And Engquist is really quite touching in how he won't stop trying to reach the Comet that he loves, no matter how much Brown spits Comet's new-found venom at him. This is also a credit to the director, Madeleine Rose M. Parsigian, who does a great job—as does Schlossberg's writing—of reminding the audience of the world of the allegory with subtlety and detail, not by beating us over the head.
The play runs only 40 minutes, making it great summer festival theatre. It's short, but still manages to give the audience an ambitious, well-executed story with exciting moments from all involved. I look forward to seeing more of Schlossberg's work in the future.