nytheatre.com review by Will Fulton
February 8, 2011
Flux Theatre Ensemble's production of Liz Duffy Adams's Dog Act follows the travails of traveling vaudevillian Rozetta (“Zetta”) Stone through the post-apocalyptic wastes of America. Unflaggingly optimistic, Zetta is en route to a supposed contract with the king of China to perform the famed Mortality play with her traveling companion, Dog, a soft-spoken man who has undergone “voluntary species demotion” for reasons unknown. Along the way, while dodging cannibalistic Scavengers and the American wastes' other perils, they join up with Vera Similitude, a professional speaker of truth, and her ward Jojo, an impulsively violent storyteller.
Adams's script, elegantly directed by Kelly O'Donnell, crackles with wit and poetry. The dialog is peppered with intriguingly odd allusions to the greater world of the play, helping it feel richly detailed and expansive. Adams does an exceptional job of spreading out her exposition and world-building in such a way that it is familiar without ever becoming comfortable. At a cultural moment when apocalyptic obsession is pervasive to the point of overkill, she manages to present a scenario that capitalizes on our familiarity with the established conventions of the post-nuclear world while still feeling fresh and surprising.
The cast of motley wanderers is universally strong. Lori E. Parquet plays Zetta with all the irresistible charm and showmanship of a born vaudevillian. Chris Wight as Dog gives a much more subdued performance that is heartbreakingly earnest and provides necessary anchor to Parquet's bombastic Zetta. Liz Douglas shows an impressive mastery of genre, playing the mysterious Vera Similitude with pitch-perfect old-Hollywood vampiness. Becky Byers is charmingly bizarre as the spastic savage Jojo, particularly in her rapid-fire shouted stories followed immediately by dropping to the floor to play with the Etch-a-Sketch tied around her neck, a wonderfully un-commented-upon sight gag that got funnier with every iteration. The ensemble is rounded out by Zack Robidas and Julian Stetkevych as the Scavengers Bud and Coke, played with spot-on reckless and broad physical comedy.
The design elements of the show are also incredibly apt across the board. Lara de Bruijn's costumes, masterfully patched together from scraps of various eras, do the lion's share of setting the tone of the post-apocalypse, and are full of interesting details. The practically show-stealing centerpiece of Jason Paradine's otherwise simple set is Zetta's fabulous wagon. Pieced together from ill-matching parts and loaded down with the material detritus of lost history, the wagon is a compelling character unto itself—it screams to be used in a production of Mother Courage in an upcoming season.
Flux's production of Dog Act is a thoroughly enjoyable night of theatre. Exceedingly well executed on all fronts, this is a play that feels both contemporary and timeless, and I imagine will take its well-deserved place in the canon.