June 8th – August 4th, 2012 @ The Hudson Theatre, Hollywood
Thursday @ 8pm / Friday @ 8pm / Saturday @ 3pm & Saturday @ 8pm
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“Birtwhistle gets arguably the most reality-based role, one which allows him to move from Ozzie Nelson good-naturedness to a considerably more Hitchcockian intensity as fear begins to set in, and he is quite splendid at both.” – Stage Scene LA
“Like the best science fiction, D Is for Dog gains its power from the vulnerability of its characters.” - LA Times
“GO!” – D is for Dog “… metamorphoses into a riveting sci-fi tale that, like the best of that genre, comes off as frighteningly prescient.” - LA Weekly
OVATION THEATRE AWARD: Winner Best Puppets
LA WEEKLY THEATRE AWARDS: Nominated for BEST COMEDY ENSEMBLE
HOLLYWOOD FRINGE AWARDS: Nominated for BEST THEATRE PRODUCTION
LA Weekly (Review)
The Los Angeles Times (Review)
Broadway World (Review)
Stage and Cinema (Review)
KPCC’s Off Ramp with John Rabe (Radio Interview)
The Imitated Life (Review)
Culture Spot LA (Review)
Review Plays.com (Review)
Compositions on Theater (Review)
LA Stage Times (Interview w/ Writer)
LOS ANGELES TIMES – Theater Review: ‘D Is for Dog’ at Studio/Stage
In Rogue Artist Ensemble’s “D Is for Dog,” which ran briefly at South Coast Repertory (where I saw it) and will open in L.A. on July 1, life doesn’t just resemble a 1950s TV commercial; It is a 1950s TV commercial.
Mrs. Rogers (Nina Silver) twirls into her white, turquoise and lemon kitchen, admires the “marvelous” (digitally projected) morning, hands Mr. Rogers (Guy Birtwhistle) a cup of pretend coffee, and quotes a Maxwell House slogan to an unseen camera. The Rogerses live in this camera’s eye, and Mrs. Rogers, especially, refuses to break character. She faces the audience even when doing so makes chores awkward, and if something unscripted happens, her eyes dart sideways, but her smile doesn’t flag.
The production team, led by director/co-author/puppet designer/video designer Sean T. Cawelti and playwright/scenic designer Katie Polebaum (most names are listed more than once), has a field day sending up the 1950s. The Rogerses’ blond 7-year-old children, Dick and Jane, could be illustrations from the books that inspired them — except that they’re played by adults (Michael Scott Allen and Taylor Coffman, both wonderful). Before heading off to “the corporation,” Mr. Rogers takes a “clear pill, to put pep in your step.” If little Jane “goes off,” as Dick describes her lapses, she gets a yellow pill. And Mrs. Rogers reaches more and more for the all-powerful “blues.”
These and other engagingly sinister hints (the children receive gas masks for their birthday; animals apparently no longer exist) let us know that something ugly lurks behind this anxiously maintained facade. The suspenseful plot evokes “The Twilight Zone” and Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” and hinges on three unforgettable life-sized puppets.
Like the best science fiction, “D Is for Dog” gains its power from the vulnerability of its characters, human or not. I was so engaged that it didn’t occur to me until afterward that not only are the styles of the 1950s fun to satirize, but the denial, faith in technology, and pharmaceutical escapism we associate with the era also chillingly reflect our own.
D IS FOR DOG begins with deceptive simplicity, as a (seemingly) entertaining parody of the mindless and stultifying conformity of the 1950s.
Playwright Kate Polebaum’s script focuses on the Rogers family, a robotic quartet consisting of a devoted couple, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers (Guy Birtwhistle and Nina Silver), and their enthusiastically complaisant kids (played by adults), Dick and Jane (Michael Scott Allen and Taylor Coffman).
Each morning, a smiling Mrs. Rogers pirouettes through the kitchen to display its glories, and at each breakfast the family pays a jingled tribute to Maxwell House and Aunt Jemima. Only Mr. Rogers, a scientist who works for the omnipotent Conservation Company, is aware of the ominous forces threatening their home. He maintains a protective silence so as not to alarm his loved ones — until strange phone calls start to intrude on their innocence.
Director Sean T. Cawelti and tech director Tyler Stamets marshal a panoply of talent to relay what metamorphoses into a riveting sci-fi tale that, like the best of that genre, comes off as frighteningly prescient.
The spot-on ensemble include Coffman’s strangely aberrant child and Birtwhistle’s caring Dad, a beacon of humanity amidst the bizarre landscape that envelops him.
What makes this production so distinctive, however, is its staging – a coalescence of elements that includes flawlessly calibrated sound (John Nobori) and original music (Nobori and Ben Phelps), artful lighting (Haylee Freeman) and stunning graphics (Matthew T. Hill). The menacing life-size puppets are spooky enough to haunt one’s nightmares for a very long time.