By Charlene Baldridge
There’s really nothing new under the sun when it comes to futuristic fiction, film and theater; but sometimes what’s done is done so well and intelligently that one just goes, “Ahhhh” and relishes the experience.
A case in point is Liz Duffy Adams’ play, “Dog Act,” which first revealed Adams’ fascinating post-apocalyptic world to San Diegans in 2005. Produced then and now by Moxie Theatre, the piece is set “later on in a wilderness in the Northeast of the former USA.”
Playgoers are not told what caused the end of civilization.
Apparently it was long ago, and even the Sacred Order of Vaudevillians, keepers of storytelling and theatrical tradition, speak fractured English rife with stories and monologues from Shakespeare
The cities were destroyed and the remnants of humanity roam the land in company of others like them. Winter and summer arrive instantaneously with a shake of the ground; spring and summer are no more. Strange creatures swim nearby waters, and they are edible, which is fortunate for the two remaining members of a vaudeville troupe, Rozetta Stone (Liv Kellgren) and Dog (Jason Connors), who is her talking, devolved human companion. Their prize possession is a colorful wagon, which they pull through the countryside on their way to China, where Rozetta reveals they have an engagement to play for the emperor.
Dog and Rozetta are joined by two dispossessed (or outcast) vaudevillians, Vera Simlitude (Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson) and her hotheaded companion, Jo-Jo the Bald Face Liar (Jo Anne Glover). Jo-Jo
is trailed by Bud (Rob Kirk) and Coke (Justin Lang), whose weaponry cache she’s stolen. These two speak a different language entirely, peppered with F-words and other vulgarities. Obviously descended from the criminal subculture of former life, they do, however, have a great curiosity about vaudevillians, and it is the law of whatever land that vaudevillians are sacred and not to be messed with.
Vera is not what she seems, and neither is Dog. In the play’s delightful denouement, the players present their vaudeville act, which much resembles the commedia dell’arte presented by the traveling troupe in “I Pagliacci.” The outcome is not so tragic in “Dog Act,” and the realigning of allegiances portends hope for all these characters, of whom the audience grows very fond.
All the thespians are portrayed by the same actors that were in the award-winning 2005 production, which is infused with music (Connors plays guitar and all sing). The actors are among the city’s best and certainly this marvelous play deserves to be seen again and again by those who love language, a well-made play, a lot of laughs and the great intelligence employed by all. It’s a visual hoot to boot, thanks to Michelle Hunt-Souza’s clever costumes.
Charlene Baldridge is a freelance arts writer and member of San Diego Critics Circle.
“Dog Act” continues through November 22 at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
Moxie Theatre, at the Rolando Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego