Nu Sass Productions’ Dead Dog’s Bone: A Birthday Play is about a girl and her dog and the messiness of growing up, but don’t think for a moment that means it is a story you’ve seen before. Equal parts tender and prickly, Dead Dog’s Bone uses humor and a touch of the weird to dig right in to the muddled difficulties of trying to figure out who and what you are and who and what you love.
The Virgin Mary serves as our narrative guide in and around the memories and relationships of Juniper, her family, and Dog, her dog. Juniper is struggling to figure out how to be herself, how to be in a relationship, and what it means to be happy. Juniper is estranged from her artist mom, Iris and is struggling with the silence of her father, Atlas.
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She also is confused by the steady love of her boyfriend, Timothy, who wants to take the next step in their relationship. Feeling overwhelmed by the approach of Christmas, Juniper skips town, leaving Timothy to take care of Dog. Unfortunately, Dog is old and isn’t in the best health. As Dog gets worse, Timothy contacts father Atlas when he can’t get in touch with Juniper. Atlas invites Timothy and Dog up to his house for Christmas, in the hope that Juniper will eventually come home to deal with her life and the people (and animal) who love her.
The cast is a delight to watch, as they strike a delicate balance between wisecracks, longing, and sorrow. Dannielle Hutchinson’s Virgin Mary is an important guide through the play’s winding action and sets the tone with her jokey sarcasm, playfulness, and her habit of replying to characters’ deep questions with inscrutable answers. As Juniper, Schuyler Atkins cloaks the sweetness of an ingenue in a fog of crankiness and uncertainty that endears her character all the more, while Andy De’s interpretation of Timothy’s regular guy-ness provides a great foil for Atkins’ confusion. Iris and Atlas, played by Aubri O’Connor and Erik Harrison, radiate chemistry during their scenes together, infusing the stage with romantic warmth as we bounce between O’Connor’s extravagant emotions and Harrison’s shy strength.
Dead Dog’s Bone
closes April 14, 2019
Details and tickets
In a show of strong performances, the standout is Karen Lange as Dog. Even though she speaks only occasionally, Lange performs with spot on comedic timing, embodying the loving exasperation of notable dog characters like Gromit (of Wallace and Gromit fame) and the Red Baron himself, Snoopy. Without ever turning Dog into a caricature, Lange captures in a look or a movement Dog’s moods and reactions to her humans. Lange also gives beautiful performances of country-style songs, accompanied by De on the guitar, that serve to frame the action and carry a sweet melancholy tone throughout the play.
The space at Caos on F is cozy, but the constraints are put to good use for the show. Since there are no curtained wings for the performers to retreat to, the cast remains on stage as an integral part of the set, with each character doing a few unobtrusive things— Iris paints, the Virgin Mary knits, Dog holds on to her bee toy — while they watch the scenes. The costuming is subtle but effectively highlights the characters, consisting of well-selected street clothes with the Virgin Mary’s blue veil providing a Baroque flourish. I particularly appreciated Dog’s look of plaid flannel, a red neckerchief, and pigtails, which hints at her dogness without going full furry.
I recommend making your way downtown to catch Dead Dog’s Bone while you can. Nu Sass Productions continue to put on interesting and engaging shows, and this one is no exception. It is filled with the kind of touching and human moments I look for when going to theater. Watching the performances in this quirky and charming show is a pleasure you won’t want to miss.
Dead Dog’s Bone by Veronica Tjioe . Directed by Mara Sherman . Cast: Andy De (Timothy), Aubri O’Connor (Iris), Dannielle Hutchinson (The Virgin Mary), Erik Harrison (Atlas), Karen Lange (Dog), Schuyler Atkins (Juniper) . Scenic Design: Julia Colpitts and Mara Sherman . Costume Design: Nina Howe-Goldstein . Lighting Design: Lauren Gallup . Sound Design: Julia Colpitts. Music Captain: Karen Lange . Stage Manager: Julia Colpitts . Production Manager: Caelan Tietze . Produced by Mara Sherman and Aubri O’Connor . Reviewed by Kate Gorman.
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