Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

My Barking Dog
Urbanite Theatre
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's recent reviews of Croon: When a Whisper Became a Song and Billy Elliot


Caitlin Hargraves and Miles Duffield
Photo by Ryan Finzelber
Urbanite Theatre is producing the west Florida premiere of My Barking Dog by Eric Coble, for my money the best thing they have done since their one-two punch of Chicken Shop and Isaac's Eye, two of their first three productions. My Barking Dog us a combination of a brilliant play and a stunning production, a total must see.

This is the story of Melinda and Toby, living in the same apartment building in an unnamed city, both socially isolated, who cross paths when visited by a coyote who comes onto their fire escape. There is little to be gained by revealing more about the plot, just let me say that playwright Coble develops this premise in ways that hold the audience's attention.

At a talk back after the performance, I learned that director Daniel Kelly cast the play from tapes, without seeing Caitlin Hargraves, who plays Melinda, in person. He also cast Miles Duffield from a tape, although they had crossed paths at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. What is seen on stage attests to Mr. Kelly's ability to select talent. Mr. Duffield perfectly captures Toby's geekiness, a major character trait that is enhanced by his current unemployment. I was surprised to find the actor quite self-assured at the talk back. Ms. Hargraves portrays the wild-eyed horror Melissa feels at seeing an animal presumed only to exist in the wild on her fire escape. This is a very movement oriented piece, especially in the second half, and both actors are up to conquering the necessary physicality

I have said more than once that, where there is fine acting, expect to find excellent directing—and so it is here. The play presents a real challenge because it starts out as monologues, first him, then her, back and forth until they begin to enter each other's space. But midway through the play the whole thing takes on a totally different tone, almost surrealism. This change is gradual, but still leaves Daniel Kelly directing two different shows, which he does brilliantly.

Scenic design by Mark Beach is simple but highly effective, two rectangular playing areas on different levels representing Tobey and Melinda's living spaces. David W. Walker, excellent on stage recently in The Toxic Avenger, switches hats here with extraordinarily effective costumes that move with the changes of tone in the play. The make-up is un-credited, but a key part—I was happy to find out that the scratches on Mr. Duffield's arms depicted during the aggressively physical scenes are make-up. Ryan Finzelber does his usual superb job of lighting design, especially when Tobey descends into the urban wilds of a park, deep into the underbrush where everything is green.

My Barking Dog is a somewhat more technically challenging show than what I have seen at Urbanite Theatre since the early days, and all challenges are well and truly met.

Urbanite Theatre presents My Barking Dog through December 18, 2016, at 1487 2nd St. Sarasota. Visit www.urbanitetheatre.com for more information.

Cast: Melinda: Caitlin Hargraves
Toby: Miles Duffield*
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association

Production Team:
Eric Coble: playwright
Summer Dawn Wallace: co artistic director
Brendan Regan: co artistic director
Daniel Kelly: director
Amanda LaForge: stage manager
Mark Beach: scenic design and master carpenter
Rew Tipton: sound design
David W. Walker: costume design
Ryan Finzelber: lighting design
Summer Dawn Wallace: properties design
Rick Cannon and Ashlee Hamory: scenic charge
Brianna Brand: assistant stage manager
Harry Lipstein: founder & ensemble member
Katie Svedman and Sam Talmadge: interns

Special Thanks to:
Steve Csonka
Asolo Rep
Asolo Scenic Studio
Neil Herren & Lex Jet
Debye Bernard & Twice's Nice Furniture and Collectables
Community Foundation of Sarasota County
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
Whole Foods Market
freeFall Theatre
American Stage
John C. Reynolds
Cole Finzelber
Gary LaParl


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