Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
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 directingand 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 partI 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
Special Thanks to: