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A CurtainUp Review
Crazy for the Dog,

I think about a lot of thingsā€¦fratricide for example.--- Paul .

Wrenn Schmidt, and Patrick Melville in <i>Crazy for the Dog</i>
Wrenn Schmidt, and Patrick Melville in Crazy for the Dog
(Photo: Ben Coopersmith)
Don't Take It Out On Me, For Pete's Sake could serve as an apt subtitle for Crazy for the Dog, Christopher Boal's compelling, if overwrought, play about a dog-napping and pair of irreconcilable highly neurotic siblings. The dog in question is Pete, a Shih Tzu puppy. His planned absence is the catalyst for a long-time-in-coming confrontation that stirs up not only the brother's memory of being a survivor and a protector in a dysfunctional family situation, but also fuels the sister's need for revenge and closure.

The dozens of empty Chinese food containers strewn about on the floor of the apartment might suggest to us that Jenny's (Susan Dahl) jittery irrational and hostile behavior is perhaps the result of an overload of MSG rather than anything provoked by her brother Paul (Patrick Melville). After all, Paul, a young and successful business man has just come home from work and merely wants to see his "love object" Pete. Jenny, an emotional basket case who once attempted suicide, has apparently been unable to get a life of her own. She has come to live in the same city where Paul lives with his wife Sarah (Christine Verleny), a psychologist.

Paul's anxiety is increased when Jenny admits that she has left the dog that she has been asked to walk with Kevin (Ryan Tramont), her ex-boyfriend, a loser who may or may not kill or release the dog pending her instructions. This depends on whether Jenny is able to get Paul to admit the truth about the fate of their mother's "love objects" -- three pet kittens. An incident with those kittens has presumably traumatized Jenny since childhood and has also left Paul scarred with feelings of remorse and denial. In truth, Jenny has never recovered from their early years living with an alcoholic mother and an abusive stepfather. Now she feels betrayed and presumably abandoned by Paul, who has accepted a job offer in another city. To insure Kevin's complicity, Jenny has hidden his valuable set of vintage baseball cards as leverage to keep him, as it were, on a leash.

A feeling of hypertension charges the atmosphere throughout the play, under Eric Parness's direction. It also prompts some fine performances from the four actors. Playwright Boal, who is best known as the creator and author of The Continuing Adventures of Dick Danger, a late-night comedy/adventure serial which ran for two and a half years in the East Village, has created some very disquieting and unnerving characters each of whom expresses their repressed rage through increasingly vindictive accusations, recriminations and demands. Although the dialogue is rife with terse teasing and baiting, it becomes more tantalizing for what isn't said than what is revealed somewhat redundantly. In any event, these emotionally challenged characters make you keep listening. From what we see and hear, Jenny is certifiably unhinged. But to Dahl's credit, Jenny's more insidiously self-serving side is not kept from surfacing. As the besieged Paul, Melville expertly holds his own in the face of Jenny's assaults but really meets his match in a breath-holding face-off with Kevin.

While Paul and Jenny's family secrets surface with occasionally revelatory relevance, including a few outbursts from the mostly stupefied Sarah, the play's most disturbed character turns out to be Kevin, as menacingly played by Tramont. Kevin's presence and his own personalized agenda reveals him as the most pathologically disturbed and the one character whose need for retribution ultimately supercedes the others. Although the play is rather short at 90 minutes, it is still divided into two acts with a ten minute intermission, a decision that unfortunately defuses the growing suspense. Certainly Matthew Allar's meager scenic designs for two locations was not a factor.

We missed Crazy for the Dog when it first opened at the Cocteau Theater. It's recent re-opening for a 7-week commercial run was our chance --and is yours -- to play catch-up.

Crazy for the Dog
By Christopher Boal
Directed by Eric Parness
Cast: Patrick Melville, Susan Dahl, Ryan Tramont, Christine Verleny
Scenic Design: Matthew Allar
Costume Design: Sidney Shannon
Lighting Design: Pamela Kupper
Sound Design: Nick Moore
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes plus one 10-minute intermission
Bouwerie Lane Theater, 330 Bowery.
Originally opened 6/09/06. Performances resumed on July 11 and will run through August 26.
Performances for the extension run Tuesday through Fridays at 8 PM and Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM.
Tickets are $40 at or 212 - 677 - 0060 x 16
Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on the July 27 performance.

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