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A CurtainUp Review
Dead Dog Park
By Charles Wright
The policeman says the boy fell. The boy's mother and her lawyer claim he was pushed. Unconscious in a hospital, the boy can't speak for himself. The cop's vehement self-defense is called into question by testimony about his past violent tendencies, as well as a videotape in which he tells a racist joke.
In lean, believable dialogue, playwright Malawer captures the conflicting perspectives of his characters: the cop (Tom O'Keefe), his wife (Susannah Millonzi), the mother (Eboni Flowers), the lawyer (Ryan Quinn), and the policeman's partner on the beat (Migs Govea).
Director Eric Tucker has assembled a highly competent cast of six. He keeps them on the move, with no formal breaks between the play's 13 scenes and each section bleeding cinematically into the next.
Over the past couple of years, Tucker, who's Artistic Director and Co-founder of the Bedlam troupe (an associate producer of Dead Dog Park), has seemed ubiquitous in New York theater. His recent credits include Kate Hamill's adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (still running under the Bedlam banner), Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Shaw's St. Joan.
Tucker is noted for using a handful of players to perform large-cast plays. His highly energetic staging of Midsummer Night's Dream utilized five actors in colorful work-out gear who swatted the comedy's many roles back and forth among themselves like volley balls, frequently switching parts abruptly in mid-scene.
Dead Dog Park features the same sort of compact ensemble that Tucker favors; but the script is far simpler than the Shakespearean and Shavian texts which he has taken on recently. Instead of staging Malawer's text as written, Tucker has eliminated scenic, costume, and lighting changes; and the entire action passes, without breaks, in a neutral space with a couple of chairs and a desk. <,br>
Five of the six actors are kept on stage throughout the play; and those not involved in a particular scene remain stock still until their next scene rolls around. This directorial choice emphasizes the fact that each person ensnared in the catastrophe in Washington Heights is destined to remain entangled with the others for the rest of their lives. The result is fierce momentum and a degree of poignancy that the drama wouldn't have otherwise.
After preview performances had begun, Boz and the Bard, the colorfully named lead producer of Dead Dog Park, shifted the play's premiere ahead half a week. The change was announced in a brief press release that begged the question of why the opening night was being advanced. It's hard to guess what might possess a producer to open a show early, subjecting actors to the stress of critical assessment sooner rather than later.