Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
The Dog / The Cat
This month's offering from Cockroach Theatre is The Dog / The Cat, a pair of one-act plays exploring the love lives of pet owners. The Dog, by Brendan Cowell, is the more conventional of the two, examining the evolving relationships among three dog owners through their meet-ups at the local dog park. Lally Katz's The Cat ventures into a more surreal zone: A married couple splits up and agrees to share custody of their cat. They meet periodically at a park bench for the "cat exchange," and to catch up on one another's post-divorce adventures. The cat, however, begins to behave in some rather surprising ways.
The material, unfortunately, is fairly weak, and it would take a stellar director and cast to spin it into gold. Faced with this enormous challenge, director Matthew Morgan and his cast are partly successful.
The Cat is the stronger of the two scripts. Jettisoning any semblance of realism, Katz gives us a cat that can talk andeventuallylaunch a successful career in show business. She also throws in two unabashedly silly musical interludes (by composer Aurélien Budynek). These moments add to the general aura of goofiness that elevates the script above the mundane.
The Dog, unfortunately, feels more like a student writing project than a finished piece. The charactersdepressed, divorced writer Ben, his hipster app-creating flatmate Marcus, and Miracle, a university lecturerare not especially interesting or charismatic, and there seems to be little at stake in their burgeoning relationships. Much of the dialogue feels unnatural, as though Cowell has not yet developed an ear for how people really talk. There's an inattention to detail as well: The fatal flaw in Marcus's supposedly hot app is obvious from the start. And, for reasons that should be obvious, no one in their right mind brings a picnic to a dog park.
The cast of three works hard in multiple roles. April Sauline does her best work in The Cat, where she doubles as the ex-wife Alex and her ex's new giggly girlfriend Sophie. Anthony Meyer tries mightily to make something of his two rather bland characters, Ben in The Dog and the phlegmatic ex-husband Albert in The Cat, but his best comic moment is a fleeting appearance as Jeff, Alex's very hairy capoeira instructor, in one of the funniest scenes in The Cat.
Jonas Woolverton does his best to make Marcus believable in The Dog, but the script proves insurmountable. He triumphs, however, in the title role of The Cat, where he makes the most of his chameleon-like physicality. Wearing (literally) a black catsuit, with pink-and-black ears that twitch constantly, Woolverton affects a distinctly feline manner, whether stretched out in his owner's lap or lunging at mom's new lover. At this point in the evening, it's a relief to see an actor perform material to which he is so well suited. With excellent timing, Woolverton finds every laugh.
Yale Yaendel's set design works well in the black box space. The overflowing trash bin in the dog park is an especially nice touch.
The costumes are a mixed bag. No one is credited as costume designer, which might be the problem. A UCLA lecturer on "intersectional studies" wouldn't be caught dead in Miracle's bright yellow baby-doll dress and matching tights. And an app designer wearing a bow tie and a button-down shirt that only a mother could love would probably not have Marcus's success on Tinder.
Matthew Morgan seems to be a capable director, but the Cockroach Theatre could do him (and the audience) a great favor by choosing better material.
The Dog / The Cat, through November 11, 2018, at the Art Square Theatre, 1025 S. 1st St., Las Vegas, NV. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 2 pm. For tickets ($25 general admission, $20 seniors/students/public servants) and further information, go to www.cockroachtheatre.com.