In a claustrophobic studio, where there is only a single spotlight on two foul-mouthed performers, you are forced to listen to their problems and ask yourself the big questions. In what can only be described as crude and confronting, playwright ElanGovan’s DOGS presents to the audience a dark, negative side of human nature.
A nameless lower class couple have won the lottery and are on a seemingly endless journey home with thirty-two cans of dog food for their Great Dane, Skippy. The woman craves a a child and is sexually unsatisfied, while the man is steadily going crazy from all the affection she shows the dog. Their relationship seems to be nothing more than a constant barrage of verbal abuse.
Adam T. Perkins and Summer Williams have a brutal on-stage chemistry. Through their sickening back-and-forth dialogue they raise disturbing questions about class isolation, sexual desire, racism and violence. The focus on their crumbling relationship exposes just how cruel and selfish people can be towards one another, causing the man to wonder if they are all just animals.
Without a doubt the actors are the highlight of the performance. To get that much energy into such a small space, with a limited amount of movement available to them, is quite an achievement. Both Perkins and Williams are one hundred percent committed and convincing. There is little to fault in their performances. Williams in particular successfully portrays the woman as nothing short of a vile piece of work.
Direction (Ian Bolgia), set design (John Kurzer) and lighting (Joe Lui) work together to effectively make the tiny studio space even more cramped. The two actors are confined to the front of a car for the majority of the performance, with just one spotlight to expose their ugly arguments.
Cory Rist’s music and sound design consists of subtle, throbbing music and natural sounds, such as rain. While it is softly threatening for the most part, there is the occasional overwhelming assault on the senses, all of which creates the perfect eerie atmosphere.
While it is an understandable choice for playwright ElanGovan to make the couple as unlikeable and bestial as possible by their use of foul language, the impact of the swearing eventually wears off. Ultimately it just sounded like noise. Although the overall power of the play wasn’t affected, such language works best when used sparingly; it then carries greater power to shock.
Purposely answering none of its questions and allowing the audience to decide for themselves, DOGS is darkly humorous, a little bit terrifying, and scrutinises the dark side of human nature. It’s a performance that audiences will either love or hate. Whichever view you may take the actors are entirely engaging and the themes so unsettling you cannot help but dwell on them long after the performance has ended.
Monday 4 February – Friday 8 February 2013