According to young playwright Jess Honovich, the message of her play is that ‘man’s best friend’ has a story to tell even after we’re gone. So listen up!
“Suicide Dogs”, is receiving its world premiere produced by Dezart Performs co-founder Michael Shaw and Board member Clark Duggar. Directed by Shaw the dramedy – with more emphasis on the comedy than on the drama – elicits various reactions from the audience. For example, if one is a pet owner the play has more of an emotional impact than for those who don’t own a pet.
The play was selected as the Audience favorite in Dezart “s 2015 staged reading festival held in the spring, with the winner receiving a fully-produced production including: sets, lights, costumes, props, the works, in January of 2016.
With the choice of the play a fait accompli it’s up to the very talented cast members to breathe life into the weak storyline and its characters. It’s not an easy task. The crafting of the play left me somewhat confused as to whether “Suicide Dogs” is a drama about a family that is grieving over the suicide of their celebrity brother who was a world-class golf professional or is it a comedy play about a dysfunctional family who tries to cope, not only with Barry’s suicide, but with their own lives… and not doing too well in the process.
Thankfully, there are some very talented performers in this cast that are trying to make sense of the situation and the plot points that follow. Barry, the pro golfer who lived in Miami Florida is charmingly played by Michael Shaw who appears in the play as an onstage narrator. Barry’s younger sister Amelia is wonderfully portrayed by a controlling Yo Younger, a sibling who likes to take charge of things only to discover she is hopelessly out of her depth. Her husband Dave, skillfully played by Rob Hubler, is a delight as Amelia’s harried husband and father of their spoiled 16 year-old daughter Frankie, nicely played by Rachel Silverman, who gets to toss around Frankie’s favorite adjective for everything – a four letter word ending in *ing (whatever happened to writers that kept a thesaurus next their typewriters or their computers?).
Solid support also comes from Denise Strand as Dori, the eldest sister, who is estranged from Amelia and who has dropped in out of the blue to attend the services for Barry. Dori is a Freudian delight. She has been in and out of so much therapy, the only thing visibly missing from her social baggage are the tics and quirks. Stan Jensen as Podgy, Barry’s empathetic next-door neighbor, turns in a nice sympathetic performance. The story and the crafting of the play may not be one of the slickest efforts I’ve seen, however, one cannot deny the talent, and commitment of the cast up on the stage.
In the technical department, director Shaw leads the creative team of Set Designer Thomas L.Valach, who nicely captures the Miami home and lifestyle, along with the Lighting Design of award-winning designer Phil Murphy, and the Sound Design by award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and co-producer Clark Duggar. Keeping all of the actors on their toes backstage is the redoubtable Stage Manager Blanche Mickelson, an award-winning actor in her own right.
“Suicide Dogs” performs on the Pearl McManus Stage in Palm Springs and runs through January 31st. Performances are given on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. For ticket information and reservations call the box office at 760- 322-0179.