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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Four Dogs And A Bone
Phoenix Artists' Club   Summer 2003

Like just about every other American playwright who ever worked in Hollywood, John Patrick Shanley (best known for the 1987 Cher vehicle Moonstruck) was moved to write a satire of the film business. 

Although Four Dogs And A Bone is less biting than, say, David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow and not as dark as David Rabe's Hurlyburly, it has its share of light-hearted digs and laughs.

But this weak production does not do justice to it, and you will have to look past some stodgy direction and dreadful acting to enjoy it. 

We meet four people working on a movie – the harried producer, airheaded starlet, ageing leading lady and nave writer. Each is more complex, or at least two-faced, than my labels might suggest, and they spend the short play taking turns trying to manipulate each other to their own ends. 

The women are alternately seductive and hard-nosed in attempting to get their roles built up and the other's cut; the producer is wheedling, flattering or threatening as need be to just get the damn thing made and as cheaply as possible; and the writer proves a fast learner in the politics of looking out for number one.

All this is frequently quite funny, some of the best laughs coming when one or another undergoes an instant personality change as he or she changes tacks with the target of the moment.

Or it would be, in a much better production. 

Director Josh Seymour has encouraged or allowed two of his cast to play one-note clich stereotypes throughout and directed all four to either remain solidly planted in one place for an entire scene or make random and unmotivated crossings just to break up the stasis. 

Nobody ever looks comfortable or quite sure where he or she is supposed to be, nobody ever really relates to (and hardly ever looks at) anyone else, and too much of it has the feel of shout-at-the-back-wall amateur or school theatrics to create any reality, even a satiric one. 

Two of the actors – Laura Pradelska as the leading lady and Joe Jameson as the writer – do generate some energy, sense of character and moments of reality, and I would be happy to see them again in a better-directed play.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   Four Dogs and a Bone - Phoenix 2011

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