Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
June 13, 2014
A script about scriptwriters writing a script. It’s a familiar trope on screen and stage.
The interesting twist in “Dog and Pony,” is that, like the writing process itself, some of the scenes get rewrites. So, in multiple flashbacks, we see how things might have gone. The other positive element is the central characters’ collaboration; these two are clever and quick-witted when they bounce ideas off each other. But there’s a decided imbalance in the partnership.
Andy is older, and married. Mags is single, and obsessed with Andy. As they repeatedly remind us, he’s a vain, narcissistic procrastinator; she’s a workaholic enabler, who serves his every need. In other words, he’s a user; she’s a loser.
Charming as Nicole Parker’s performance is, it’s hard to care about either one of them. Andy is one of the least sympathetic lead characters in memory, and Jon Patrick Walker is unremarkable in the role. We hear that Andy’s brilliant, but see no sign of it. What could possibly attract three different women to love this guy?
His unhealthy symbiosis with Mags may make for hit films, but it’s a tired story of women who stay too long with Mr. Wrong. By the time she grows a pair, we barely shrug.
There’s another problem with this musical world premiere: the music. If it’s post-Sondheim modern, then it has to be angular and sophisticated, or blessed with smart, witty lyrics. Michael Patrick Waller’s work is neither. His tunes are non-melodic and unmemorable. Most of the score sounds like recitative, so conversational as to be virtually indistinguishable from the dialogue.
Rick Elice’s book has some clever moments, though it can be cloying in its self-referential smugness. And the quirks of each of the one-dimensional characters are maddeningly repetitive, though the cast is malleable in its multiple roles.
In the Old Globe’s White Theatre, the under-stage band and creative design are fine, and Roger Rees’ direction provides some spark. But this dog and pony show just doesn’t have legs.
“Dog and Pony” runs through July 6 at the Old Globe.
©2014 PAT LAUNER