Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: JUNE 12, 2009
Like the canines of the title, the characters in “Four Dogs and a Bone” might just gnaw each other to death. They’re ruthless, cold-blooded, hard -nosed. Yup, you guessed it; the play is all about Hollywood . The bone is the movie. And the dogs? A producer, a fading ingénue, a wannabe starlet and a first-time screenwriter. The writer is the untrained pup in this dog-eat-dog world. He starts out honest and innocent, but by the time the other three are finished with him, he’s as rabid as they are. It doesn’t take long when they each have a dogged agenda and will do anything – and I do mean anything – to achieve it.
The producer wants to save money to make money; that’s what producers do. So he demands that scenes be cut. Each of the actresses wants more scenes — for herself. And they both also want a happy ending. They not only want the protagonist saved from death, each also wants to be his savior. Of course, they both try to sleep with the writer. One has already succeeded, and she’s also made a play for the producer. Which isn’t easy, since the guy is a first-class slimeball , in addition to having a medical problem that’s nothing short of nauseating, and he endlessly regales us with the most sordid of details. Basically, he’s got a pain in the butt, which is what all producers have, more or less. Only this one oozes various secretions and requires dressing changes at the most unlikely times and in the most inappropriate places.
There’s venom, acrimony and a large dollop of fast-paced humor in the play, which was written by John Patrick Shanley back in 1993. But this kind of Hollywood brutality never goes out of style. Shanley knew exactly what he was talking about, since he’s written a dozen movies, from the award-winning “Moonstruck” to the big-budget dog of a film, “Joe and the Volcano.” Obviously, he’s been both a darling and a disaster to the Hollywood beasts and glitterati. Of course, that was long before his recent stint with a film adaptation of his own play, “Doubt,” which he also directed. That’s one way to eliminate a key player in a cannibalistic world; do the job yourself.
Needless to say, this is a play actors can really sink their teeth into, even though these dogs don’t have too many tricks. They roll over, feign niceness, then lunge for the jugular. That’s about it. But up at New Village Arts, the cast is having a field day. Joshua Everett Johnson is doing double-duty himself, directing and playing the writer. He’s terrific, as is Eric Poppick as the besieged and brutal producer, and the catfighting duet of divas, Kristianne Kurner and Amanda Sitton, are divine. There’s nothing here you haven’t already heard, but the actors are really puttin ’ on the dog, and the lines have plenty of comical bite.
“Four Dogs and a Bone” runs through June 28 at New Village Arts in Carlsbad .
©2009 PAT LAUNER