Stray Dog Hearts
nytheatre.com review by Steven Slate
July 15, 2007
Padraic O'Reilly's play Stray Dog Hearts is billed as "Glengarry Glen Ross meets Ab Fab." This tagline grabbed my attention immediately, and for the most part the play delivers. The story takes place in an art book publishing house recently bought out by an Australian media mogul. The characters are passionate about their work and struggle with the fear of whether they'll be forced to sell out their dignity by publishing mass marketed garbage. This struggle all takes place while they're being antagonized by a mysterious dwarf. It's an interesting topic to explore and O'Reilly definitely defied my expectations with a refreshing treatment of it. It lived up to its promise of blending fast paced witty dialogue with complete absurdity.
The real standout in this show is Lila, a fast talking go-for-broke Southern woman with a sharp tongue played masterfully by Kimberley Bailey. Bailey really steals the show and gives the perfect example of what should happen when sharp writing and a committed actor are combined. This character is reminiscent of Patsy and Edina from Ab Fab but Bailey's performance is all her own—completely original. If Bailey puts that much commitment into all of her work then casting directors will be fiercely battling over her in the near future.
Another standout is Stephen Jutras's portrayal of the mysterious dwarf who crashes the office. He proves to be quite versatile and plays the role as believably as it can possibly be played. Unfortunately, the mystery of his character is a little too much. Rather than being intrigued by his role I found myself wondering why the other characters were content to have him hang out in their office all day with no apparent purpose. While the play did have a wonderful style this is one reason that I wasn't swept away by it. Nevertheless when all is said and done Jutras left me impressed, not only by his acting chops but also by the skill with which he performed a few well choreographed slapstick comedy sequences alongside Marc Santa Maria and Mike Digiacinto.
Rainbow Dickerson's portrayal of Brianna the receptionist is both fun and believable. Santa Maria pulls off some physical comedy with absolute finesse as the struggling publisher Brodsky. Both actors show high levels of commitment and talent which make their roles shine as much as possible. Unfortunately, Brodsky's character's dialogue feels forced and unnatural too often.
Overall the cast delivers a great performance and really seems to gel as an ensemble. They seem infinitely comfortable together on stage, their timing is impeccable, and their slapstick segments are spot-on. This must be due to the directing talents of Jennifer Gelfer. Unfortunately some of the dialogue falls flat, and some of it's confusing; hopefully O'Reilly will make a few changes to the script. His character Lila clearly shows that he's got what it takes write engaging dialogue.