Beware If Smart Dog Gets Lonely
'Poona the F*ckdog,' at the Ohio Theater
D. J. R. BRUCKNER
Trust the Adobe Theater Company to drive from mind any inkling of
how oppressive these official holidays can be. If you can make it to their new play at the Ohio
Theater by Saturday, its last day, the fix should hold you right through Jan. 1. It is called "Poona
the . . . Dog and Other Plays for Children (Not a Play for Children)." Not only is the full title not
printable here, neither are the names of a couple of characters. But there are in fact two children
in it, and it is impossible to imagine that they come out of the experience scandalized or jaded.
Erin Quinn Purcell in "Poona the F*ckdog" (Richard
Termine/The New York Times)
If the Off Broadway plays "Duet! A Romantic Fable" and "Maybe
Baby, It's You" represent high-minded good humor uptown, this is its lowdown downtown
mode, and it is irresistible. The playwright, Jeff Goode, uses the technique of children's stories to
send up children's stories, advertising, politics, religion, runaway capitalism, television, the
Internet, the news media and a lot more, including waiters in New York restaurants.
He's not always right on target, but that hardly matters: Jeremy
Dobrish, the artistic director of Adobe, who is in charge here, appears to direct by simply
unleashing the unruly imaginations of the 15 actors and certainly that of Bernard Grenier, whose
costumes include startlingly beautiful giant realizations of seldom-seen body parts. It is
characteristic of the humor of this group of entertainers that there is only a single rude word in the
entire dialogue and not one obscene gesture. If you come away with lurid thoughts, you know
whose fault that is, and it is unlikely many people leave feeling a trace of guilt.
Erin Quinn Purcell, who starred in "Duet," is a wonderful na•f as
the title character, a dog who is lonely until it learns what everyone expects from it, learns so
well, in fact, that it gets a Heisman trophy. Ms. Purcell, a veteran Adobian, may have met her
match in Peter Dinklage as the Handsome Prince Poona falls for. A newcomer to Adobe, Mr.
Dinklage, letting the audience know he is an important figure, stirs waves of laughter before he
says a word; in fact, the sheer force of his stage presence excites some of the mirth, and he knows
how to exploit it with every gesture.
There are no lame performances, although a couple of angels seem a
bit pale next to the vivid dragons, animals, human television sets and computers, not to mention
God, who inhabit this odd excursion. But in retrospect Vin Knight as a children's storyteller who
goes berserk when a story happens without his telling it, Arthur Halpern as a frog ma”tre de
leading a hapless diner to a restaurant table and Arthur Aulisi as a self-doubting philosophical
shrub that in James Bond fashion outwits two pruners bent on a chain-saw massacre are so vivid
they keep popping up in the imagination for days.
As for action, there is plenty: the nuking of an entire nation,
revolutions, Super Bowls, volcanic dragon eruptions, family murders and the machine-gunning of
children by runaway cigarettes. The fact that virtually every movement by every actor gets loud
audience approval says a lot about how light heavy things are in the hands of this company.