Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 14, 2009

Four Dogs and a Bone

Suffield Players, Suffield
through February 28, 2009
By Donna Bailey

As befits their reputation, the Suffield Players are presenting a demanding play whose success is contingent upon savvy direction and an experienced cast. This production scores on all counts.

"Four Dogs and a Bone" is a biting comedy about the dirty little details encountered when filming an underfunded movie. Written by John Patrick Shanley, a veteran Hollywood script writer and best known recently for his honored Broadway play and now a movie "Doubt," three of the dogs are a dishonest producer and two actresses who are rapacious carnivores: their diets include ingesting their own kind. The fourth dog is the script writer whose desperation to save the movie does not include devouring the others through bloodless means.

The first act covers a lot of expository ground, of the shock and awe variety. At times the abrasiveness seems nonstop, especially as spewed forth by Lea D. Oppedisano who as Colette, knows she is no longer an ingĂ©nue to reap empathy but is now headed for character roles where she can be type cast as incarnate evil. Oppedisano’s Colette’s is a force of nature – major disaster category. Her adversary is the supposedly sweet Brenda (Megan Fish) who chants and plots mischief. During the second act, their scene within a minimized dressing trailer is as tight as the space itself.

As Bradley, the money-short producer who is plagued with a flaming hemorrhoid (nothing like a little bathroom humor), Josh Guenter seems to channel Paul Giamatti – glib, light on his feet, as tailored as an unmade bed. Robert Lunde as the fair-minded script writer, Victor, throws up his arms in frustration at the unbridled shenanigans. His disapproval gives the audience permission to feel shocked by the despicable behavior, even while laughing at scabrous remarks they would not tolerate elsewhere.

Director Meghan Lynn Allen prevents "Four Dogs and a Bone" from becoming farcical melodrama. The production can inspire anything from the killer comment, "That was much ado about nothing!" to the exclamation, "What a hoot!"