March 22 2018 10:15 AM

‘Dog Act’ creates punk vaudeville



With over 20 F-words in its opening moments, “Dog Act” got my attention quickly.

When the play with colorful language and characters ended almost two hours later, I was still wide-eyed and fully attentive.

For “Dog Act,” Michigan State University’s Arena Theatre is transformed into a unique fun house. Like the carnival versions, the fun comes from shocks and scares. The MSU Department of Theatre production of the Liz Duffy Adams play features eerie embellishments, sounds, lights and costuming.

Hanging moss, odd props like an exit sign box for a portable fire pit, and earsplitting noises that sound like a rail car being dragged across an aircraft carrier, are beguiling. Occasional strobes, black lights, and flashing spots above and below are dazzling additions.

Despite a minimal black box-type of setting, Ray Kelly’s scenic design, Griffin Irish’s sound design, and Freddy Pascolini’s lighting adds complexity. Eye-popping costume, hair, and makeup design by Jenna Light is the icing, ice cream, chocolate syrup and cherry to it all.

The clever costumes are a blend of Mad Max, Alice Cooper, and uniforms for punk chimney sweeps. Post-apocalypse vaudevillian Rozetta Stone — played with fire and athletic finesse by Karen Vance — wears a bustier and boots.

Kristy Allen as theatrical truth-teller, Vera Similitude, sports a soiled, belted jacket and wild headwear. Both gifted actors have intricately assembled, towering hair-dos. A merit badge is deserved for constructing the knotty masterpieces.

In oversized mirrored goggles, Kathryn Stahl, as Jo-Jo the Bald-Faced Liar, often sulks but sometimes spurts out machine gun sprays of speech with an astonishing precision. Greg Hunter as the all-too-human Dog — with gloves of tools and metal scraps for claws — also shifts from brooding to impressive, dramatic outbursts.

In the role of Coke, the nimble Curran Jacobs wears ram horns and an air mask. Matt Greenbaum’s Bud is the scruffiest of the two scavengers, artfully wandering and climbing around the stage surrounded by audience bleachers. Their where-are-they-now antics directed by Christina Traister are gleefully unsettling.

The entire cast consists of Master of Fine Arts candidates who await final certification. The skills, confidence, and ability to command attention they demonstrate in “Dog Act” are all masterful.

“Dog Act” $15

542 Auditorium Road #113, East Lansing March 21 & 22, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. March 22, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. March 23, 2018, at 8 p.m. March 24, 2018, at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. March 25, 2018, at 2 p.m. www.whartoncenter.com