Bad Dog Premieres at Orlando Shakes

Mrs. LanceAround Thinks This Photo Does Not Do the Set Justice

Mrs. LanceAround Thinks This Photo Does Not Do the Set Justice

We interrupt our ongoing coverage of the 2015 Florida Film Festival to highlight another theatrical art form now gracing the Orlando stage.

The standout star of Orlando Shakes world premiere production of Jennifer Hoppe-House’s Bad Dog is Bob Phillips. Was he the star actor? Member of the supporting cast? Director? Producer?

No, he designed the set.

Using every inch of the intimate Goldman Theatre stage, Bob creates an open floor plan where the action takes place in the kitchen, living room, front porch, upstairs hallway and even the exterior, now interior, wall where the title character rammed her Prius in a drunken stupor. All this without a single set change! For twenty years, Bob has graced the Orlando Shakes theatre with brilliant stage designs that would stand out from Broadway to the West End. While there is much to praise about this production, the fact that this is Bob Phillips’ last set at Orlando Shakes prior to his retirement inspired Mrs. LanceAround and I to bid him farewell with the opening praise of this review. He has won six Emmys and the heart of many an Orlando theatre patron. Cheers to you, Bob!

As for the play, it is as detailed, complicated and beautiful, in a down-to-earth way, as one of Bob’s sets. The story revolves around Molly, The youngest of three sisters, whose relationship with her wife becomes jeopardized when she ends 10 years of clean sobriety and then rams her Prius into the living room of their home. Her family swoops in to “help” including her two sisters, mother, father and father’s mistress-turned-wife of 30 years. The story seems headed for a classic alcoholic intervention. But somehow the tables get turned as each character’s personal dysfunctions are revealed.

Dysfunction Abounds

Dysfunction Abounds

In an ironic intertwining, Molly’s struggle to find herself amidst the dysfunction of her family parallels the attempt of this play to find its center. Is it a comedy or tragedy? Who, if anyone, is the protagonist? Is there an antagonist? Who is right and who is wrong? The play is not afraid to ask difficult questions and certainly does not give any easy answers.

In the first half of the play, comedy takes center stage as each familial dysfunction is hilariously revealed to much laughter from the audience. After the intermission, things become more serious as each character confronts some darkness within.

For her first full length play, Jennifer Hoppe-House has penned an ambitious work. During the post show “talk-back”, the cast reveals they worked closely with the playwright and made several tweaks to the script. As the play continues to find theatres and audiences, no doubt further tweaks will help smooth out some of the minor inconsistencies in character and plot development. Mark Routhier, the director, makes full use of Bob Phillips’ ambitious set. His blocking provides just the right focus as each actor is provided the opportunity to develop their character to their fullest extent.

This is truly an ensemble piece. While Ginger Lee McDermott handles the lead role of Molly with emotional depth, all the actors have their time in the limelight. But it’s the full throttle interactions which occur when most of the characters are together that give this play its most powerful moments. The night Mrs. LanceAround and I attended, the audience was riveted. There was generous laughter at every humorous line. During the most dramatic moments, one could feel the intensity of the audience focused on the action. After the performance, the cast spoke about the differences of each audience. The play would find laughter at different times. They thanked this audience for their responsiveness. Audience members, in return, heaped praise on the cast and indicated how much they loved the show with a standing ovation.

Bad Dog continues through May 3rd. Having a talented regional theatre company like Orlando Shakes in our community is a blessing that deserves your support. We encourage you to make time in your busy schedule and share a theatre experience with someone you love. If you have children, find a babysitter. The intensity of this show is not for the young ones. But teenagers and young adults can certainly handle the themes presented in this play. And you will have a thought provoking evening of theatre.

Tomorrow, we will return to posting the the final blog posts about the Florida Film Festival. Keep reading. And don’t forget to join the conversation by leaving your comments.

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