Despite Good Work From Cast And Director, “Day Of The Dog” Is A Kernel Of An Idea That Never Fully Pops

Steve Isom, Tamara Kenny and Jason Grubbe discus "the dog" and other problems in STLAS' production of "Day Of The Dog." Photo: John Lamb

Steve Isom, Tamara Kenny and Jason Grubbe discus “the dog” and other problems in STLAS’ production of “Day Of The Dog.” Photo: John Lamb

St. Louis Actors’ Studio gives us another World Premiere but Daniel Damiano’s script simmers but never boils as “Day Of The Dog” gets wordy and overly melodramatic as it tells the story of a rocky family dynamic with a problematic dog at the center. The characters rebound after a rough exposition but it never really gets rolling. There’s plenty of laughs and a lot to identify with for any pet owner, just needs a bit of tidying up.

Steve Isom is strong as the beleaguered Paul who we learn had aspirations as a chef but came close to poisoning a patron in his first job after culinary school and settled into his father’s accounting business. He is emotionally charged as his frustration builds realizing that his marriage is more to blame for his bandaged wrists from the dog attack that sent him to the emergency room. Tamara Kenny also shines as the almost stoic wife who got the dog from a shelter without consulting husband or daughter. As a result, both are frightened to death of the dog’s vicious nature. She builds Julianne’s character to a controlled frenzy as she and Paul both realize what has happened to their family.

Jason Grubbe, the "canine relationship specialist," stares down Tamara Kenny's Julianne during "Day Of The Dog" at STLAS. Photo: John Lamb

Jason Grubbe, the “canine relationship specialist,” stares down Tamara Kenny’s Julianne as Steve Isom’s Paul looks on during “Day Of The Dog” at STLAS. Photo: John Lamb

Jason Grubbe steals the accolades as the infamous “canine relations specialist,” Vadislav. Much more than a dog whisperer, he controls the off-stage dog’s barking in the opening scene with a wave of his hand and then later cures the dog’s unruly tendencies in a matter of minutes as he “explains” the family problems to the dog- again off-stage. His odd, intrusive nature makes him more of a marriage counselor than a dog specialist as he asks probing, direct questions that make the couple uncomfortable but eventually draws out their animosity and fears that leads to a somewhat successful conclusion to their problem as well as the dogs. His frequent trips to the bathroom and off-putting requests for such things as a tuna fish sandwich lead you to believe he’s wise with all sorts of animals- including the human kind.

Tamara Kenny pleads with Steve Isom for a little attention during STLAS's production of "Day Of The Dog." Photo: John Lamb

Tamara Kenny pleads with Steve Isom for a little attention during STLAS’s production of “Day Of The Dog.” Photo: John Lamb

Despite some problems with lines on the evening I saw the play, Milton Zoth has directed his cast with a deft hand. The slight hesitancy at times- especially in the first act- may have been from the fact that the playwright was on hand for the preview and opening night. He may have changed the script slightly after those performances which will occasionally throw an actor’s rhythm slightly off. But the real problem still lies with the burdens in that script. As I said, it seems a bit wordy and the layers peel off in the second act a bit too melodramatically. A lot of ground is covered with too much repeated information and some that we see coming a mile away. This doesn’t indicate that it’s a bad script- just one in need of a bit more doctoring. I think the idea is there but needs some smoothing out. The premise is great and the characters are dynamic as the dog’s problems seem to stem from the family problems rather than the other way around.

The Cristie Johnston set design is perfect for the feng shui philosophy of Julianne’s interior design persona and Jonathan Zelezniak’s lights enhance that set beautifully. Director Milt Zoth also delivered the effective sound design. All in all, it’s a capable production with three wonderful actors and excellent direction that suffer from a script that’s just a few rewrites away from being stage-worthy. It’s always great to see a World Premiere, however and this one’s worth it for that. The laughs are there and any pet owner can truly identify with the basic premise. So give them a call at 314-458-2978 or contact St. Louis Actor’s Studio at http://www.stlas.org for tickets or more information. “Day Of The Dog” runs through March 24th.

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2 Responses to “Despite Good Work From Cast And Director, “Day Of The Dog” Is A Kernel Of An Idea That Never Fully Pops”

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