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Four Dogs and a Bone

John Patrick Shanley
Rock 'n' Roll Theatre
Phoenix Artists Club
(2011)

Four Dogs and a Bone publicity image

Rock 'n' Roll Theatre have specialised in contemporary American drama and this is their second short John Patrick Shanley play, following Danny and the Deep Blue Sea at the same venue a year ago.

Four Dogs and a Bone is a brutal satire that attempts to expose the shallowness of the movie business.

Its Four Dogs are happy to eat each other to get their own way, or at least better billing or exposure. A combination of deliberate irony on the part of the playwright and the light comedy style of this production make each of them seem two-dimensional.

However, this does not prevent humour coming through, along with a real sense of Shanley's contempt for what the silver screen does to those who want to conquer the world through it.

First up is a cynical producer, Daniel O'Meara's Bradley, whose only interest is money and a tyro actress. Producer Amy Tez takes the role of Brenda and ensures that her character's poor acting and lying is apparent.

What Brenda has to offer is a skimpy wardrobe plus a superstar stepbrother and, regardless of minimal talent, that might just be her ticket to stardom.

If these two are ridiculously manipulative, the other pairing are little better. The youthful Victor, played by Joe Jameson, is a debutant screenwriter with ideas but little talent, while stage actress Collette (Laura Pradelska) is fearful that her days as an ingénue might be behind her. The mere words "character actor" are enough to make her quake, and so she should.

For an hour or so, Shanley runs through variations using this quartet with the bitchy contest between the two actresses a highlight, rarely missing the chance to take a pop at the film business or strive for a laugh.

Four Dogs and a Bone is a slight but reasonably witty exposé of the world of film. However, it cannot compete with David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher