Tulsa World - February 15, 2006

Her bark isn't as bad as her bite

By KAREN SHADE, 2/15/2006

Poona The Fuckdog

Kaycee Johnson brings some bite to the role of Poona in the Nightingale Theater production of Poona ... and Other Stories for Chidren (Not a Play for Children)." JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World

'Poona' is cutting social commentary presented as a fairy tale

If the title doesn't catch the eye and leave you wondering what's been left out, you might not remember the first time Nightingale Theater presented "Poona -- and Other Stories for Children (Not a Play for Children)."

The story of a little dog named Poona in search of her Prince Charming seems harmless enough (if you don't read between parenthesis). Told like a fairy tale, it's a mesh of adult humor and social commentary.

For those who didn't get to see it in 2004 -- or those who want to see it again -- Nightingale brings back its most requested attraction.

"The cast wanted to revisit it," said Sara Cruncleton, director. "They all were so excited and had such a good time doing it, and we also got so many requests from patrons coming into the theater and saying how much they enjoyed it. It was a good moneymaker for the theater. Why not try to revisit it?" she asked.

Much of the cast from the original production has returned, but the most noticeable change will be in the lead. Heather Sams played Poona in 2004, but Kaycee Johnson, fresh from playing the verbally flogged yet winning housemaid across town in Heller Theatre's "Boston Marriage," is taking on the pigtailed persona.

"She's done a few things with us, started off in smaller roles," Cruncleton said. "She is not only just cute as a button and can play an ingenue, but she's great with character work. When she auditioned for Poona, I just knew she would be able to pull it off."

Cruncleton admits that most of the audience that crammed into the theater for the show nearly two years ago came because of the name, but the story either brought them back or made them recommend it to others.

"I think people can relate to it, relate to a lot of the topics it addresses," topics such as "political leaders who don't really take action when they should" and "how much technology is really taking over our lives," she said.

Although "Poona" doesn't lack the off-color comedy, musical numbers and drive it displayed before, the new lead has brought a different energy to the show, Cruncleton said.

"(Kaycee) has been able to play it very innocent, but she's also brought in a little cynicism to the role. Before, we played Poona pretty innocent and goofy. She's added a little bit of bite to it, and it's worked," Cruncleton said. "It's been very interesting."

The play won't attract everyone, but Cruncleton said she will be satisfied if people reflect on what they take at face value.

"Not only will you laugh instantly, but it'll make you go home and think about it," she said.

"Poona - And Other Stories for Children (Not A Play For Children)"

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Feb. 23-25

Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St. Admission is $10. For more, call 583-8487.

Play is for mature audiences.