DigitalCity Washington DC - February 2001

Review: Poona the F---dog and Other Plays...

When artistic director Ian Allen describes his Cherry Red Productions as the only theatre company in Washington ''dedicated to smut,'' he deadpans it. But at least with good smut, when it's performed tastefully -- ok, maybe that's an oxymoron -- you know you're in for a good, albeit twisted belly- laugh. And that's precisely what Poona the F---dog and Other Plays … delivers.

First performed Off-Broadway in 1999, Jeff Goode's Poona is a funny, bittersweet and, most shockingly, moral fairy tale of a lonely dog that no one wants to play with. That is, until one day when Poona's wildest dreams come true. A fairy god penis bestows upon her a pink box and a Prince Charming (Josh Marmer) soon follows. Suddenly, Poona has more friends than she could have ever imagined -- and everyone in the Kingdom of Do seems to sport perpetual smiles.

Poona's happiness doesn't last. Poona is left confused and heart-broken when her prince (Josh Marmer) goes away for -- gasp! No apparent reason! Men. Can't live with them, can't shoot them … or can you? It's up to God (humorously played by Tony Greenberg) to change the rules. Lucrezia Blozia plays the corseted, good-natured pink-haired Poona with sweet naivete and hilarious cunning.

Directed by Allen, this cast of 10 sheds a sardonic light on what it's actually like to be part of an ensemble. Poona is the unmistakable star of the fairy tale, who turns delightfully snobby when the narrator appears to miss her cue. Molly-Rose Arnstein shines as the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Rabbit and tuned-into fairy tale life TV set. The nerdy but endearing Richard Renfield takes it all off --and hilariously puts more on for size -- as Penis. Paul Menard plays a jealous Shrub #2 to witty perfection. Why should an actual shrub be downstage, when the one with the M.F.A -- and a laundry list of personal issues -- is clearly more talented? Judith Baicich is funny as the not-wanting-to-offend alien and as a wry cop.

Cherry Red fills a quirky niche with a gory panache. Poona is smart and clever, and always un-PC. There's blood and guts and perverted humor. Laugh it up.

One final note: this play is also about reviving fashion trends, thanks to costume designer Rhonda Key. At the show's conclusion we guarantee, courtesy of Poona herself, that -- no matter your sex -- you'll be running out to get a pair of fishnet stockings -- perhaps even a corset.

At Metro Café through March 24.

-Jennifer Shapira