Washington Post - Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Poona the [expletive]dog and Other Plays for Children
AT Metro Cafe
(1522 14th St. NW, Washington)

'Poona': More Risque Business from Cherry Red
By Nelson Pressley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 28, 2001; Page C10

Cherry Red Productions has a niche in the Washington theater scene: It stages the rude and naughty. Its recent "Hellcab" at Source Theatre was a bit of a blip in that it was fairly serious and worthwhile. The current "Poona" (there's more to the title, but it's too profane to print) at Metro Cafe is a return to form: It is a wholesale travesty, on purpose.

Jeff Goode's play is subtitled "and other plays for children"; of course it's anything but. The title character, played by a leggy actor in hysterically tacky drag, is an innocent female dog who quickly gets lots of worldly experience. The play includes a prince who is decidedly not charming, an alien who just happens to have a vulgar name for a human body part, and everything in between.

Goode makes funny stuff out of this; the business about the alien name turns into a nifty bit of verbal juggling in the "Who's on first?" vein, and Director Ian Allen's production is pretty sharp. The pace is swift, with deliberate exceptions, such as when an actor playing a shrub complains about his stage placement for five minutes. The comic timing is crackerjack, right down to the sound design, which includes a madcap piano overture and deadpan rim shots to punctuate really bad puns.

Rhonda Key's costumes, some of which leave their wearers more exposed than not, are inventive, and the acting is appropriately devil-may-care. Fake blood is liberally squirted over the front rows during acts of violence: say, when a bunny loses an ear. As usual, plastic trash bags are passed to the audience before the show starts, but that's all the protection Cherry Red offers. Good taste will be violated -- but then that's what the rowdy young audience is there for.

Poona, by Jeff Goode. Directed by Ian Allen. Set, David Ghatan; lights, Gary Fry; sound, Lucas Zarwell; original score, Richard Renfield. Through March 24 at Metro Cafe, 1522 14th St. NW. Call 202-675-3071.