Las Vegas Review-Journal
March 26, 2008
What: "Poona the (expletive)Dog and Other Plays for Children"
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre Fischer Black Box, 3920 Schiff Drive
Tickets: $10-$12 (362-7996)
The word we can't print in the title "Poona the (expletive)dog and Other Plays for Children" is, unfortunately, a very apt description for the problem with Poona. Not the Las Vegas Little Theatre production, but the character.
Poona's a friendly girl/dog (the amiable Heather Schouten) who very much wants to be liked. So when a handsome prince (the boyishly threatening Jason Lockhart) comes by, she does whatever he asks. And you know how nasty handsome princes can be.
Sex becomes Poona's way of saying hello, and soon there are lots of people, males and females of various species, who are eager to make her acquaintance. But Poona needs deeper fulfillment. She winds up sampling celebrityhood, senseless consumerism, space creatures (Tressa Bern and John Ivanoff) and, finally, genuine friendship.
She also comes across diva shrubbery (in the form of Amy Elizabeth Nixon), a Fairy God Phallus (Ivanoff again, who seems to connect uncomfortably well with these weird roles), nuclear holocaust, God, the meaning of life and a time machine.
Needless to say, Jeff Goode's 1996 play is funny. And, surprisingly, sweet. A bit heavy-handed at times, but still, a nonstop good time. Director Courtney Sheets and her unusually talented cast key into the madness. You get a giddy sense of improvisation. Yet, Poona's search for peace comes across genuine, and the characters all seem caught up in very strong needs.
The space creatures, for example, are dressed in "Flash Gordon" gaudiness complete with knee-high silver boots that would make Andy Warhol proud. But while we laugh at their look, we are caught off-guard by how much we care about their quest to find their way back home.
Adding to the insanity is Alex Pink as a narrator trying hard to imitate the dignity of Alistair Cooke; John Hughes as a Supreme Being who gets ticked off when people expect him to have all the answers; and J.J. Gatesman, whose wholesomeness and wide-eyed wonder makes him seem straight out of a David Lynch version of "Mayberry R.F.D."
The uncredited sets and costumes seem in on the joke. The color schemes bring to mind a Saturday morning cartoon serial. And that seems right, considering that for all the raunchiness, the play is a very moral fable told in a very childlike way.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.