Iowa Theatre Blog
February 23, 2010

Poona is a daring success

by Andrew Juhl

Dreamwell - During the course of Dreamwell’s opening night of Jeff Goode’s Poona the Fuckdog, I was assaulted with a plastic knife, yelled at, personally insulted, dragged out of the auditorium, and forced to endure some of the cheesiest puns ever uttered outside of a Jay Leno writers’ meeting.

And, yes, I enjoyed it. The folks at Dreamwell put on a delightful and politely obscene show, if ever there were such a thing.

Co-directors Meg Dobbs and Brain Tanner did a fantastic job of translating a script with a ludicrous number of entrances, exits, sight gags, and props from page to stage. Due to some comedic timing issues, a handful of jokes warranted considerable head-scratching from the audience, but I’m entirely optimistic that opening night jitters accounted for the majority of those peccadilloes.

The star of the show, in both the wholly expected and literal sense, is Libby Dobbs’ Poona (I mean, err, her characterization of ‘Poona’). Dobbs brings the cute innocence of a puppy to the stage early in the show, only to have it be believably replaced later in the evening with the haggard resignation of a tired old bitch. Listening to her lines echo in my head during the drive home, however, I couldn’t help but think her performance would have surely struck stronger if it were significantly more salacious, instead of so slyly sensual—but, then again, I’m a fan of alliteration. What I’m saying is this: when you’re an attractive young woman starring in a show called Poona the Fuckdog, wherein you play a fuckdog, bring the sex. Otherwise, you’re trying to consummate the actress-audience marriage with a pocketful of flaccid double entendres.

Another reflection I had whilst driving home was that continuing to review community theatre productions allows me callback notes from previously reviewed shows. To wit, in last year’s review of Rage Theatrics’ The Prisoner of Zenda, I wrote the following with regards to actor K. Michael Moore, who chiefly played ‘Prince’ in Dreawell’s Poona: “This reviewer has always been impressed when an actor is able to project an unmistakable visual mask of scum and villainy, and Moore is the face of evil throughout this performance….” Copy that for Moore’s performance in Poona, changing only the words ‘scum,’ ‘villainy,’ and ‘evil’ into ‘douche-iness,’ ‘douche-itude,’ and ‘douche-osity.’ I mean this in a very good way.

The rest of the show’s actors rotate onstage through myriad characters, both interesting and less-so, but the majority of the performances are funny, almost to the point of being piqued at any solemnity concealed in their dialogue. Notable standouts are Ben Ward, who steals scenes as the ‘Man Who Could Sell Anything’; Stephen Polchert, who powers-through a charmingly ambivalent portrayal of ‘God’; and Brett Janecek, who rocked the stage as both a manic set piece and the noir-esque ‘Jack Jacobs.’

Overall, it’s an enjoyable play with several satisfying and unexpected moments. What the source material lacks in cohesiveness, the cast makes up for in its dedication and consciousness of the audience. In an area already laden with quality community theatre companies that can produce 4-6 major shows each year, it is praiseworthy to see something so refreshingly different—and, more importantly, daring—from the likes of Dreamwell and their current season. Because putting a singing, dancing penis on stage? Well, that takes balls.

Andrew R. Juhl is an area author and director. He has previously worked with the City Circle Acting Company of Coralville and Rage Theatrics.