77 Square
Saturday, June 5, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

Mercury's promiscuous 'Poona' has a heck of a good time

RENA ARCHWAMETY | Special to 77 Square

Anyone looking for a play with insight and life lessons will be wholly disappointed with "Poona the F---dog And Other Plays For Children."

"I don't think people really go to a play for a message," said Jeff Goode, a Los Angeles-based playwright, during a question-and-answer session following Friday's performance by the Mercury Players Theatre.

"I prefer to write about interesting, colorful, funny things."

Goode, who wrote the play in a week based on a fake title he once used to jazz up his bio statement, said he often is asked: What is a f---dog?

"It's nothing," he said.

For staging a play without a message with a title character that's nothing, Mercury Players Theatre and director Doug Holtz treat their audience to a heck of a good time.

The play follows Poona (Megan McGlone) through her life from an eager puppy on the cusp of sexual awakening to a star ballplayer whose career is cut short to a wise old dog who has learned from her mistakes. Poona, donning pigtails and school girl skirt a la Britney Spears pre-Federline, shares the stage with a couple dozen zany characters along her journey, from a philosophizing shrub (Casey Grimm) to FCC-unfriendly aliens (Cassi Harris, Alan Strozak).

"Poona" is like watching Adult Swim in the back half of a Spencer's gift shop. The plot is clever and irrelevant, and while the merchandise is a hoot, most people won't leave with anything useful.

But interesting, colorful and funny it is.

Nine ensemble actors fill the numerous roles with Muppet-worthy enthusiasm. Sean Langenecker is a riot as a singing, dancing fairy god-phallus, not just because of his costume, though he does take full advantage of his props. His turn as a reporter also is entertaining as he follows the story to heaven and back wearing Clark Kent glasses and a taped-on mustache.

While the play thrives on caricatures, the cast's energy at times distracts from the play's inherent jokes. Karl Reinhardt, though less over-the-top than the others, gives among the strongest performances as God and the salesman as he lets the humor of the script shine through understated and well-paced delivery. Goode mentioned in Friday's post-play discussion that he enjoys seeing how different companies have interpreted his play through sets and costumes. Costume designer Mark Steward and set designers Holtz and Neil Graupner are creative and resourceful in both these areas. Mobile TV and computer monitors and spandex frog and alien suits provide as many laughs as the lines and performers wearing them. The set utilizes the ample Merc Lab space with various levels including a tall loft. Props from past performances, such as a time machine from "Walmartopia," also are integrated into the set. As the title hints, theatergoers would best leave their children and inhibitions at home for this play, though if they must bring anything back, the company is selling T-shirts.