Las Vegas

Las Vegas CitySearch, December 1999

Poona the F***dog (and Other Plays for Children)
Dawn Pomento

Some people will be put off by the title of the play and not only the blue-wash set who won't be straying far from The Boy Scrooge this season anyway. Thos of us who are fans of free speech, but skeptical about the use of some words for shock-value, may also have second thoughts about attending the production. But somewhere in the middle of the play, "Poona the F***dog (and Other Plays for Children)" justifies the title by making the point that words only have whatever currency society gives them. The play accomplishes that nifty feat with a classic vaudeville, "Who's On First"-style bit delivered by a two-headed alien. It's a concept that could easily be too heavy-handed, but the actors, Cathy Clagett and Doug Hill, keep the tone and the pace brisk.

Much of the credit for the tricky wordplay of course goes to the playwright, Jeff Goode who now writes for MTV's "Undressed," but has an extensive theatre background. The Open Circle Theatre in Seattle recently performed "Poona" to sold-out crowds. The Our Backs to the Wall Players aren't selling out the Planet Mirth Space but that's certainly not their fault. The entire cast turns in solid performances, making even tricky musical numbers engaging. It may be a bold statement, but no other actors in town could handle the comic-music numbers as well as Tom Turner and Joanana Durso do. And there are other moments of true brilliance, which, as with most comedy, won't translate here. Honestly, seeing Doug Hill play God as a turbaned, bearded, dress-wearing good fella, or Brian Anderson as Mr. Beer, a sort of Every-Redneck, is worth the ticket price and the trek to Planet Mirth. (Dress warmly for the theatre space; they provide coffee and blankets too. The theatre is in a warehouse space on Industrial, south of Tropicana.)

"Poona" is occasionally didactic, but never for long, and that's a small price to pay for tackling challenging topics in a humorous way. Nothing is spared the satiric scope of the play, not male/female relationships, not the media, television, celebrity worship, consumerism and many more things that would probably pop up on a second viewing. At a time of year when most companies stick to old chestnuts, any new production that takes real risks deserves support. Our Backs to the Wall Players are making a niche for themselves taking risks; they also brought Las Vegas "subUrbia" and last summer's controversial "Macbeth: An urban tragedy." Director and founder of Our Backs to the Wall Players L.B. Hamilton stated that the company's most recent production is their Christmas present to themselves. Luckily, they're sharing the gift with the rest of us. More, please.