The New York Times

Today is: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 

Theater & Dance

Poona the F*ckdog
Beware If Smart Dog Gets Lonely

'Poona the F*ckdog,' at the Ohio Theater


Trust the Adobe Theater Company to drive from mind any inkling of how oppressive these official holidays can be. If you can make it to their new play at the Ohio Theater by Saturday, its last day, the fix should hold you right through Jan. 1. It is called "Poona the . . . Dog and Other Plays for Children (Not a Play for Children)." Not only is the full title not printable here, neither are the names of a couple of characters. But there are in fact two children in it, and it is impossible to imagine that they come out of the experience scandalized or jaded.

Erin Quinn Purcell in "Poona the F*ckdog" (Richard Termine/The New York Times)

If the Off Broadway plays "Duet! A Romantic Fable" and "Maybe Baby, It's You" represent high-minded good humor uptown, this is its lowdown downtown mode, and it is irresistible. The playwright, Jeff Goode, uses the technique of children's stories to send up children's stories, advertising, politics, religion, runaway capitalism, television, the Internet, the news media and a lot more, including waiters in New York restaurants.

He's not always right on target, but that hardly matters: Jeremy Dobrish, the artistic director of Adobe, who is in charge here, appears to direct by simply unleashing the unruly imaginations of the 15 actors and certainly that of Bernard Grenier, whose costumes include startlingly beautiful giant realizations of seldom-seen body parts. It is characteristic of the humor of this group of entertainers that there is only a single rude word in the entire dialogue and not one obscene gesture. If you come away with lurid thoughts, you know whose fault that is, and it is unlikely many people leave feeling a trace of guilt.

Erin Quinn Purcell, who starred in "Duet," is a wonderful na•f as the title character, a dog who is lonely until it learns what everyone expects from it, learns so well, in fact, that it gets a Heisman trophy. Ms. Purcell, a veteran Adobian, may have met her match in Peter Dinklage as the Handsome Prince Poona falls for. A newcomer to Adobe, Mr. Dinklage, letting the audience know he is an important figure, stirs waves of laughter before he says a word; in fact, the sheer force of his stage presence excites some of the mirth, and he knows how to exploit it with every gesture.

There are no lame performances, although a couple of angels seem a bit pale next to the vivid dragons, animals, human television sets and computers, not to mention God, who inhabit this odd excursion. But in retrospect Vin Knight as a children's storyteller who goes berserk when a story happens without his telling it, Arthur Halpern as a frog ma”tre de leading a hapless diner to a restaurant table and Arthur Aulisi as a self-doubting philosophical shrub that in James Bond fashion outwits two pruners bent on a chain-saw massacre are so vivid they keep popping up in the imagination for days.

As for action, there is plenty: the nuking of an entire nation, revolutions, Super Bowls, volcanic dragon eruptions, family murders and the machine-gunning of children by runaway cigarettes. The fact that virtually every movement by every actor gets loud audience approval says a lot about how light heavy things are in the hands of this company.

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