Four Dogs and a Bone, playing at Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive
until Sunday, August 12, is an effortlessly funny play that has just
enough meandering through core identity neuroses for the audience to
appreciate the gravity of being, particularly the being of expressive,
artistic people. It quite simply succeeds.
As a movie producer, screenwriter and two hapless ingénues endure the
petty interpersonal dynamics and corporate demands of completing a film,
each ends up exposing their desperation as they try to find their
centre. Throughout, their base yet authentic struggles frequently leave
the audience in comedic bliss.
The play has the needling uncomfortability of enduring an evening in
Archie Bunker’s living room, complete with the rich circumstantial,
sometimes narcissistic, sometimes brutal humour that attends needy
people working out their self-acceptance. The intimate environment of
the seating in Havana’s theatre adds to the experience of being trapped
in someone else’s melt-down.
The characters drift through priceless, occasional moments of gaudy
caricature to a place of honesty. Like all of us, they each seek moments
of safety to share their truths with those who are worthy of listening
and supporting them.
Artists struggle with self-acceptance while balancing the need to be
vulnerable as individuals and performers. When they are thrust together
to create such a collaborative project as a film, the situation invites
the kinds of clashes that force each person to rise above their persona
and their character to achieve true human honesty. Their ineptitude,
though, is often just hilarious.
As Bradley, the psychologically and physiologically decomposing
producer, Michael Q. Adams embodies the physical manifestation of
pressure with grit and acute comedic suffering. Brenda, played by Olesia
Shewchuk, projects a pristinely false vulnerability within a struggling
superficiality that masks her particular neediness.
Lori Watt’s magnetic Collette, while at times almost glancing around for
Mr. DeMille’s closeup, carries her truths so close to the surface that
the others, if they were not so engrossed in their own internal
psychological minefield, would undoubtedly grow to know. Finally,
Gabriel Carter’s emotionally spent screenwriter, Victor, unknowingly and
ironically holds the central situational power despite the drifting
through the fog of his own emptiness.
While each character clashes with the others in their desire to be
heard, the audience ends up enjoying the comedy inherent in the human
soul as it clumsily seeks its surface. And the laughing flows—from
delightful physical humour to the guilty pleasure of chuckling at
caricatures that are trite masks for the struggle for truth that we all
As the characters strive to make their art mean something—for itself and
for them—they show us how we all struggle to overcome our own masks to
find true liberation. And because so many of us are so bad at it, we
stumble and then get to learn the lesson of laughing at ourselves.
Four Dogs and a Bone reminds us of the necessity of exposing our truths
while keeping a healthy sense of humour about us.