Tale of the Dog

Created and directed by Debra Roth
Pink Inc.
So Grand Studio
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Michael Yawney

It's hard to create theater that children enjoy. It is even harder to create theatre that children and adults enjoy. But that has become Pink Inc.'s specialty. All ages are intrigued by the company's large soft sculptures that roam the stage like puppets escaped from their puppeteer. (The performers are inside these creations.) The company is best known to New York audiences for Nuts and Bolts, an evening-length work that transformed ovulation and conception into a carnival ballet. Recently, for two performances only Pink Inc. presented Tale of a Dog, a small-scale gem they previously toured in Argentina, Japan, and Canada.

The wordless piece began with a creature leaping out of a pyramid-tent. This was TurtleDog. He looked a little like a turtle, and a little like a dog with a bit of the sweet hideousness of the Tasmanian Devil in Bugs Bunny cartoons. In fact, TurtleDog had the full plasticity of a cartoon character to stretch and transform in defiance of anatomical law. Appendages seemed to be ears or maybe eyes until TurtleDog started walking on them or winding them up for the punch.

The world TurtleDog inhabited was alive. The entire set jiggled as he moved. A bump appeared under his feet and slid along beneath the swirl-patterned ground cloth. The pyramid tipped itself as if trying to get a better view of the action. TurtleDog met other odd figures -- giant flowers, entangled black funnels, and, most interestingly, a slippery and devious golden ball. The golden ball alternately tried to overpower and seduce the hero. At first the ball merely rolled, but when more power was needed, he grew legs.

The main weakness of the piece was that only the golden ball became an interesting foil for TurtleDog. None of the other characters were interested enough in TurtleDog to develop as strong a relationship or story. Even so, the piece was magical, because every element worked together to breathe life into designer/director Debra Roth's sculpture.

The performers (Roth, Christopher Eaves, and Erica Babad) somehow conveyed real feeling under layers of Spandex. The lighting design by Leonel Valle used minimal equipment but clearly interpreted the wordless action for the audience. The uncredited sound design was especially excellent. The eclectic score, using everything from Handel to Carl Stalling, seemed to generate from the characters rather than the sound system.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Puppetry 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 Michael Yawney
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