Why theatre is going to the dogs

Jasper In Gramercy Park

By Mary Mitchell
Directed by John James Hickey
Christabelle, Inc.
Primary Stages
Equity showcase/mini-contract (open-ended run)
Review by John Attanas

Imagine an elderly couple whose lives are so dull, their main topic of conversation is the bowel movements of their pet dog. Well, this couple is the focus of Jasper in Gramercy Park.

This is a comedy that purports to be about Jakie and Jessie, a farm couple who have been abandoned by their nineteen kids, who have moved away to various cities. As a result, they are now obsessed with their dog Jasper, whom they treat as if he were a human being. They dote on him, feed him only the best food, and are very careful whom he mates with. Jasper, in turn, never lets them down.

However, after looking closely at Ms. Mitchell's work, it is clear that it is not really about Jakie, Jessie, and Jasper at all. The author makes this clear in the program, where she states that the setting is ``an urban American home.'' However, the set on stage was clearly rural in nature. In addition, it is mentioned early on in the work that Jasper is not yet one year old. But when Jessie recalls a violent incident that occurred

when Jakie was off in the Army during World War II, she states that Jasper took part in defending her and their home. Clearly, the author is trying to say something deep here. What she is trying to say, however, is difficult to make out.

Although the play is much too complex for its own good, the writing is, on the whole, not bad. There is much good humor here; and the author makes very good use of certain repetitions of dialogue.

The production was of very high quality all around. Cordis Heard and James Hallett were both excellent as Jessie and Jakie. The direction by John James Hickey was crisp and clear. The design elements (set by Lauren Halpern, lights by Sean Murphy, costumes by Karyl Neuman, and sound by Rich Beenders) were all simple, yet quite effective, and helped the piece a great deal.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 2
Set 12
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 John Attanas

Return to OOBR Index
Return to Home Page