It's no accident Rozetta Stone picked China as her home after the Apocalypse leveled the United States. She's a storyteller and vaudevillian by trade, and she figures if she can perform for the king, his folks will follow suit and eagerly take in her exceptional yarns. She has a handle on all the era's Western vernacular; “joo-joo” is the new term for armed combat, and “damn-all shut-mouth” describes her companion Dog's reluctance to talk about the things in his life that matter.
Zetta can't speak a hermit's lick of Chinese, and there's no way she'll reach her destination from her starting point (somewhere in the former American Northeast). But Dog Act, MOXIE Theatre's current entry, doesn't care about all that stuff. That's one of its gadrillion wonderful qualities—it says that as long as there are people who'll listen to stories, there'll be those who tell them, and that will assure man's survival regardless of tongue and nationality. If you take a helping of strange with your dialogue and sense of history, then Dog Act is totally your play, every inch as magical as it was when MOXIE mounted it as the inaugural piece of its first full season in 2005.
As if the old world's demise wasn't enough, the moon doesn't orbit Earth anymore, and the seasons change at the drop of a hat. In playwright Liz Duffy Adams' world, that kind of outlandishness opens the door for post-Apocalyptic conflict on several levels. In their raunchiest Elizabethan tongues, rapacious scavengers Bud and Coke (Rob Kirk and Justin Lang) eschew “vauders” like Zetta and Dog. Even the quirky language deviates with the introduction of the highly literate Vera Similitude (Sylvia M'Lafi Thompson), who has no use for the current “militaristic matriarchal free-market slave economy” and her stateless companion Jo-Jo, the Bald-Faced Liar (Jo Anne Glover). The wacky adventures cast Zetta as a lonely light of the new order, fiercely determined to protect the art of storytelling as she trudges along with her gypsy cart, oblivious to the idea that she can't get to China from here on foot.
Bud and Coke can't explain it, but they understand that if they harm a hair on Zetta's head, they, and the world, lose a piece of history. That's what ensures Zetta's safety in her travels—and actor Liv Kellgren knows it. Zetta probably thinks China is somewhere in Canada and thus within easy reach, and Kellgren plays her perfectly and accordingly, without the slightest regard for the dangers or the distance involved. And don't let Jason Connors' ragamuffin Dog fool you—in complementing Zetta, he knows way more about the new world than he's letting on.
(Understudy Melissa Fernandes acquitted herself last week as crazy, resentful ol' Jo-Jo. Glover will return beginning Friday, Oct. 30.)
Delicia Turner Sonnenberg does some thorough due diligence in directing the piece—but to analyze this show any further (or at all) is a waste of Zetta's time, and yours. Your job, see, is to let the sound of Adams' luscious words fall about your ears, and that's more difficult than it seems, because the dialogue is so off-kilter. If you succeed, you'll have gotten the point of this marvelous show—that our need for anecdote is as necessary a tool for survival as language itself.
This review is based on the performance of Oct. 23. Dog Act runs through Nov. 22 at The Rolando Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. in the College Area. $25. www.moxietheatre.com. Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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