Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Dogbarked by James O Shea is an original, new Canadian script produced only for its second time by Persephone Theatre following its original production by Dancing Sky Theatre in Meacham Saskatchewan in the Spring of 2002. A perfectly suited play for a Saskatoon audience which explores with humour and wit the rural prairie experience and its perceptions of urban exploitation. Playwright James O Shea captures the unique voice and essence of rustic Saskatchewan and even, at moments, transcends the specific to embrace the universal tensions between urban and country life. A well crafted script shaped with precise appreciation and understanding by director Del Surjik.

Dogbarked received the high standard of production values from Persephone Theatre that one has come to expect from this professional company. A well balanced and thoughtful stage, lighting and costume design formulated to serve the action of the play and create a vivid, rich environment for the actors. The entire event was that of a strong, conventional and well made comedy given a traditional performance which rarely challenged either the audience or the artists.

Artistic Director Tibor Feheregyhazi assembled a remarkable cast and crew reuniting outstanding Saskatchewan exports (director Del Surjik) with a sensitive mix of home grown experienced (actor Robert Benz) and fresh (actor Tricia Brown) faces . The cast and crew created a working team which took great delight in holding up a tongue-in-cheek mirror to their own follies and foibles. The physical humour, sound and sight gags and varied pace of the play left all in the audience fulfilled and entertained.

Each individual performance played selflessly to enhance the whole ensemble. It is a pity only one female role was required in a community where so many strong female actors reside. Language is important and it is so vital for a community to hear and see itself reflected and represented. The communal act of laughing at oneself can not be underestimated. Issues which would normally spark controversy; sexual promiscuity and same sex relationships were presented in a trippingly light and unobtrusive manner. Persephone Theater has clearly allowed its audience a wonderful opportunity to celebrate its own peculiar regional humanness and to earn some measure of respect by being so wonderfully depicted where they have so often been ignored.

In its solid production of Dogbarked, Persephone Theatre has executed the mandate of selecting a promising Saskatchewan playwright, hiring an accomplished Saskatchewan cast and crew to entertain an enthusiastic albeit slightly aged Saskatchewan audience with singular quality and success.