Olney Theatre Center celebrates the Women’s Voices Theater Festival with the Rolling World Premiere of Jennifer Hoppe-House’s black comedy, Bad Dog, directed by Jeremy B. Cohen.
After ten years of being sober, Molly Drexler (Holly Twyford) is drinking again, and has driven her Prius through her living room wall. Molly’s family and her wife Abby Cory (Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan) come to town for her “intervention,’ and things do not go as planned.
Molly Drexler is a mess and Twyford offers up this character so realistically that it is like viewing ‘a-day-in-the-life’ of’ this character than watching an actress on stage. Twyford is gripping with her snippy sarcasm and ‘screw-me’ attitude. Molly has suffered many losses in her life and throughout the show those losses are revealed, as Twyford builds layer-upon-layer showing her anguished past with intense language and tense-filled language. In the beginning her movement goes from “I’m okay” to a breakdown in her mother’s arms . In between, and for a moment, Twyford displays a sincere side to Molly, wanting to truly understand her near-fatal actions.
Abby Cory (Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan) is so convincing as the calm in Molly’s storm and the voice of reason with Molly’s family. She is described this way: “Molly is not the problem, she has a problem.” Quietly, she tries to rationalize her partner’s actions and wants to be on her side. She is the likable character that doesn’t understand Molly’s family’s actions that are fraught with ignorance.
Linda Drexler (Emily Townley), one of Holly’s sisters, is one nasty person. Oddly, a breast cancer survivor, she smokes and tears Molly apart with terse words revealing deep, dark secrets. Townley is commanding with her tall stature and assertive movement, that her character pushes Molly’s buttons to the limit that brings about a physical confrontation.
Becky Drexler (Amy McWilliams), the other sister and a complete opposite of Linda. McWilliams plays Becky as timid, as she tries to voice her opinion and get a word in edge-wise – but Molly once again is the center of attention. McWilliams brings out Becky’s sweet and considerate nature by attending to what others needs but she also seems to take a backseat to Molly’s drama.
Sadly, their father, Walter Drexler (Leo Erickson) is very dismissive of Becky, try as she might. “Hello Dad, wake up!” is the best way to describe the clueless father who’s in denial. He is foul-mouthed and points the blame in any other direction but his own. Having left his family when the girls were young for another woman, Sondra (Gladys Rodriguez), – his actions have left an undeniable impact on Molly. She describes Sondra best: “She’s a goat; she chews people up and spits them out.” Erickson and Rodriguez are matched perfectly in these roles as their retirement years take precedence.
On the other hand, Lois Drexler (Naomi Jacobson) has been one bitter and angry woman for over 30 years and in even more denial than her ex-husband. Jacobson is a amazing and a pistol as she lends a voice to a generation that was once silenced by divorce and/or alcoholism.
Carlos Saldaña plays three supporting roles convincingly: First, he is the cop that arrests Molly, then her defense lawyer, and, finally – a contractor who comes to fix the hole in the wall.
Scenic Designer Tony Cisek created a contemporary home with splashes of a vintage-like the turquoise sofa. The living room is sunk-in, housing a large leather chair and a wooden coffee table as well. The kitchen is up-to-date with the oversized stainless steel refrigerator. Above the kitchen is Molly and Abby’s loft bedroom which is simply decorated. The porch is aesthetically pleasing with its half wall and plant placement.
Costume Designer Ivania Stack has the cast contemporarily and casually dressed. Dad wore tan trousers and a green polo whereas mom was comfortable in tan walking suit. Sondra was dressy in her brightly printed outfits whereas the sisters wore cargo pants and jeans with solid colored tops. Lighting Design, Dan Covey lent to the mood as well as the perfectly timed and smooth scene changes. Sound Designer Joshua Horvath also contributed original music for the show, and gave the audience pre-show tunes that also added to the overall tone of the play.
Playwright Jennifer Hoppe-House has written a powerful play with multi-layers of Molly’s family. No longer a silent topic of our times, the magnificent cast showed the pain and loss of addiction from varying perspectives. The added bonus is that this play is one of many now playing in the DC Metro area that is celebrating women playwrights.
Bad Dog is filled with humor, sarcasm, and tears, and lots of heart, and boasts an exceptional cast. It should be included at the top of every theatergoer’s ‘Must See’ list.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 45 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Bad Dog plays through October 25, 2015 at Olney Theatre Center’s Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab – 2001 Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 924-3400, or purchase them online.