Building on its mission to produce “exciting yet profound theatre in greater Washington, DC” The Edge of the Universe Players 2 is presenting My Barking Dog, a play about “A woman. A man. A wild coyote. A societal upheaval?”
In a conversation with Tia Shearer, one of the actors in My Barking Dog, the two-hander was described this way, “This story will not seem true but it is the truest and most important story you will ever hear. You need to come listen. For yourself, for your loved ones. For all of us. And you need to arrive before the start time. And leave your armor of judgment at the door, please. Trust me.” [Tia Shearer spoke as if in her character’s voice].
How could I resist such an intriguing theatrical “come-on?”
With that, I went to chat with Bill Goodman, who is producing My Barking Dog for The Edge of the Universe Players 2. He indicated that “We love plays with big meanings that transcend particular ages and cultures.” The production includes a cast of Tia Shearer and Christopher Crutchfield Walker. My Barking Dog is directed by Michael Chamberlin. He has directed theater productions throughout the DC area, including Young Jean Lee’s Pullman, WA for The Edge of the Universe Players 2.
My Barking Dog is written by Eric Coble, known for his wily ways with a script. Coble is a playwright familiar to DC-area audiences. His The Velocity of Autumn was produced at Arena Stage in late 2013, then went on to New York. Not long ago his Theater for Young Adults play The Girl Who Swallowed a Cactus had a development production at The Kennedy Center. His stage adaptation of The Giver by Lois Lowry is also a show likely known to DMV audiences.
So, what is the play about? Two lonely, isolated city folk (one man, Toby, and one woman, Melinda) share a fire escape in an urban apartment building. But then, out of nowhere a wild animal appears–a coyote to be exact. Toby and Melinda’s world turns way off course as the coyote impacts them and their boring human lives.
But that is just a couple of factual sentences. So, what better way to learn more about My Barking Dog than chatting with playwright Coble? In our conversation, Coble let me know that My Barking Dog is not “a prescriptive play. It is a play to crack open the audience in a different way…to become more comfortable with uncertainty.”
What is behind the play, according to Coble, is “the idea of wildness. How nature comes to affect urban lives.” The lives of two people trapped in their own world have “a new world seep into them” with the appearance of the coyote.
The two characters become “overtaken by a larger universe.” And that provides the audience with plenty to ponder about a world that is not fixed; in which “more clarity does not mean more certainty.”
To avoid any hints at spoilers, I will refrain from writing more from my conversation with playwright Coble.
But I did chat more with Tia Shearer about My Barking Dog. She mentioned that she was smitten with the script. “I read the script and was moved and delighted and terrified and confused by my own feelings. PERFECT.”
Asked about her character Melinda, Tia said that, “Melinda is a rare role for me in that she is a human woman and she’s the only role I play in this piece. Which tells you a lot about my wild career path. I think, at the start of the play, Melinda is a person who thinks she is doing what you’re supposed to do…work, and try to enjoy the sort of goodness or nobility in working. She’s not too crazy about people. She likes quiet, and she knows how to be alone.”
“And when her world gets rocked and expanded, I think she ends up being a unique someone who can truly transform, and marvel in the transformation…marvel at the fact that you don’t become a completely new thing when you transform. You just become a new version of you.”
I asked Tia a usual question. “If you could invite audiences to the production, what would you say to them?” Her refreshing response is right below:
“I might uninvite, actually! Don’t come to this if you want to hide in a room and not be seen. Don’t come to this if you are not a curious person. Don’t come to this if you want a story that requires no bravery or heart or humor from you. As for the rest of you: I cannot wait to see you there.”
Set Design, Giorgios Tsappas; Costume Design, Kristen P. Ahern; Lighting Design, Colin K. Bills; Sound Design, Tosin Olufolabi; Intimacy Direction, Lorraine Ressegger-Stone
Note: This show is recommended for audiences 16 and up.