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The Brothers Grimm Never Had It So Good
L to R: Jordan Savage as Poona and Michael Lanahan as The Handsome Prince
Welcome to the magical kingdom of Do, where no one does - a magical land that bears some resemblance to America and some to South Park, Colorado. A talking television, a little girl who learns to kill people over the Internet, a giant foam penis and a dismembered rabbit are among the residents of this double-edged land. Their stories are sewn together through the life of Poona the Fuckdog, the play's heroine, and narrated out of a big book of fables. Now at Sacred Fools through May 27, Jeff Goode's play, the fortunately titled POONA THE FUCKDOG AND OTHER TALES FOR CHILDREN, puts the tail back in fairy tales.
Adam Bitterman directs a strong ensemble cast through a series of loosely linked tales. Poona the Fuckdog (a polite and demure Jordan Savage) wants people to play with her, but no one will be her friend. Lo and behold, the Handsome Prince (Michael Lanahan) takes an interest in her when she invites him to play in her Big Pink Box, accompanied by the sounds of a dying blender. From the power of the pink box it's a short step to running the kingdom of Do, a football scholarship, the Heisman trophy, a career-ending knee injury and degradation in drunkenness and
POONA tells the story of failed celebrity, but along the way it skewers some other American archetypes, from salesmen to television to the actual conventions of theater. At one point, when The Man Who Could Sell Anything (Eric Curtis Johnson) is trying to sell the audience a Poona The Fuckdog T-shirt, while winking his eye about how bad it is to always want to buy things, one of the cast members steps up and offers to buy one. The way that this undercuts his heavy-handed point about consumerism is one of the funniest moments in the play.
"But I want a T-shirt. I'm in the show. Why can't I have a T-shirt?"
As usual, Sacred Fools's strength is in their actors. While we would have preferred it if Jordan Savage's Poona was less adorable and more deplorable, we were in love with Bruno Oliver as a talking shrubbery (reminiscent of Monty Python, Bush, and Inside The Actor's Studio all at once) and Laura Sperrazza's Suzy-Suzy, an infantile Internet murderer. The play is entirely stolen by Philip Newby as the rabbit who loves Poona despite her early betrayal. And Eric Curtis Johnson channels the best of the 50s as The Man Who Could Sell Anything.
The set, by Carlos Fedos and Aaron Francis, is minimally built out of green shrubs and a big pink box. Mark McClain Wilson's sound design is delightful and irreverent, especially when Poona gets into the box, but we wanted more of it. The actors are left quiet during too many transitions. Jason Mullen's lighting effectively darkens as the piece does - we particularly liked Poona trapped in a spotlight waiting for the narrator to rescue her - but we wanted more changes earlier. In general, the rapid-fire switching of scenes and action was insufficiently supported by the production design, which seemed staid. Rebecca Crown's costumes were lovely, especially the armless aliens and the TV set.
Perhaps the most politically charged gesture in this piece is the way that Poona keeps repeating "Hi, I'm Poona. Poona the Fuckdog!" with an inane smile on her face. If such a cute puppy can say something so ribald without any embarassment, then how hard is it for our nation's leader to assert that he really believed Iraq was hiding WMDs somewhere in the basement? The kingdom of Do is a land where everyone has to keep a straight face, even when the emperor goes tripping out by the Washington Monument, naked as the day he was born. Smile for the cameras, Poona.
POONA THE FUCKDOG AND OTHER TALES FOR CHILDREN plays through May 27 at the Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope, LA CA 90004. POONA performs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm. Tickets are $15, available at the Sacred Fools website or by calling (310) 281-8337. They give out cookies at the end, too.