‘Funny and endearing, but strangely unpleasant’ by Iva Gruić (Jutarnji list, daily newspaper)
The new play by the theatrical group Montažstroj is touching and in the best meaning of the word also schizophrenically unpleasant. There is a beautiful dog on stage wanting to tell us his sad story about how he no longer manages in the world after his master died. Because a dog can’t do without a human.
A dog and a homeless master
Since dogs can’t talk in a language we understand, he “hired”, as he puts it, an actor to „synchronize“ him. Thus, Sven Medvešek, sitting in the audience, “simultaneously translates” a canine monologue.
The dog is not only clever, but funny, and his understanding of the world is inspired by long years of roaming with his homeless poet of a master. But, in spite of all his courage and cynicism, the pain of a dog’s life shines through his story.
All of this is whimsical, sweet and enormously efficient in its emotional effect on the audience. A sort of climax happens when a dozen abandoned dogs, brought from the shelter, appear on stage, and a dozen equally “unrepresentative” specimens of the human kind enter the audience, which, of course, rounds up the metaphor about a dog’s life.
The sadness emanating from all this is spiced with humor, but it finds its way to that compassionate part that, one can only hope, we all have inside, with impressive ease. It takes only a few minutes of the play for an obstructive, destructive thought to appear. You see, the dog on stage is actually highly trained to completely obey his master, who sits in the first row and orders him around with barely visible motions.
Even when he is crazed by the too loud music, he is still obedient, like a robot.
Duality as a concept
Now comes a problem I don’t know an answer to. The play is declared as an advocate of the rights of animals, it premiered on World Animal Protection Day, the audience is asked to adopt the dogs from the shelter who are in the play, and all this is based on an aggravated manipulation of an animal.
On the one hand, it looks like someone is trying to fight animal abuse in circuses by demonstrating a brilliant circus act, putting his own foot in his mouth. On the other hand, some animal lovers will say that any means are justified by the nobility of the cause (the adoption of shelter animals).
And still, maybe it is this duality that should be understood as a concept, because it leads the audience to consider it.
But then, the play is not even about the rights of the disempowered, as was advertised, but about the demonstration of the fact that we all accede to manipulation and heartlessness under the condition that they are appropriately dressed in „well meaning“ and „caring“. However, these are post festum thoughts. From the auditorium, the play is both funny and endearing, but also strangely unpleasant.
A sharp critique towards America?
The play is based on the novel of an America writer, Paul Auster. And although it faithfully conveys the novel to the stage, it sharpens Auster’s criticism toward America. There is even an American flag in the play that the dog throws to the floor, and a semi-destroyed flag is printed on the leaflet accompanying the show, and then folded into a triangle, like in military funerals. It is unclear what this political activism means, because there are those who are disempowered and abandoned right in our own back yard, just like there are manipulators.
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- October 6, 2008 / 3:49 pm