I had several reasons to look forward to this Flux Theatre Ensemble production, among them the group's superior past work (like The Lesser Seductions of History), and the presence of the actor-dancer Becky Byers, whom I'd go to see in pretty much anything. But this Dog Act, well directed by Kelly O'Donnell and superbly cast, turns out to be more than just good, and sharper than just fine—a by no means lesser seduction of future history.
Liz Duffy Adams's play has been knocking around for a few years, but the theme it fingers (with delicious twists) is the timeless one of post-apocalyptic survival. The tangy, hyper-literate script progresses in normal time yet evokes the sense of a kaleidoscope.
An unspecified cataclysm has splintered the continent into warring, caste-conscious, superstitious tribes; it has also wreaked havoc on the seasons and made off with the Moon. A pair of Vaudevillians roam this dystopian world looking for audiences, as if in a post-nuclear La Strada. Baleful lighting (by Kia Rogers) and season-shifting crashes of unearthly thunder (sound design by Elizabeth Rhodes) are all that's needed to evoke the dreary landscape; the actors' cart, which also serves as their rough stage, constitutes the entire set (by Jason Paradine), and it's spectacular.
Our proprietor is Rozetta Stone, a Francophone actor (is it a coincidence that Lori E. Parquet, who plays her, is from New Orleans?) with a soft heart but a penchant for the grandiloquent gesture and the Shakespearean prologue. She keeps her sulky companion, Dog (Chris Wight)—a talking canine shaped like a human—in tolerable spirits by tales of Promised Lands (or shores)—the sea (which he's never seen) and China, where they supposedly have a big gig waiting for them. Shades of Of Mice and Men.
When they encounter another, more cynical pair of entertainers, questions of trust, loyalty, and betrayal arise and threaten as two characters' hidden pasts begins to emerge. Of course, as entertainers, Vera Similitude (Liz Douglas) and Jo-Jo (Ms. Byers) have their own shtick: sultry but worn-down Vera can tell only the truth, while Jo-Jo supposedly only lies. Her raucously entertaining crazed fables provide welcome exclamation points in the generally stately narrative. (As usual, Ms. Byers is just amazing.)