Berkoff in 2 Acts

Caveat Theatre Company. World’s End Hotel - Mar 8 to 12

Dog and Lunch are two short plays written by bad boy English playwright Steven Berkoff in 1993 and 1983 respectively.  They each have other companion pieces and director Jonathan Bragg uniquely chose to pair these ones.  Dog is a brief 15 minutes of masculine rage and terror as a Cockney boofhead regales us about his beery life and mean junkyard dog via a lot of pop philosophy.  Bragg directs himself in this one and he gives an eye-popping performance.  His command of suggestive gestures timed with the words infuses this one-hander with a huge amount of energy.  Berkoff didn’t write nearly enough dialogue for the bull mastiff, but Bragg made it as real and ugly as his soccer hoon.  Swiftly paced and dynamic.  Go.  Stay.  Good Dog.  Bravo!

Dog was followed by Lunch.  Lunch was also directed by Bragg and his imprint was firmly stamped on actors Cameron Pike and Lydia Nicholson as we saw the same high energy and expressive performance.  The white pancake make-up with ludicrous eyebrows and lips gave it a sort of Japanese theatrical style, or the harlequin of commedia dell’arte comes to mind.  Either way, it mystified identity, making this couple who meet at a bench by the sea seem all the more unknowable to each other, and their often unnaturalistic dialogue appropriately more abstract.  Taking the lead from Bragg’s own performance and direction, these fine actors rise to the challenge of script interpretation through farce and suitably motivated physicality.  Another Bravo!

While I would dearly love to see these actors in other roles, and indeed more direction by Jonathan Bragg, they all too quickly rise to shout volume instead of channeling their vocal capacity into subtext or giving us that delicious sense of holding back to be followed by some emotional ejaculation at a surprising time.  That aside, these are top performances by local talent at this year’s Fringe.

David Grybowski