There is no better endorsement of a theatrical endeavor than having children fight over tickets to your show. Way back at the start of the season, when my kids saw an Arden Theatre poster advertising
Go, Dog. Go!
, the arguing began and didn't settle down until months later, when both were assured of a ticket.
That's right, they fought over a theater ticket - not a Wii controller, not a computer mouse, not
. They fought over the opportunity to see live theater, and that, dear readers, is a beautiful thing.
Credit the Arden for much of this burgeoning passion; its family series consistently offers inventive productions of classic children's literature. Now, whether P.D. Eastman's irrepressible 1961 book can be considered literature is another issue, but there is no question it's a classic. Chances are either you've read
Go, Dog. Go!
to a child or someone read it to you - or possibly both.
Eastman's tale doesn't lend itself easily to staging, and it is pretty wonderful that Allison Gregory and Steven Dietz, with this 2002 adaptation, weren't really bothered by its lack of, shall we say, a "traditional" story arc.
These are dogs doing people things in frenetic canine style. Dogs are up in trees, then they're in a boat, and the next thing you know, they're driving fast in cars. The closest we get to dramatic tension is wondering if that floppy-eared fellow will ever like the pink poodle's hat.
Somehow, the director, Matt Pfeiffer, musical director David Ames, and their cast of anthropomorphic pooches pull it all off, bringing the seemingly random story to laugh-out-loud life through mime, a bit of Chaplinesque slapstick, and some good old-fashioned clowning around.
Gregory and Dietz reimagine the early-reader line, "It is hot out here in the sun," in bluesy
Porgy and Bess
-style, while elsewhere beloved pages from the book are reenacted with hilarious attention to detail. Actors Doug Hara (M.C. Dog) and Chris Faith (Yellow Dog) are Arden favorites, but all members of the ensemble bring their own particular charms and wide-eyed exuberance to the roles.
Brian Sidney Bembridge's colorful set is full of surprises, while Lisa Zinni's costumes, with their furry hoodies, tails and floppy ears, suggest dogness without being too obvious about it.
The show is aimed at children up to age 11, but former children who always wanted to join that great dog party up in a tree finally get their chance as well.
Through June 1 at the Arden Theatre Company, Arcadia Stage, 40 N. Second St., Philadelphia. Tickets: $14-$30. Information: 215-922-1122 or