“The Art of Racing in the Rain” at Book-It

I must begin with a disclaimer. I don’t care for chick lit, and Garth Stein’s extremely popular book from which this production was adapted is chick lit with an undercoating of Formula One Racing to give it male appeal.

Like much chick lit it’s maudlin, melodramatic, and manipulative. Lots of people love that sort of thing, and if you’re one of them you’ll love Book-It’s rendition. Amazingly, Director Carol Roscoe has created a good production from Myra Platt’s overly long, saccharine script. The acting is superb. The staging is inventive.

David S. Hogan who plays Enzo the dog is brilliant. Enzo is not just any dog. He’s the sentient creature who is relating this story to us. Though he’s endowed with human emotions, speech, and understandings, his owners perceive him as a regular, enormously lovable dog. And he acts like a regular dog, cocking his head, lifting his leg, wagging his invisible tail, prancing in dog-like fashion, turning round and round as he settles in his bed.

Eric Riedman plays the human hero, Denny Swift a race car driver (excuse the author for giving him that name), with great sensitivity. Denny’s a good man, an honorable one, a man with great capacity for love and with ferocious ambition to be a top auto racer. Riedman captures the wide range of emotions as Denny’s life moves from great happiness to outrageous unfairness, and then finally success.

Sylvie Davidson as Eve, Denny’s wife is a scrumptious lover, a Madonna-like mother, and a heartbreaking cancer victim. Her parents played by Peter Jacobs and Eleanor Moseley precisely capture the smug, privileged souls who think they can have whatever they want. And, as I said, the dog is marvelous.

Huge numbers of Seattelites are crazy about their dogs. This one’s for them.

Through May 13 at Book-It Repertory Theatre, Center House Theatre, Seattle Center (206 216-0833 or www.book-it.org)

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