“The Dog of the South” produced by Book-It Theatre

TheDogoftheSouth_2015_Ulman_-439-150x150

Jim Gall and Christopher Mosson, Photo by John Ulman

Eleven years after his smash hit “True Grit,” author Charles Portis published another popular book, “The Dog of the South.” The Judd Parkin’s adaptation of that second book, directed by Jane Jones, is now on stage at Book-It.

Its main character, Ray Midge, is one of those nice guys who too often finishes last. Poor Ray, his wife has run off with his credit cards, his beloved Ford Torino and, insult of all insults, with her first husband, the aggressive Guy Dupree. And so our hero Ray sets off to find them, retrieve his Torino, and win back his sweet Norma. Easy task, he thinks, just follow the trail of credit card receipts.

So begins a very long and, in this production, tedious adventure that moves from Arkansas to Central America and involves a vast cast of strange but often sympathetic characters. Fortunately, a number of those characters are well drawn and well played. It’s the characterization and acting that are strongest here.

Christopher Morson as Ray is on stage throughout the entire play, always sincere, often perplexed, sometimes lovesick, and usually naïve. His performance is impressive.

Jim Gall, as Dr. Reo Symes, captures the nuances and personality quirks of a character who’s a crank, charlatan and nut case. Suzy Hunt as the Bible thumping Mrs. Symes is a joy to watch. She’s so sure of herself and her God, so unwilling to accept any concepts or people who disagree with her worldview. Hunt plays her as a sharp-tongued old lady who often snarls out of the side of her mouth and greets the world with her hands on her hips.

Finally mention must be made of Joshua C. Williamson who plays Guy Dupree, the lothario who runs off with vacuous Norma. He’s the tough guy who is also the fool. It’s a wonderful combination when well done, and he does it well.

Lots of nutty, finely honed characters here, but the broad range of the novel is awfully difficult to capture in a performance. Sometimes words on the page don’t translate well to the stage. This production is a case in point.

Through March 8 at Center Theatre at the Armory in Seattle Center, (206 216-0833 or www.book-it.org)

Leave a Reply