Tamara Podemski (left) and Raven Dauda aren’t convincing as lovers.
WILD DOGS adapted by Anne Hardcastle from the Helen Humphreys novel, directed by Kelly Thornton (Nightwood in association with Canadian Stage). At the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). To November 8. Pwyc-$42. 416-368-3110. See Continuing. Rating: NN
Helen Humphreys writes gorgeous poetic prose that caresses the ear, haunts the imagination and rewards rereading.
That's fine for a book, but as Anne Hardcastle's adaptation of Humphreys's 2004 novel Wild Dogs proves, theatre is a different beast. What's poetic on the page can seem precious when spoken. Inner monologues shouldn't necessarily be outer ones.
Wild Dogs focuses on six disparate souls who regularly find themselves on the outskirts of the woods calling for their canines who have escaped and become wild. Of course, it's all about the animal in human nature, and there's lots of talk about "lone wolves" and "running with the pack."
The themes aren't very subtle, and neither is director Kelly Thornton's production, with literal yelps and howls in Jennifer Gilmor's sound design and a predictable tree-and-leaf-strewn set by Teresa Przybylski.
Most of the actors seem uncomfortable, likely because they're reduced to telling us things rather than showing them. The few scenes that work - a robbery, for instance, and the violent climax - are full of dramatic action. Thornton stages them effectively.
Raven Dauda impresses in an extended monologue about the death of a fox that says lots about her character's interior life, while Tony Nappo captures the world-weary pain of his depressed former factory worker.
But in the key role of Alice, the show's main narrator, Tamara Podemski furrows her brow to express pain, and her relationship with Dauda's Rachel feels forced and fake, leaving an empty hole where there should be emotion.
The script also suffers because Hardcastle fails to set up the work's depressed economic setting earlier. When the information finally comes - in a haunting bit of stage work by Thornton - it feels merely disorienting.