JOHNNY MANGANO AND HIS ASTONISHING DOGS by Michel Tremblay, directed by Mark Huisman, with Gabrielle Kemeny and Michael Proudfoot. Presented by Astonishing Co-op at the Victory Café (581 Markham). Runs to June 15, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm. $12-$15. 416-929-0997. Rating: NNN
Johnny Mangano and his aston-ishing Dogs, though a lesser-known piece by Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay, deals with one of his constant themes. It's set in a second-rate Montreal nightclub, where the characters fantasize about their impossible dreams.Johnny (Michael Proudfoot) and his wife Carlotta (Gabrielle Kemeny) have spent the past dozen years touring with their dog act and have finally returned to Montreal. Johnny wants to impress his friends, Carlotta is sick of the act and how she's treated. A confrontation between the two demonstrates the weaknesses each conceals and shows who's really in charge.
With the writing spotlight on Carlotta, Kemeny draws on a number of tones to deflate Johnny's memories and pretensions. At the same time, she reveals those of Carlotta, who dreams of being a dancer but realizes she's no better than the dogs in the act.
Costumed like a gaudy lampshade, sometimes romantically nostalgic, later shakily insecure and then icily ironic as she confronts Proudfoot's weak-willed Johnny, she does a far better job of focusing the show than Mark Huisman's tame direction.