Bickford Theatre, in the Morris Museum, in Morristown, New Jersey, presents “A Dog Story,” a touching, warm, and laugh-out-loud funny four-hander about Roland (Daniel Robert Sullivan), whose millennial mountain of unrealistic expectations includes being able to make partner in four months by the acquisition of a wifeinstant success, just add a woman! Roland’s bestie since college is a lounge lizard Lothario named Blair (Shabazz Green), who uses shallow sexuality to mask his equally shallow ambition. While his motives aren’t always pure, his heart’s in the right place. High diving into a wet hankie is his specialty, and his guardian angel must be working overtime, because he always turns out okayso far. Blair (Clare Fitzgerald) is practically a Cosmo poster childshe’s urban and urbane, witty, successful, and supremely assured in what she wants. Most women are over 35 when they have that sort of composure. Immediately Roland sees her as the way to fulfill all his dreams, yet when it comes to speaking with her, Niagara Falls sets up camp in his sweat glands and he fails to capture her attention. Enter Cupid!
Cupid is not the wee putti flying around with bow and arrowCupid is the fruition of Roland’s following Blair’s advice to “Get a Dog,” the second song in this carousel ride of a musical. Blair didn’t bat an eye at Roland literally the day before when they met in the park in NYC. Yet with the acquisition of the puppy Cupid, she actually sees him when they accidentally meet in The Hamptons. Roland is not equal to the task of bending Cupid to his will. He takes the second great piece of advice he gets from Blair: get a trainer. Need a trainer? Enter Miranda (Allie Ambriano) who continually reminds Roland that it’s “All About the Dog.” Need to know who’s boss? It’s definitely Miranda, but none of these four is entirely what they appear on the surface, nor is Cupid. This is a salient reminder to us all in a world with a 15-second news cycle that we need to slow down, stop and kiss our pets.
Roland has a rich dream life and over the course of his working vacation, he has several opportunities for epiphanies. Jim Bazewicz sets and Roman Klima’s lighting design suggest spaces, perfect for this production with so much action. Eric Hafen’s direction is deft: we are laughing and then tearing up in the next moment, as he hits all the right notes. Stephanie Lindley’s music direction and multiple keyboard textures set the mood and tone for both the actors and her miniature orchestra, featuring Paul Hutchings on guitar and Simon Heaney on reeds and brass. The Bickford is what musicians call a “live” roomand Heaney did a brilliant job blending the instruments in when they could well have overpowered. This orchestra is spot-on.
The book by Eric H. Weinberger and music and lyrics by Gayla D. Morgan are replete with clever sticky lines and tunes whose hooks you’ll be humming while they’re happening and as you’re walking from the theatre. Favorite songs to listen for in the musical include “Street Trio;” “Vacation/Training Tango,” where I’d like to have seen a bit more tango; and “Cupid’s Lullaby,” which completely stole my heart. “Better Saturday Nights” is a rueful paean that we all have sung in our way from time to time, and with this show in such a short run, get tickets NOW!
Don’t manufacture your own conundrumvisit morrismuseum.org
today! This show closes next weekend, on April 22, so call now for best tickets and see this heartwarming musical that will have you running home to the love that is freely given.