Feature

Review of reviews: Stage

Red Dog Howls

Red Dog Howls
El Portal Theatre
Los Angeles
(818) 508-4200

**

Alexander Dinelaris’ “redemptive tale of survival” deals with the effects of the 1915 Armenian genocide on later generations, said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. Michael, a New York writer, discovers a troubling stash of letters relating to the genocide among his deceased father’s effects, along with a note instructing him to burn them. He does so, but first copies the address of the sender, who turns out to be his estranged grandmother. Hoping to rid his family of psychological ghosts, Michael pays her a visit. Here the play hits its stride, as veteran stage actress Kathleen Chalfant delivers a miraculous performance, inhabiting a character who slowly bears witness to the events that tragically altered her life. “Few actresses would be as courageous—never mind capable—of traversing this particular moral abyss.”

Chalfant’s performance is haunting and effective, but Dinelaris and director Michael Peretzian are too heavy-handed in their approach, said Bob Verini in Variety. Practically every point the play attempts to make—”about the evil harbored by ordinary people, the guilt of their victims, and the measures required to expiate that guilt”—is excessively spelled out. When Matthew Rauch, playing Michael, needs to express his woes or articulate a point, he does so in stultifying monologues, under a self-important spotlight. The playwright deserves credit for not creating a merely didactic “genocide play,” but he’d have fared better with “a less self-conscious protagonist, as well as themes and meanings that are less obviously ladled out.”

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