Spooky Dog and his teen pals
Spooky Dog and his teen pals
You might not have been fully aware of it when you were a tot, but you always knew something wasn't quite right about that Scooby Doo cartoon. And I'm not just talking about those shady characters who liked to dress up as ghosts to further their own criminal agendas. No, I'm thinking of all those bright colors, the funkadelic music, that 'mystery mobile,' and the random celebrity guests, not to mention Fred's fluorescent orange ascot.

Spooky Dog and the Teen-age Gang Mysteries, playing downtown at the Kraine Theatre, spoofs that famous cartoon. The original incarnation, Jinkies!, was a favorite at the Fringe Festival last year, though the original title had to be changed because of legal issues. But as soon as you see Tiffany in her skimpy purple and green dress and Thelma with her trademark thick black glasses, or hear Scraggly with that unmistakable voice, there's no doubt about what's being invoked here. As long as you're familiar with the original cartoon, you're sure to find Spooky Dog a riot.

The show uses a little bit of improv (working off of audience suggestions) and there's some audience participation during a groovy dance sequence, but the actors mostly work from a script that sounds straight out of the series. Actually, it sounds like every episode of the series: The gang is heading off to a campout when they get a call from Britney Spears (she was the audience-suggested celebrity guest on the night I saw the show), who is supposed to perform at the Creepola County County Fair that night. But Britney's in trouble! The gang goes to investigate; on the way, they encounter the seedy hillbilly couple who run the fair, a fortune teller, and some scary spooks.

As they try to figure out what happened to Britney, who has mysteriously disappeared, Ted and Tiffany do some private investigating on their own, Scraggly and Spooky Dog get the munchies, and Thelma makes her way out of the closet. Spooky Dog is more than happy to play the subtext of the TV series on the top.

Some of the show is just goofy fun, but there is plenty of wit here as well. Double entendres abound in director Eric Pliner and Amy Rhodes' script, but they succeed in exploiting all of the sexual, homosexual, and hallucinogenic undertones of the original Scooby Doo without ever going overboard. And the cast does an impeccable job of imitating their cartoon counterparts. J.C. DeVore and Travis Dean Bellicchi are dead-on as Scraggly and Spooky Dog, Rhodes gives probably the best performance of all as Thelma, and Adam Rose and Kate Hess are hilarious as the beautiful-but-stupid Ted and Tiffany. Beth Portnoy's choreographic interludes are great fun, and are fabulously executed by the entire cast.

Spooky Dog and the Teen-age Gang Mysteries will be a real treat for anyone who gets a kick out of retro '70s kitsch, or anybody who's familiar with the original cartoon. It'll take you back to those weekday afternoons in front of the TV, back before you thought to question the strange antics of those 'meddling kids' or the questionable ingredients of the Scooby snack.