Nancy Anderson's unfailingly hilarious performance in the title role lifts the Cape Playhouse's production of A.R. Gurney's canine comedy.
One hopes that Dano's many soap fans, garnered over a multi-decade career that has included her Emmy Award-winning role of Felicia Gallant on Another World and stints on the ABC soaps All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital as Gretel Rae Cummings, will give her some slack for her imperfect performance. For one thing, she has trod the boards only once before assuming her current role of Kate, the unsympathetic wife, and her lack of stage experience shows: a voice that's less than clarion, timing that's never quite crack, and a limited repertoire of gestures such as pointing, hand-wringing, and pants-clutching.
Furthermore, Kate is not an especially endearing role. An uptight dog-disliker who's impervious to the allure of the stray played by Anderson, she's the play's designated downer. It would take a charmer like Blythe Danner, who played Kate in the 1995 Manhattan Theatre Club premiere production, to bring life to what is essentially a straw-woman role. It's not surprising that Dano tries to soften the character somewhat. When hubby Greg (Freed) first turns up with his new ward, who leapt into his lap in Central Park, Dano's Kate doesn't immediately freak out. In fact, she's pretty calm, considering the circumstances. As a result, there's insufficient build-up to the female-on-female, mano-a-paw confrontation that caps Act I.
Dano loosens up a bit in Act II, especially when confiding her growing animosity toward and jealousy of Sylvia during a chance encounter with a former Vassar chum, Phyllis, who's a walking catalog of Upper East Side affectations.Quinn assumes the latter role and two others -- one male, one mezzo-mezzo -- with sly panache, earning bursts of applause with virtually every appearance.
Anderson deserves special praise for her subtle and unfailingly hilarious interpretation of the title role. She never does anything so obvious as to imitate a real dog. Instead, she captures the essence of dogginess: the adoring gazes punctuated by pouts and outbursts, the joyous leaps and assorted fits, flea-inspired and otherwise. And you haven't really lived until you've heard Anderson as Sylvia channel a warbly Piaf.