Irreverence reigns supreme in Theatre Alliance’s Spooky Dog this weekend
Theatre Alliance of Winston-Salem has scared up a treat for Saturday-morning television fans with its latest production, a staged reading of Spooky Dog and the Teenage Gang Mysteries, which opens Thursday for a limited engagement.
Eric Pliner and Amy Rhodes’ ribald spoof takes its cue from one of the most popular Saturday-morning cartoons of all time — the one about the goofy dog and his equally goofy friends who travel around solving mysteries and busting ghosts. (Any resemblance to a certain Hanna-Barbera cartoon series that later became a big-screen franchise is undoubtedly, ahem, coincidental.)
But this is one show you won’t see on Saturday mornings. “It’s very different and very adult — not for children,” warns and boasts Jamie Lawson, director of the show and artistic director of Theatre Alliance, and himself a childhood devotee of said Saturday-morning cartoons, which is one reason he wanted to do the show. “It’s very wild. Very crazy. Very adult.”
(That’s not a threat, that’s a promise.) According to Lawson, Spooky Dog’s got it all: “Innuendos, sexual encounters, references to mind-altering substances, strong language… everything for which you’ve come to love Theatre Alliance!” Adding to the irreverent nature of the production is the inclusion of the audience as a direct participant in the show. “The audience helps choose pop-culture references for the actors to use during the show, with an element of improvisation,” Lawson notes. “It’s billed as a ‘staged reading,’ but the actors are off-book, there are costumes, set pieces, props — the works!” The ensemble cast includes Scott Terrill as Ted, Danielle Barnicle as Tiffany, Becki West as Thelma, Sean Farrell as Scraggly, Nichelle Wright as Mrs. Woodhaven, Stephen Holley as Mr. Woodhaven, and Jamison Middlemiss in the title role.
Some had experience in improvisation, others didn’t. But, according to Lawson, finding the groove yielded some inspired moments during the rehearsal process and cemented their chemistry.
“This cast was a piece of cake, surprisingly,” he says. “I am very proud of the cast, some of which have no improv background. They are doing a great job with the suggestion of the original characters, and the improvisation we have been throwing around during rehearsals has been hysterical.” As a result, it’s never quite the same show twice.
Given the time of year, it seems only appropriate that Theatre Alliance would present a wild and wacky show around April Fool’s Day, but Lawson says that was merely a coincidence, albeit a timely one. If it gets audiences in the mood for April Fool’s, so much the better.
“[It’s] just a tribute to my all-time favorite cartoon,” he says, “and it’s funny as hell for fans of Saturday-morning cartoons, as it plays up all the ‘rumors’ that we’ve heard about this particular cartoon — like a particular character being a ditz, one being a stoner — which is why he’s always hungry, one being a little too ‘lesbian-ese’… and why does that one guy wear that sissy neck scarf? It’s a total riot.”
Next up for Theatre Alliance is the Del Shores comedy The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife (April 9-18), followed by the musical biography Hank Williams: Lost Highway (May 14-23).
“By doing a variety of shows, we can hit so many different audiences, as well as score the talents of so many different performers,” says Lawson. “Many performers excel in non-musicals while others’ strengths lie in musicals. Theatre Alliance tries to balance the artistic/entertainment scale and provide something for everyone, while still trying to pay the bills. We are currently offering an average of 11 productions a year, counting our summer shows and our regular season. For a community theater which functions solely with volunteers, that’s unheard-of, to my knowledge. I am ecstatic with Theatre Alliance’s volunteer support group and so grateful to our supporters — financial and in the audience! When patrons attend our shows, I want them to feel like they are part of a family. We just want people to leave enlightened sometimes, enriched sometimes, but always, always entertained and wanting to get back real soon… just like home.”
Showtimes for Spooky Dog and the Teenage Gang Mysteries are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are $10 and reservations are suggested, as this is a limited run.
Theatre Alliance is located at 1047 Northwest Blvd., Winston-Salem. For tickets or more information, including news about upcoming Theatre Alliance productions and events, see ‘www.wstheatrealliance.org.