Downtown’s Urbanite Theatre continues its work of bringing to the stage intimate, offbeat comedy-dramas by rising playwrights with its current offering, Eric Coble’s My Barking Dog. It’s a two-hander (unless you want to count a crucial but unseen performer) directed and played with intensity.
The two main characters may seem familiar at first, lonely urban drones who’ve been losers in life. Melinda (Caitlin Hargraves) works a mind-numbing job at a printing plant, wearing the same ID badge she’s had for 14 years, because absolutely nothing has changed about her in that time. Toby (Miles Duffield) has been out of work for a while, and the struggle to find a new job is aggravated by the fact he can’t afford the internet and has to move around his apartment with a mimed laptop in hand, trying to steal the best connection possible.
If you think these two will eventually meet up, you’re right; turns out they live on different floors of the same building. But if you’re thinking they will be each other’s new romantic partner, think again. They do forge a connection of sorts, but it’s all due to that unseen third character: a coyote that’s roaming the streets of their city and ultimately provides both with a longed-for link to the wild.
Melinda sees the coyote first and soon starts luring it with raw meat, but it’s Toby who ends up having the most—ahem—intimate encounter with the animal, as Coble’s play starts taking some very strange directions. I won’t spoil it by revealing them here, other than to state the obvious: Toby and Melinda are getting back to nature in ways they never would have dreamed.
Under Daniel Kelly’s direction, Hargraves is tightly wound, ready to spring into action; Duffield plays Toby at first as an affable kind of doofus with, as he admits, the same skill set as the other 130,000 people seeking any job he’d be qualified for. As the play’s action unwinds (in a fast-paced 80 minutes with no intermission), the actors deftly deliver Coble’s mix of humor and darkness for a show that will definitely surprise you.
My Barking Dog continues through Dec. 18; for tickets call 321-1397 or go to urbanitetheatre.com.