Urbanite Theatre's Westminster Is a Dark Comedy With Bite

The surprise gift of a canine reveals society's fault lines in this new play.

By Kay Kipling April 1, 2024

From left to right: Dekyi Ronge, Alex Pelletier and Gregg Weiner in Urbanite Theatre's Westminster

Dogs can be many things to us humans—companions, protectors, supportors. In Brenda Withers’ dark new comedy, Westminster, now onstage in a world premiere at Sarasota's Urbanite Theatre, they can also be a metaphor for much that is wrong with our world—a source of chaos and controversy that drives people apart.

We never see the dog in Westminster, but boy oh boy, do we hear him. At first, he’s barking and running around in the yard of a couple, Pia (Dekyi Ronge) and Tim (Jonathan Fielding), who have a nice suburban home that, in the tidy blue and white set designed by Jeffrey Weber, is clearly not meant to welcome a dog. The animal is a surprise, brought to them by Pia’s old friend Krys (Alex Pelletier) and her partner Beau (Gregg Weiner) as a gift.

But why a dog? As Pia and Tim try, politely at first, then more urgently, to deal with what’s landed on their doorstep, we begin to see hidden depths. You just know that someone as outwardly bubbly as Krys has to have troubles underneath, and they may have something to do with the beer-guzzling, slightly menacing Beau.

As the foursome engage in increasingly high-pitched arguments about animals, humans, freedom and rights, the dog provides background noise (thanks to sound designer Alex Pinchin), launches attacks just outside the front door and, eventually, achieves a level of destruction to the property that makes Stephen King’s Cujo look like a good boy.

From left to right: Ronge, Jonathan Fielding and Pelletier in Westminster

The play (a brisk 90 minutes, with no intermission) sags a bit about two-thirds of the way through, as Withers tries to pack the dialogue with both personal background and motivations and a bit of a sociological dissertation. But Summer Wallace’s direction is assured, and the four cast members are well-suited to their roles, providing a tension that shifts back and forth between the characters. You may get a little impatient with them, but isn’t that the case with people offstage, as well?

Westminster was the winner of Urbanite’s 2023 Modern Works Festival, and it has undoubtedly undergone some tinkering since then. There’s no reason that, perhaps with more refining, it shouldn’t go on to future productions.

Westminster runs at Urbanite Theatre through Sunday, April 28. For tickets, call (941) 321-1297 or visit

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