A highly entertaining romp through a cast of oddball characters (including a dog played by a man) drawn into the life sphere of Norma (Amanda Saunders) as she pursues her business calling of “professional cuddler” and attempts to return a lost dog (subtly but hilariously played by Daniel Hagen in his simple “Dog” labeled t-shirt – after the initial laugh when you realize he’s the dog, your mind immediately accepts him as a canine, his mannerisms create a convincing image).
By Carol Edger Germain
The opening scene of Norm (Steven Strobel) doing his ribbon dance to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” sets the endearingly off-kilter context and pace of the play and you know it’s going to be fun. But it also inspires deeper reflections as you connect with the various emotional issues presented by Norma’s clients – paranoid David (Eric Gutierrez), the nearly silent Xeno (Gregory Itzin), high-strung businessman Harrison (West Liang), and repressed teen Trista (Clarissa Thibeaux), all of whom managed to give memorable performances in their short appearances.
There were no weak players in this cast. In the quest for the dog’s owner we meet the super-A personality businesswoman Miranda (Julie Dretzin) and the macho skateboarder Colt (Gabriel Notarangelo). I found myself wondering if Norma really believed her words and theories as she espoused and practiced her release-your-oxytocin cuddle therapy, or was just playing to what each client needed, telling them what they wanted to hear, which actually pulled me deeper into each character. When Norma meets the socially awkward but unique barista Norm more of her true self and needs are exposed little by little, sometimes to her surprise, and the title of the play becomes the title of their romance, a lost and found, up and down, backward and forward dance.
Totally satisfying on every level, and I felt my oxytocin surging as I left the theater with a smile on my face (as did my several companions). Scenic designer Kirk Wilson did a fantastic job of with the multi-scene set – the cafe, the park, and Norm’s apartment/”dance studio” were staged around Norma’s over-candled platform cuddle bed. An absorbing escape – see it!
The Found Dog Ribbon Dance
• Written by Dominic Finocchiaro
• Directed by Alana Dietze
• Presented by The Echo Theater Company
Echo Theater Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90039.
Free parking in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater; also plenty of street parking.
Jan. 21 – Feb. 26:
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 10. 17, 24
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 11, 18, 25
Sundays at 4 p.m.: Feb. 5, 12, 19, 26
Mondays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 6, 13, 20
• General admission:
Discount tickets available at goldstar.com.
• Buy tickets here.
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