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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 27, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 17
Art of Racing takes a few too many laps
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Art of Racing takes a few too many laps

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Art of Racing in the Rain
Book It Repertory
Through May 13


Book-It's newest adaptation is for you if you like dogs or NASCAR - or dogs and NASCAR. The Art of Racing in the Rain is a bestselling book by local writer Garth Stein. It was brought to Book-It's attention by director Carol Roscoe and they have done their Book-It-style adaptation on it.

Not being able to put a racetrack inside the theater, they have artfully created ways to simulate speed - some to better effect than others. The largest plot line in the production is really the love of a man for his dog. This is probably the best man's-best-friend presentation you'll see without a real dog. David Hogan, actor-anthropomorphosizer extraordinaire (and dog trainer on the side), does a great dog act. What's even better is Roscoe's decision not to put him in some sort of dog costume. Hogan just is the dog, Enzo, from puppyhood to aged dog, with little more than pads on his knees and gloves on his hands. His inner monologue is also intelligent and often funny.

Eric Riedmann does the other tough job of portraying racecar driver Dennis 'Denny' Swift from racing wannabe to successful driver of hugely expensive cars. His is a portrait of a 'good man' through and through, with a solid love for his dog and his family. The plot forces him to confront some mighty bad fortune along the way, but he weathers the misfortunes by steering solidly in the middle of the track.

He loses his young wife (Sylvie Davidson) to illness and has to fight for his daughter (a charming and disarming young Mae Corley), and more. The plot veers a bit toward soap opera in the middle, but redeems itself with a more refreshing ending.

A solid ensemble supports what seems like dozens of roles. A versatile set by Andrea Bryn Bush allows for a sense of racing, with graceful wire barriers on each side, and wide-open spaces by projecting green outdoors on screens around the almost round space.

This is a long production, and they could have trusted the audience a bit more and trimmed scenes that just reinforce what we already know. However, thankfully, it is shorter than they thought when they put two intermissions in. Adapter Myra Platt cut the length close to opening, but there is still room for less.

Stein's book has a mystical center that may not come out clearly on stage. There is an art to racing in the rain, we're told, and it is to drive as if the ground is dry. Denny has to steer through this rainy life of his and the only way he can do that is to envision his life as dry so that he can stay in control. Also, Enzo the dog longs to transition after death to being a man, and thinks he's been promised that by watching television shows about Mongolia. Whether that gives you a message or a headache is up to your sense of philosophy.

For more information, go to www.book-it.org or call 206-216-0833.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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