Review by Alessandro Marcon
55 minutes / Solo / Storytelling / R
If one is unable to fathom just how intimate a relationship can be between a man and dog, John Grady’s play Fear Factor: Canine Edition might prove illuminating. It’s the story of a man and his love for his pooch. Aware of the over-used cliché “Man’s Best Friend”, Grady juxtaposes his man-canine relationship with the reality show Fear Factory, more specifically Fear Factor Couples Edition and its clichéd blueprint for partners to support one another through fear-inducing tasks. It’s humorous, a little trite, but exactly what Grady knows is necessary for us to plunge through what’s expected and elucidate what’s possible. He knows what he’s doing and what you might be thinking. It’s this self-awareness of what he’s proposing that ultimately leads into the attempt of portraying just how much a dog can mean to its owner.
Convincing one of honesty, the very spine of acting, is the biggest of challenges. You can’t rationally tick boxes – either you’re convinced or you aren’t. In a monologue of just over 50 minutes, there are very few aids here, only a man in a suit and some lights. The role of body language cannot be overstated. Trained in ballet, Grady demonstrably has exceptional control of his physical presence. Nothing here is perfunctory. Through his body, he portrays both a Chicago snowstorm and seriously ill child with vivid precision. His splayed fingers wave through the air, stamping scene shifts and subtle variations in moods. At times his hands are ironic. A sharply pointed index finger appears to suggest an assured position, but the words from his mouth fold back on themselves, illuminating diffidence. It’s a character reasoning with himself, while trying at the same time to convince you of his honesty.
The very fact Grady attempts something so difficult, is laudable. Far from a dog lover, I felt the compassion of the character and the passion of the performance; I enjoyed it. There were many a guffaw in the theatre and skillfully created scenes transported the audience into a variety of diverse settings through storytelling alone. For some, the pace might lag in parts, or the characters, especially Natasha, might seem flat. But all good theatre is ostensibly aware of itself and provides clear guidelines for the audience as to how the work should be read. In these regards, Fear Factor: Canine Edition is no exception.
Is it truly possible for a human’s life to be amorphously intertwined with a dog’s?
You can get closer to the answer by seeing this play.
Or at least be more understanding when you see a dog lick lips.
Fear Factor: Canine Edition is playing at the Arts Court Library (2 Daly Avenue, Elevator A) on Monday, June 18at 8:30pm; Tuesday June 19 at 7:00pm; Wednesday, June 20 at 10:00pm; Thursday, June 21 at 8:30pm; and Sunday, June 24 at 12:00pm. Tickets are $10.