Marsh director David Ford is behind a lot I’ve been liking lately. Currently, he’s at the helm of Date Night at Pet Emergency. Written and performed by Lisa Rothman, the play runs through December 5th at the Berkeley Marsh.
Date Night is Rothman’s spoof about self-aware parenting of children (Ezra and Murray) and dogs (Percy and Sophie.) The show lives in the perpetual now where dogs, kids, and spouse grate on Rothman’s last nerve, as she, against all reason, continues to buy into whatever fantasy put her there. Highway to Hell cranks up in the background as parents dutifully fold origami – yea, even unto the fourth dimension.
Rothman’s considerable strengths, as a writer and performer, make this worth taking in.
First, as a writer, Rothman knows just how far to push being clever. For example, after knowingly informing the audience that “getting a dog combines the worst aspects of internet dating and buying a house,” she immediately backs off so she doesn’t look like she’s trying too hard. However, the memory of that one liner acts as a tease, drawing you in and making you listen more intently.
The second strength is her physicality. Throughout Date Night, Rothman’s a picture of restraint – a persona more aligned with that of a PTA mom with the perpetually forced smile. She pushes this demented control almost to the point of annoyance – and then hits the reset button by lying on the floor, imitating the family dog, with paws up for a tummy tickle, or something equally out of character. These moments aren’t played as an out-of-control adult; they’re played as a self-assured girl-child in the moment. The quick transitions, from suburban soccer mom caricature to something very different, infuse the work with a whole different energy that keeps the show moving.
Rothman’s a funny, funny, professional performer, who never sounded queasily confessional or gave the audience more than they wanted.
Rothman also has this uncanny ability to channel people that you already love and to build on that reflected glory. I wasn’t the only person in the audience who thought I’d just seen a dear friend somewhere in Rothman’s performance. It’s almost as if she’s intentionally strewn enough breadcrumbs to increase the odds that some nuance of her persona during this hour-long performance will lead to someone you know, and make your heart go thumpa-thump.
Rothman’s a funny, funny, professional performer, who never sounded queasily confessional or gave the audience more than they wanted. One very small nit is the ending seemed forced and formulaic, as if some lesson must be forcibly gained. This aside, Date Night at Pet Emergency makes for a funny, funny time out.
Photo credit: Primagine Photography