From dog to man and back again

“If I were you, I’d consider going to the theater every once in a while,” says Professor Preobrajensky, a character in the School of Drama’s production Heart of a Dog. Directed by Max Montel, Heart of a Dog came alive as six actors took the stage and presented a must-see play.

The show follows a story that takes place in Moscow in 1929 at Christmastime, as displayed by cue cards in the incipient stages of the play. The dog, cleverly played by junior drama major Ross Francis, opens the show commenting on the bottom-feeding life of a stray dog in Moscow in the winter. He speaks, he reads, and most importantly, he entertains the audience.

Seeing this poor sap on the street, Professor Preobrajensky, played by junior drama major Chase Newell, lures the dog with the captivating and irresistible scent of sausage. After taking him in, Professor Preobrajensky performs a lobotomy, as well as testicular surgery, on the unsuspecting mutt, to replace his organs with those of a recently deceased human.

At this point, the play takes a turn and creates much excitement for the audience. Francis returns in the next scene, not as Sharik the dog, but as Polygraph Polygraphovich, a man. Only to add to the humorous plot, Polygraph begins to call Professor Preobrajensky “dad,” much to Preobrajensky’s objection. Polygraph’s role is rather entertaining as he commences to make jocular remarks about many facets of life, which are quite in opposition to the opinions of Professor Preobrajensky.

The plot develops when the housing committee in Preobrajensky’s building objects to him having seven bedrooms and wants him out. He uses his wittiness to convince them that, as the only surgeon for miles, he must stay. When Fotopopov and Viazemskaya, played by junior drama majors Nicholas Bonner and Kenya Alexander, respectively, come to the apartment on behalf of the housing committee, they find Polygraph. This results in Fotopopov helping Polygraph find a job chasing, ironically enough, cats. Although Polygraph has the brain and testicles of a man, he still has the heart of a dog. The transformation of dog into human holds the audience, as does Preobrajensky’s newfound vigor in response to the change of the dog’s behavior as a human.

With five roles in the play, Alexander provided the audience with many laughs and memorable moments. Hunched over for the majority of the play with a voice similar to an old, wicked witch, Alexander kept the members of the audience on their toes from her first step onto the scene. “It was a very challenging and scary experience and yet fulfilling and exciting all at once,” she said.

Something similar can be said for Bonner, who took four roles in the play. Every time he appeared, he came with such a strong presence and fantastic behavior that the audience could not help but be drawn to his actions.

Although playing only one role, senior drama major KC Wright skillfully took the role of Zina, the house maid, and turned it into her own. She afforded the audience with a splash of humor with every instance of her presence.

Giving their thoughts and sentiments after the show, fellow actors offered their input. “It was great. I think they did a great job,” said junior drama major Alborz Ghandehari.

Director Max Montel also commented on the show, saying, “I told the actors to get into another world and they really captured it. They are really great to work with.” Not only did he give credit to the actors but to his “incredible” stage manager, drama master’s student Danielle Fullerton, without whom, he said, the show would not be possible.