"David Cox directs an amazingly talented cast and brings out the deep Texas flavor in each of them. His innovative set design (worth seeing by itself) turns the stage into a metaphor for the family's struggle, as the two sets fluidly shift from dens of tranquility to madness."

Why is the Dog Howlin', Momma

by Rosalyn Rosen

            The plaintive sound of a dog howling in the night is one that evokes melancholic grief, and it serves as a fitting image for the opening of Rosalyn Rosen's new play, Why Is The Dog Howlin', Momma? which carries its own load of grief through the story's night, at the American Renegade in NoHo.

            In the play's prologue, Momma Gates explains to her then-young son Scott that the dogs are howling because the lost souls of suicide victims are trapped inside them, howling to get out, leaving the audience to ponder whether there are some sins that can't be forgiven.

            Why Is The Dog Howlin' Momma is a play rich with sin about a family desperately seeking salvation. Set in West Texas, the play chronicles the Gates family's attempt to reclaim their wayward son, Carl (Luke Moyer), a delusional schizophrenic who has fled his family to pursue his art. The Gates follow him to a shabby motor-court hotel where they attempt to break through Carl's delusions to reach the son and brother they once knew. But the close quarters also force them to confront each other. Scott (JP Luckenback) must contend with his overbearing, alcoholic father, Ben (Mark Carlton), while Jo Ray pairs her insecurities over love and marriage with Momma's (Jody Jaress) religious fervor. As the family drama unfolds in one hotel room, Carl rages against the ghost of Bukowski, who haunts him relentlessly. Through his madness and unrelenting search for a "personal" kind of sanity, Carl shows his family the people they truly are, stripped of the delusions and lies they conceal themselves in and use to define their domestic reality.

            David Cox directs an amazingly talented cast and brings out the deep Texas flavor in each of them. His innovative set design (worth seeing by itself) turns the stage into a metaphor for the family's struggle, as the two sets fluidly shift from dens of tranquility to madness.

            But while one dog howling through the night has a mournful sound, a chorus of them loses the affect. By the end of the play, it becomes so over-burdened with family tragedy that the tragedy becomes comic and the power of the climax is diluted and drowned out in all the noise.