This dark comedy is actually “the circle of life” according to Sally Bondi. She plays “the dog” in the new play Hot Dog, currently in production by Thinking Cap Theatre.
Producing artistic director Nicole Stodard told the audience on May 18 that “the play really takes an unconventional and very risky approach to something that is not talked about very much,” namely how to care for the aged. In this case, playwright Sarah Kosar has used four characters to tell the tale: two sisters, their Mother, and the husband of one of the sisters.
Kosar, an American living in London, was also present for the performance. In the play, the Mother figure is in costume as a dog and is treated like one by her daughters as she slips into dementia. Kosar said that perception is a central element of the play. “Does she see herself as a dog? Do the sisters see her as a dog? There is a sense of danger in a dog – they are cute but they can bite.”
In the play the Mother actually does bite one of her daughters, who requires stitches in her leg as a result. This creates a permanent rift between them, which ultimately ends in tragedy. But since it is not really a tragedy in the ancient Greek sense, but a dark comedy, the way the audience perceives it is quite different, both here and in London where it premiered.
“It didn’t hit home as hard in London,” said Kosar. “In London there is still caregiving but people go into homes a bit more because of socialized medicine. In America you have to invest in your family more.” Kosar noted that the audience in America “has a much wider variety of ages, with the London audience being a lot younger.” She said the number of personal stories of caregiving she has heard here has been amazing.
Kosar said that as a writer “things come from personal experience. This play arose out of a lot of discussion and I just played with the metaphor. I’ve seen it and it felt true to me – I feel this obligation to take care of your family but it’s not easy. In this play I was interested in looking at the blurred line between being a dog and being human so that we see more truth than just looking at her as a woman to be taken care of.”
Bondi, the Mother/dog figure, says her character is “bitter, ugly and hateful – she feels her life slipping away." Bondi recently lost her own Mother to dementia, so she brings a powerful persona to the character. “In my head, it’s coming to grips with my life,” she said.
Speaking of her character, Bondi said “I see that it’s time to go, and I take the burden off them. It’s almost a love thing – that’s the way she hits it head on.”
The themes of the play are powerful and Bondi hopes that others will find it relevant. “The aging process is a little bit like the baby process. It touches all of our lives in one way or another. It’s good to expose that and talk about it. It’s the circle of life – we need to honour our elderly.”
The play operates at several levels, thanks in large part to fine acting of the cast: Ann Marie Olson and Niki Fridh as the two sisters, Mark Duncan as the husband, and Bondi as the Mother. As the name of the production company suggests, you need to put your “thinking cap” on to come to grips with this disturbing and provocative play. It is a truly fine production that deserves to be widely seen.
Hot Dog is being performed until June 1 at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. For tickets go to the website www.thinkingcaptheatre.com.
Photo by Cliff Cunningham. From l to r: Bondi, Kosar, Stodard, Kathy Cerminara professor of law at NSU, Duncan, Olson and Fridh.