Streetcar Crow’s Nest’s Guloin theatre has been transformed into the streets and parks of Toronto for their production of Fifteen Dogs. Adapted and directed by Marie Farsi and based on the novel of the same name by André Alexis, Fifteen Dogs was everything I had hoped it would be and then some. Featuring phenomenal actors telling a story that’ll tug on your heartstrings, Fifteen Dogs is truly must-see theatre.
Immediately upon entering the theatre space, you’re immersed in the world of the play; telephone poles stand in the corners of the room, their lines criss-crossing the space, rocks and grass accent the centre of the playing space with an empty space for the ‘sidewalk’ around it. This space becomes everything from High Park to Bloor Street to Nira and Miguel’s home; designed by Julie Fox, it was a versatile canvas upon which the actors were able to paint their story.
The performances in Fifteen Dogs are bar none; six of them bring the various dogs, gods, fates, and humans to life and absolutely wow the audience. Laura Condlln’s Nira was exactly how I’d imagined her, and I loved how she played Max and Bella especially. Peter Fernandes was hysterical as Athena and Benjy. Stephen Jackman-Torkoff’s Prince and Zeus were fabulous, beyond what I could have imagined (and I need that jacket Zeus wears). Tom Rooney broke my heart, as I knew he would, as Majnoun, likely my favourite out of the dogs. Tyrone Savage gave so much strength and ferocity to Atticus. Mirabella Sundar Singh was adorable as Frick and Frack, and Dougie. Their physicality was magnificent, doing so many recognizable dog traits from the movement of their paws while they’re anxious, to walking around the bowl as they ate, to sniffing each other in the dog way of saying hello. None of this gets lost on the audience either, with roars of laughter throughout the play. I find it difficult to think of a better-suited cast for this production; I was mesmerized the entire time.
In terms of being an adaptation of the novel, Fifteen Dogs does not disappoint. They were able to keep the brutality of the dogs in the book without making it gory. I loved the scenes with the gods and the fates. I was also so thrilled that they did so many of Prince’s poems; the poetry in the story is fascinating, it’s actually made for dogs, as in each one you can hear a name of a different dog. It’s brilliant linguistically and I definitely heard the names much better during the play than when I was reading the book. I was thrilled at how closely they were able to keep to the source material while making it a succinct story and doable with just 6 cast members. What I love most about Fifteen Dogs is that through this story, through these dogs, we learn more about ourselves as humans. This play will leave you thinking about all of this and then some, all wrapped up in this beautiful story. You simply must see Fifteen Dogs before it closes on February 12th. For more information and tickets, visit: Fifteen Dogs (crowstheatre.com)
The cast of Fifteen Dogs with Tyrone Savage (Apollo) left, Mirabella Sundar Singh (Hermes) right. Photo by Dahlia Katz.