Eric Coble's My Barking Dog, currently being presented by Market Garden Theater at the Crane Theater’s black box space in Northeast Minneapolis is a perfectly absurd play for Earth Day Weekend. I knew nothing about the play going into it, and I’m not sure hearing a plot summary would have prepared me at all for what I was going to see. The play starts in a familiar fashion, two characters, each unhappy in their own life introduce themselves to the audience with poetic prose. Toby is an unemployed office manager, and has been looking for work for 9 months. Melinda works at a printing factory and enjoys how her night shift allows her to avoid the typically expected social interaction.
Their lives intersect when a coyote appears at the apartment building that they both live in in the city. They are both fascinated by the creature and its appearance in their lives sets them down different tracks. Melinda becomes obsessed with the idea that the city has encroached on the coyote’s wild and works to bring the wild back into the city. Toby meanwhile finds himself in a sort of romantic pairing with the coyote.
The play spirals into absurdity at just the right rate, carrying you the audience with it all along. A lot of this is thanks to the great performances by the two actors on stage Victoria Pyan and Mike Swan. The stage is bare expect for two chairs, and a painted backdrop of a generic city scape. It is the actors who are your touchstones and your guide through this strange story, and they never let you go.
Although I have referred to the play as absurd on multiple occasions, it isn’t hard to see the truth the rings through it. The true of how humans expansion has taken away animal’s habitats and been a significant factor in population decline and extinction. This is a great play to see to start conversation about the environment and what needs to change. It is a kind of play that makes you keep thinking about it, about what it is trying to tell you. About how the problem of environmentalism is complex, the question of is it better for the environment to live in the city or in a more rural area (the wild) isn’t an easy one. I’m glad that I saw My Barking Dog, and I’m grateful for the reflections that it has lead me to.
It is playing for only one more weekend at the Crane Theater. Click here to find out more information about the show.
*Photo by Kaitlin Randolph