The Dog of the South: Good old Southern boy wants car and wife returned.
Life-long Little Rock, Ark., resident Ray Midge (Christopher Morson) is a 26-year old perpetual college student, obsessed with American history. As a measure of his devotion he reads from his collection of heavy tomes every evening after 9 p.m.
Ray only has two rules, no smoking at the table and no music after 9 p.m. His wife Norma (Shannon Loys) is understandedly dissatisfied with Ray’s laws.
Ray looks up one day and his long-time “friend” Guy Dupree (Joshua C. Williamson) has run off with Norma, Dupree’s former wife and Midge’s current one.
The real insult added to the humiliation of being cuckolded, is that they’ve taken his beloved Ford Torino, his American Express and Texaco credit cards and left in exchange, only Dupree’s badly maintained ’63 Buick, leaking transmission fluid and with one tire smaller than the other others (and labeled "U-Haul").
Midge bides his time as the credit card bills come in so he can see where they are. He carefully maps out their meandering path from Little Rock to Hotel Mogador in San Miquel Allende, Mexico, with his carefully dashed lines delineating their path.
Midge and Dupree finally end up in British Honduras (now Belize), where Dupree’s father has a cattle ranch and other interests and Midge’s hitchhiker Reo Symes, (Jim Gall) an itinerant scam artist whose mother Mrs. Symes (the incomparable Suzy Hunt) and her friend Melba (Gin Hammond) have a non-specific Christian denominational mission.
Reo has preached the gospel of capitalism as propounded by an obscure author Dix, who wrote a specific/nonspecific book about selling.
Reo has come to get his mother to let him develop Jean Island in the Mississippi River, which she has already designated as a bird sanctuary. He’s broken and ill and has no resources except a broken down white and blue school bus with Dog of the South painted on the sides.
Christopher Morson is a wonderful Midge. He maintains his innocent outrage and humiliation in a forceful Alabama accent. He was last seen at Book-It in The Adventures of Huck Finn: Uncensored where he was a very vulnerable and powerful Huck Finn. Jim Gall masterfully plays Symes as slimy, opportunistic and greedy grifter. Suzy Hunt is a very upright and proper Christian woman, working with “the pick-a-ninnies”. I’ve seen Suzy Hunt several times in completely different roles and she has always been in control and a force that moved me to tears in was Book-It’s I Am Ireland, where she was the midwife who goes in the dark of night to help in the birth of the unmarried and consequently ostracized young mother. Gin Hammond had a smaller put important role as Melba, fellow Christian and co-worker in Mrs. Symes mission. She must have been cold because she wore a sweater in every scene.
Other performers meriting a mention are Thomas J. Foster as Webster, the young boy who runs errands and helps Midge in San Miguel Allende; Jorge Gomez who as the border guard between Mexico and British Honduras manages to reap his rewards from the questionable travelers.
Director and co-founder of Book-It Jane Jones kept the pacing crisp and moving as quickly as a well done farce. Everyone was well trained in paying attention and being on mark and on time.
I’m reading the novel by Charles Portis now and I appreciate the adaptation by Judd Parkin. I’m only sorry some of the comic details were left out for brevity’s sake.
The costume designer Chelsea Cook did well at dressing the various characters appropriately. Reo Symes white suit looked as if it hadn’t been washed since he last visited his mother. The brightly floral polyester he wore when arising from his sick bed was a marked contrast to his soiled and worn white suit. Midge was in polyester slacks, white shirt and tie, and should have been sweating a river in B.H. Norma’s polyester mini-dress was of an appropriate ‘60-‘70s geometric brown pattern and went well with her platform sandals (back in fashion?). I enjoyed Melba’s brown and orange Argyle knee socks, too.
The Dog of the South runs through March 8, 2015. For tickets or information, go to Book-It Theatre online or call at 206-216-0833.