Like its title, Four Men and Dog Play is a play in which two separate acts with different plots are connected in one play. Each part stands on its own as well as together, which interestingly enough makes perfect sense. Four Men is the longest of the two plays while Dog Play acts like an attachment lasting only 30 minutes.
The opening scene sets the mood of a stormy, damp environment by bombarding our senses with a roaring sound of prolonged thunder that felt like it would never end, successfully creating an intense atmosphere and giving us goose-bumps while signalling we are in for a stormy ride.
1st Part: Four Men is a story of four men who are on an agonizing journey in extreme weather conditions, somewhere on a ship, in a desert, then, on a mountain, maybe in Europe or even the edge of the earth. Struggling on land and water we can feel the cold dampness filling the air as four men boisterously speak of their existential unrest, explicitly describing their lustful adventures and secret doings. A plot unfolds as we discover a crime has taken place as the rapist confesses his story to us. The audience is captivated as the play evolves into a psychological thriller.
Water is everywhere in its negative way. Horses, saddles, leather, reigns, harnesses and rifles are present throughout the play and are indicative of the Wild West. In this man’s world we feel their agonizing struggle to harness the beast; the beast within; the untamed self. They speak of sex, rape, struggle, discomfort, lust and disgust. Unapologetically narrating stories with explicit details of their perverse secrets and how they satisfy their primal urges.
The female presence in Four Men is minimal. The woman, Anna, calmly enters the stage in the final scene almost like she has a halo. Detached and ghost-like, she tells us her side of the story. She tells us how she consciously surrendered to her rapist and set her own terms to her own rape. Surrender is control. The catharsis happens, like in a tragedy. The end, and a big round of applause.
A well needed 20 minute intermission gives us a chance to have time out like cleansing our palette before continuing afresh with the second act, Dog Play.
Part 2: Dog Play. So, we enter into the unknown again, this time the setting finds us in a trashed out room with an unmade bed, a guy and a girl. Lost in booze and drugs, they trip into a rabbit hole rabidly engaging in an intense Dog Play. We witness the relationship between a man and a woman where their deepest thoughts are said out loud, spitting and biting with their words, ripping each other apart, shocking the audience at times. Dog Play explores the edge of human relationships, the concept of sex and death in an existential dead end. Like watching an intense match, I am a witness throughout this game between man and woman and find myself being a silent commentator. The male strikes hard, the female is undefeated. Dog Play is hard core and brilliant.