by Hugh Hunter
I found myself sporting a silly grin all night as I watched “Spooky Dog and the Teenage Gang Mysteries,” now running at Allens Lane Theater. Directed by Travis Whitaker, it is a fast-paced, one-hour show that spoofs the Saturday morning cartoon genre.
In particular, it is a take-off on Scooby-Doo, which has a dog and his teenage friends resolving spooky mysteries. The core plot usually involves the defrocking of a ghost who turns out to be a known, real-life villain.
That is the set-up here. The mystery involves the kidnapping of Johnny Depp and a ghost who menaces the Creepola County Fair. But why Johnny Depp, you may ask?
Well, that was our contribution. You see, at the outset the audience is asked to name a celebrity, submit an object and name one thing the cast had to do. (Our answers: “Johnny Depp,” “a monkey puppet sock” and “always wipe.”) The result of this gambit is that every show is different, as the responses get buried into the story line and the actors play around with new possibilities.
Jessica Snow is comically canine as Spooky Dog. She teams with hippie sidekick, Scraggly (Vegas Lancaster), and the munchies they enjoy seem spiked with special ingredients. A lot of the time Tiffany (Ian Morrison) draws our attention, a statuesque woman full of bodacious curves and double entendres. (Morrison is a veteran female impersonator and City Paper’s ‘Miss August” this year.)
Rounding out the gang are Ted (Matt Dell’Olio) and Thelma (Rachel Sydney), who are often more concerned with getting their hands on Tiffany than in solving the mystery that seems to swirl around Mr. and Mrs. Woodhaven (Jimmy Clark/Cynthia Angst).
“Spooky Dog” uses sound effects to delightfully mimic the Saturday morning cartoon experience, with canned laughter and freezes in the action for advertisement ditties (sound design, Chris Reimels). Public service songs urge us kiddies to be good. (Even Hooty Owl is encouraged to respect the environment and not be a “dirty bird.”)
“Spooky Dog” is just a lot of fun to watch. Scene-stealing flows naturally in this show, as when Rachel Sydney in the role of in-the-closet Thelma is trapped in a cellar and Thelma muses about her plight to the audience. Characters are funny to look at, in part because of costume design (Maggie Baker) and the chaos of their cartoon/slapstick stage movement (choreographer, Jeanine Klassenn).
Written by Eric Pliner and Amy Rhodes, “Spooky Dog” is goodhearted and engaging, even as it seems to insinuate that we are all really a bunch of simpletons.
Allens Lane is located at Allens Lane near McCallum. “Spooky Dog and the Teenage Gang Mysteries” will run through Oct. 15. Reservations at 215-248-0546. You’re allowed to bring food and drink to enjoy before the show.