by Hugh Hunter
The cheeky title “Men are Dogs” is enough to let you know that you are in for a frolic. Now running at Old Academy Players in East Falls, this fun-loving play by Joe Simonelli, long on naughty jokes and physical humor, keeps you in a happy mood.
The set-up: Young women meet at the home of Cecelia Monahan. She is a psychologist who conducts role play therapy to help women resolve love agonies. But what Cecelia leaves off the table is her own field of pain, the big empty place in her life that followed the death of her husband.
In the first act, Cecelia is comically disjointed, chirpy and busy as she arranges her sessions. She recruits Tony (Christopher Wunder), a bartender and part-time actor, to play the man in her evening role play therapy. “Men are Dogs” gets off to a roaring start as the girls make hilarious, short work of him.
After Tony gets a big dose of “tough love,” Cecelia recruits deliveryman Bob (Norm Burnosky) to do the role-play. Bob takes a different approach. He brings out the women’s party-animal side by playing on their fantasies and telling them what they want to hear. (Perhaps Bob read Trump’s “The Art of the Deal”)
Directed by Terri Bateman, this is the kind of play where you know the cast had a great time, even during rehearsal. The set design could use a touch-up, basically a horizontal line of furniture that divides the stage in two. But Bateman’s pace is lively, and humor in the hands of these actors always commands your attention.
The “role play” event gives Cecelia’s “patients” the chance to showcase their absurd, romantic misadventures. Bodacious Allison (Leah Lawler) is a born party girl who butts in every time she gets the chance. Jane’s (Marisa Block) last boyfriend was a bank robber, and she simmers with understated erotic tension.
Loretta (Natalie Bonacci) has an unrequited passion for policemen. Madeline (Tiffany Brink) is an editor who is always propositioned by writers who want to get their manuscripts published. They both take out their anger on hapless Tony.
Michele Scutti shines as Cecelia. Her nosy, live-in mother (Chris Cutrufello) badgers her to get in the mix and start dating again. She is especially funny when she finally does go to a party and comes home happy in silly, giggly way.
To the extent that the play has a serious side, it would involve Cecelia’s growing self-awareness. But “Men are Dogs” is mostly a romp. Even the girls who are mad leap at the chance to party down, and it took an entire play for Cecelia to figure out she was unhappy and needed to change.
Old Academy Players is located at 3540-44 Indian Queen Lane. “Men are Dogs” will run through May 7. Reservations at 215-843-1109.