This review of Joseph Simonelli's Men Are Dogs at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church (Bay Ridge) was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Men Are Dogs
Written by Joseph Simonelli
Directed by Dawn Barry Hansen
St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church
Aldo Bruschi Auditorium
9511 Fourth Avenue
Bay Ridge, New York 11209
The play features a cynical, unethical middle-aged psychologist, Dr. Monahan, who lives with his mother (a woman who doesn't respect his son's privacy and who secretly listens in on his sessions with patients) and maintains a practice that caters to single, divorced and married men trying to deal with the anger they feel as a result of having been cheated on, lied to, and used by the women in their lives. Dr. Monahan hires unsuspecting women to take part in "role-playing" during the group therapy sessions. These "role-playing" bi-weekly support groups are, in fact, Monahan's twisted version of an exercise to enable the men to therapeutically express their anger, but instead of using pillows or other harmless items, he encourages his "nuts" to physically assault the women during these one-on-one encounters. Those assaults include being slapped in the face, given a black eye, having water poured on her blouse, being kicked in the private parts, and being stomped on after being thrown to the ground. When she complains, Dr. Monahan reminds her she is being paid $60.00 an hour to put up with the vicious beat downs. Most of the women leave after one session but some even return saying they enjoyed getting beaten up. With every slap, every punch, every kick inflicted on these poor young women by the frustrated, angry men, the audience members howl with uncontrollable laughter. It seems they can't get enough of the violence. The more serious the injury, the louder they laugh!
Wait! Wait! I got it wrong. I just checked my program and it appears Dr. Monahan, the relationship psychologist, is a woman (Cecilia) and her patients are also women. Cecilia hires unsuspecting men to take part in the "role playing" and to suffer the extensive physical violence and abuse. (By the way, consent to a crime is not an affirmative defense. All the women who assaulted the men during the role-playing sessions can be sued for battery in Civil Court, and arrested for battery in accordance with the criminal law. Dr. Monahan should lose her license to practice.) I should have known I had the gender element of the story line wrong because while in society today it is still hilarious when women beat up men, it is not that funny when men viciously beat up women. The truth is that no one deserves to be the victim of physical violence under any circumstances, whether you are a man or a woman.
In all fairness to the play, there are other funny lines and situations portrayed that might bring a smile to your face. One woman only dates cops. A second ended up dating a convicted bank robber, who she is considering still seeing because at least she knows where he is at night. Two others have had lesbian encounters. The actor, Tony, seemed open to trying out the "role-playing" job because as he pointed out, "Tony spelled backwards is "Y-Not." Dr. Monahan also reports she co-wrote a book she was going to call "Men Are Dogs" but changed her mind because "that would be unfair to the dogs." One of the other women even wrote a song entitled "Men Are Dogs" whose lyrics are sung to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." Then there are the times when mother and daughter speak explicitly about how they are looking for men with big penises to have sex with. Rose Monahan, who has been married three times, is about to "date" Romano, a man she met in cooking class. She says, "when he took off his apron, I noticed he had a pretty big spatula." Rose's daughter Cecilia prays directly to God to bring her a man with a big penis (not exactly the expected subject matter of requests made to the Supreme Being). Overhearing that line was Bob Crowley, who appears to deliver more than just packages on his route. Bob said Carpe Diem and Rose thought it was French. (It's really Latin and means "Seize The Day.")
The outstanding cast member by far was Jennifer Prezioso, who played Allison Taylor, the girl with "daddy issues," who only dates men whose first name starts with the letter "B". She and her sister opened a hair salon called Hair Apparent but she didn't understand the play on words. Ms. Prezioso was last seen as Nurse MacGregor in the Narrows Community Theater production of South Pacific. She was a bright light in this otherwise mediocre production of a less than interesting play. The remaining actors were merely serviceable in their respective parts and many were miscast. Allison Greaker kept stumbling over her lines in the lead role of Dr. Cecilia Monahan, and the age difference between her and Bob Crowley, weirdly portrayed by James McDermott, made their March-October relationship not only unlikely but off-putting as well. Neither exhibited any sex appeal. I normally don't have problems with age differences in relationships but seeing a matronly, drunken, overweight, middle aged woman throw herself on top of a young man, who could have easily been her son, was not something I enjoyed watching. There were no major problems with the remaining cast members: Christa Comito (Rose Monahan), Greg Mueller (Tony Rumson), Victoria Herva-Castenada (Madeline Weinberg), Ava Cheung (Jane Rudolph), and Michele Manduchi (Loretta Morris). Their biggest misfortune was having been cast in this play in the first place.
Bob brings to the show the insight that as long as men stick to women's expected story lines, conflict can be avoided. What smart men say to women is designed to make them feel good and to tell them what they would like to hear. It isn't reality. Dr. Monahan's secret is that she is as lonely as her patients. Eventually, she puts herself out there one more time by calling a dentist her sister has set her up with. It gets me thinking of one of the last lines in the movie Gone With The Wind. Despite having gone through hell, Vivien Leigh's character Scarlet O'Hara reaffirms her commitment to face the future with optimism. As many of you may recall, that line was, "After all...tomorrow is another day." I guess the point is that despite all the drama in relationships, the up and downs, the obsessions, the jealousy, and the eventual breakup, that it is still worth while putting yourself out there and trying to find someone to make your lonely life a little less miserable. That is a view not shared by everyone. Many would prefer to avoid the "mental illness" often referred to as "romantic love."
Instead of naming the play Men Are Dogs, perhaps Joseph Simonelli should have instead called it We're All Immoral Sex-Crazed Animals (& Deserve What We Get). All of the characters in this show are having sexual intercourse with same-sex and opposite-sex partners whether they are single, divorced or still married. Even elderly Rose goes out on a first "date" with the expectation she will have sex and may stay overnight at Romano's house. Given the subject matter, I was surprised to see this play produced in the auditorium of a Roman Catholic Church. The playwright, Joseph Simonelli, went to St. Patrick's Grammar School (Class of 1971) and Xaverian High School. Men Are Dogs was first produced in 2003 at the First Avenue Playhouse in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.
Narrows Community Theater is an exceptional community theater company. It has a very friendly staff and reasonably priced concession items. Men Are Dogs plays through February 28, 2016. Tickets are available ($20.00 for Adults; $15.00 for Seniors) by calling 718-482-3173 or by e-mailing NCT@NCTTheatre.com. The show is not appropriate for children. If my review piqued your interest, you can obtain more information at: http://narrowscommunitytheater.com/men-are-dogs/