Room for dessert? Onyx’s lighthearted ‘Four Dogs’ production keeps it light

Dogs of a feather: Hynes and Carvalli keep it light in Four Dogs and a Bone.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Molly O'Donnell

Three and a half stars

Four Dogs and a Bone Through February 8; Friday & Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $20. Onyx Theatre, 702-732-7225.

There’s nothing too complex about John Patrick Shanley’s Four Dogs and a Bone, which is summed up neatly by its title. A producer, a writer and two actors fight over the direction of a film they’re shooting, which is on the verge of failing. And while complexity isn’t everything, the delivery of funny one-liners in the Onyx’s current production of the play is just transfixing enough to lure you out of the comfort of your winter living room.

There are advantages to a less-ambitious production that have to be acknowledged. First and foremost is the return of date night. Previous productions of lengthy works like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? meant you could pretty much kiss the rest of your evening goodbye, but producing director Troy Heard’s plan to diversify the Onyx’s offerings with classes, improv nights and podcasting should bring the theater income that will keep it afloat while giving patrons entertainment that goes down easy. And while Four Dogs’ lone complexity might be that “money isn’t the root or flower of anything,” it’s evident from this production that Heard knows it’s the only thing that keeps a business in business.

In this way, Four Dogs is the perfect play for the newest iteration of the Onyx. The players’ vying energies ironically resolve the central problem of the film’s shrinking budget, with a dialogue rife with punchy insults, the punchiest of which are delivered by Joe Hynes’ producer Bradley and Ginnie Barnson’s diva Collette. Lines like the one describing theater as the “outback of entertainment” get laughs, and Jamie Carvelli’s ingénue Brenda and Cory Benway’s writer Victor are sincerely played.

But the thing that makes this production worth watching is not its cutting-edge dramatic presentation but its lightness and easy pairing with a bite out.

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