Dog Mouth
Review by Willard Manus


LOS ANGELES-- DOG MOUTH, John Steppling's first play to be performed
locally in ten years, is a stark, quirky but uncompromising look at our
dog-eat-dog world. Set beside a strip of railroad track in two places which resemble each other (the California desert and the outskirts of Phoenix), the play (directed by Steppling) deals with four hoboes: Dog Mouth (Stephen Davies), Nyah (Nia Gwynne), Becker (James Storm) and Weeks (Hugh Dane). Dog Mouth, so named because of his past success in breeding fighting canines, and Becker are ex-Vietnam vets, blasted men with violence and anger leaking out of every pore. Nyah is Dog Mouth's 22-year- old naive but ever-hopeful girlfriend, who is very much with child. Weeks is another dog-handler, the current big man on the pitbull circuit. Dog Mouth would like to challenge him, but he's dying of cancer. Death figures strongly in this tough, profane and powerful meditation on mortality. Steppling emphasizes language over story; aria over dialogue, but he knows how to give his work shape and intensity. He's also well served by his actors, whose fine-meshed ensemble work provides glimpses of the humanity that even the down- and-out possess.

(At Evidence Room, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A. through Feb. 17. Call (213) 381-7118).