Archive for February, 2020

Review – The Dog Walker – Jermyn Street Theater

February 21, 2020

A neurotic writer asks a dog walker to assist her with the insurmountable task of taking her pet into the outside world. They meet. Romance ensues. Seems like a very logical plot for a play, right? Only in Paul Minx’s The Dog Walker, it is most clear that what we are watching is not a romantic comedy, although it does seem to be teetering on comedy lines. Keri (Victoria Yeates) is a high strung writer who sits in her apartment window shouting abuse (and encouragement) at the people that pass by on the sidewalk below; Herbert Doakes (Andrew Dennis) is a Caribbean immigrant who has been unlucky in love (although he’s quite gifted in the job department as he also works as a custodian). Both of them seem to be very believable and interesting characters.

However, as Doakes reveals himself scene by scene (he’s mostly a figure of comedy in the first act), he begins to seem creepier and creepier. He’s not just a dog walker, or a middle aged man in a strained marriage, he’s a slightly delusional stalkery person with a very poor sense of boundaries. Keri similarly doesn’t have very good boundaries but her offers of alcohol and general hostility don’t seem quite as frightening – she’s ignorable. But for rather a lot of the time after Doakes comes back to Keri’s apartment with her dog’s ashes, I began to expect the play would take a much more sinister turn. In the end, Keri’s offer to marry simply for health insurance makes an exchange of sex for non-romantic motives seem nearly sensible … but I couldn’t believe she would want to do this given the personal safety issues.

The Dog Walker - Victoria Yeates (Keri) and Andrew Dennis (Herbert) at Jermyn Street Theatre. Credit to Robert Workman

Victoria Yeates and Andrew Dennis. Credit to Robert Workman

The final act of this play treats the earlier issue of the ghost that Keri sees more realistically, grounding it in a personal tragedy so that it becomes more of an element of her personality and life story rather than just the leftovers of an accident she saw through her window. And yet, despite the fact that this revelation should have generated a lot my sympathy for her, I found myself just not finding the truth in her story. Losing a child is actually the kind of thing that draws a much more solid line through a person’s life, and the depression she was experiencing in the first act could in no way be seen as actually being caused by grieving. I just didn’t buy it. It felt tacked on.

Although the characters they inhabited seemed drawn with rough edges, I found both Yeates and Dennis very watchable. She seemed perfectly the high strung writer who wasn’t coping with real life very well; he was a compelling man with richer layers underneath the persona of “comedy relief dog walker.” But ultimately the relationship that developed between them was not one I was able to swallow. Minx says in the program that he paused this play for some time; I feel it would benefit from more time to find itself and its story still.