Given the rampant loneliness in our culture, it only made sense that Norma (Beth Thompson) would become a professional cuddler. When he gets lonely, Norm (Tom Mounsey) likes to dance in his underwear, with ribbon, to 1980s Whitney Houston songs. (Something to behold!) When Norma finds a lost Dog (Clifton Holznagel), she naturally brings it home.
Dominic Finocchiaro‘s 2017 play The Found Dog Ribbon Dance, onstage at CoHo Productions, is directed by Connery MacRae and co-produced by MacRae, Tom Mounsey, and CoHo. It is centered around the above three characters, not the least of whom is Dog, who over a short time becomes a major component of Norma’s life.
As Norma works with her cuddle clients–Dave (Heath Koerschgen), Harrison (Conor J. Nolan), Xeno (Marty Beaudet), and Tristan (Deborah Jensen)–the audience learns the faces of loneliness and how others deal with it in the real world. Norma’s relationship with Dog grows, even as she tries to find his owner.
And then, because of Dog, Norma meets Norm. Something shifts.
Loneliness is awkward, often desperate. Being with someone else, particularly when non-professional touching is involved, has its downsides too.
Dominic Finocchiaro has called his play “a meditation on loneliness”. “It is a loneliness we inhabit every day,” says director MacRae. “We bear witness on our glowing screens to constant newsfeed tragedies, tightly curated happiness, and rabid comment sections. And we do it alone…[the play] shows us paths we might take to cross those divides and find new ways to connect with one another.”
This is a beautiful, nuanced play, performed by a talented cast with excellent direction. It bears witness to Finocchiaro’s growth as a playwright.
The creative team includes Julia Wells, stage manager; Alex Meyer, scenic design; Erin MacGillivray, costume design; Jennifer Lin, lighting design; Cameron McFee, sound design; Molly Gardner, technical director; and Sam Dinkowitz, violence/intimacy coordinator.
The Found Dog Ribbon Dance runs through March 7 at CoHo Productions, 2257 NW Raleigh St., Portland.