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Dogs By Seven, Dolphinback Theatre Company, at A Red Orchid Theatre. When a biker-playwright confesses to being a Sam Shepard wannabe, we can guess the consequences when his girlfriend takes him home to meet her family. Sure enough, the volatile Boyle patriarch is in withdrawal from a compulsive gambling habit and finds solace in homemade smoothies--weaknesses resented by his adolescent son, who becomes vulnerable to the mystique of the laconic visitor.

Steve Hughes's parody starts off intelligently enough, deftly combining mythical motifs and a pack of grotesques with short attention spans. But when a winged messenger named Herma arrives, the analogies begin to unravel into facile silliness, and they finish in a climax as weary as its marathon-running dea ex machina. But the Dolphinback ensemble, under the direction of Matt Wallace, keeps the comedy rooted in the characters' personalities, never allowing the play's extravagant emotions to fragment into scattershot shrillness--though Calvin Haines's King Boyle comes perilously close. Counteracting this flaw is tag-team work by Robert Kauzlaric as the sullen Jack Boyle ("He named us after cards!" says this would-be rebel of himself and his sister, Ace) and John Pieza as the enigmatic Harley Davidson Man. In the end, this production generates sufficient cartoonish charm to make for an amusing 90 minutes.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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