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HEART OF A DOG, Breadline Theatre Group. Anyone expecting the wit, energy, and style of Frank Galati's adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's 1925 satire for New Crime Productions five years ago (or Wisdom Bridge's more than a dozen years ago) will be cruelly disappointed by this plodding version. Supposedly inspired by Bulgakov's wicked spoof of socialist science and scarcity, Paul Kampf's dogged adaptation displays none of the novel's playfulness or purpose. The novelist's joke--that humans can no more be improved by communist eugenics or a new social order than a dog can lose its dogginess--is labored to death. It's as if Breadline had sent the laughs to a gulag. This adaptation just trudges along, occasionally stumbling over a chuckle that owes everything to its source and nothing to Michael Oswalt's sluggish, aimless staging.

It doesn't help that Kampf employs too few actors. He himself depicts both the dog and the mad scientist who creates the ungrateful backsliding mutt. Sadly, Kampf lacks the range or comic flair for either role, and by attempting both he wastes time in pointless costume changes. Just as bad, Kampf's approach effectively eliminates any showdowns between the monster and its creator.

Whatever energy this staging manages to gather is dissipated by skittish line readings and frequent slow-moving scene changes. What this sorry enterprise needs is a sense of style and humor--the verve to make things matter.

--Lawrence Bommer

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