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Spooky Dog

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Reviewed by Leonard Jacobs

Presented by The Horse Trade Theatre Group in association with Maximum Taisponsure at The Kraine Theatre, 85 E. 4th St., NYC. Opened Oct. 13. for an open run.

I'm an unabashed fan of "Spooky Dog and the Teen-Age Gang Mysteries." When the show was still called "Jinkies! The Totally Unauthorized, Partially Improvised Scooby Doo Mysteries Live On Stage," it won the Overall Excellence Award in the 1999 Fringe Festival.

Unfortunately for that production, the thespians behind this cunning spoof of '70s Saturday morning cartoons lacked the legal right to the Scooby Doo name (Ruh-Ro!), so this version is less exact—if more legal—than the previous one. No matter: It's still a hoot and a half, a partially improvised, deliriously amusing parody.

Written by Eric Pliner with Amy Rhodes (with direction by Pliner as well), the plot is a demented tale, taking place at the Creepola County Fair, where the Go-Go Ghost haunts the festivities, and the kids face the daunting task of locating a kidnapped star. Before the show begins, Rhodes (playing Thelma) and J.C. DeVore (playing Scraggly) ask the audience for a series of phrases that help to determine various plot elements later on.

It's fair to say that Rhodes is quickest on her feet. At one point, referring to kidnapped-celebrity-of-the-night Tom Cruise, Rhodes performed a spontaneous stringing together of Cruise's film titles—all in character, all within the context of the show—that was a flawless yet nevertheless entirely improvised tour de force. If that weren't enough, Thelma's ongoing discovery of her latent lesbianism is just one of many plucky undertones in this piece that keeps the mirth moving.

After Thelma, there's Spooky Dog, played by Travis Dean Bellicchi in an all-brown celebration of loopy, food-driven doggyhood. As Tiffany, Kate Hess is airheadedly gorgeous, and Adam Rose, as Ted, looks groovy with that sexy silk scarf around his neck. We all have to agree when Tiffany, cerebrally flatlined if colossally funny, notices how Ted's scarf is "ever so slightly fem." (Remember, it was the '70s.)

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