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LA Theater Review

The Dog in the Manger

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Spanish playwright Lope de Vega (1562-1635) claimed to have written 1,500 plays, and it's possible that he did: More than 500 surviving works have been ascribed to him, and scholars suggest that at least 315 are authentic. His work has earned him great note in Spain, but he hasn't made it into the popular modern repertoire. Only his folk play Fuenteovejuna gets an occasional American rendition, so this production offers a rare chance to see the work of a famously prolific but little-known playwright.

The Dog in the Manger refers to Countess Diana (Carmen Molinari), a noble Neapolitan lady who falls in love with her male secretary, Teodoro (Chris Erric Maddox). She's too snobbish to marry a commoner and too much enamored of him to let anyone else have him. The piece plays out rather like one of the lesser Molière comedies, with all the usual accoutrements: love, jealousy, intrigues, disguises, foul plots, foppish suitors, mistaken identities, and even a (supposed) long-lost son. And, of course, it ends happily — except for the characters who get swindled or abandoned along the way.

Director Tiger Reel gives it a broad, robust but heavy-handed production, highly stylized and full of horseplay. Maddox and Molinari provide their share of laughs, with enthusiastic support from a large cast. The richest performance is by Christopher Neiman as the sly and scheming servant Tristan, and Yvonne Fisher lends a touch of genuine passion to the lady-in-waiting who loves Teodoro, only to find that her mistress is her rival. A.J. Diamond and Stephen Nolly are the flamboyant fops, and Karen DeThomas is engagingly perky as a kooky servant.

Designer Bo Crowell provides the handsomely abstract set, lit to advantage by Lloyd Reese, and Alayna Falco's clever and colorful commedia dell'arte costumes have the lightness of touch the production needs.

Presented by and at the MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Feb. 16-Mar. 25. (323) 957-1152. www.themettheatre.com.

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