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Nobody knows he’s a dog, except the audience

“The theater world is a subculture,” says William Wolf, technical director and scene designer for The Colonial Players.

This month, TCP, which Wolf and his artistic director wife Sharon helped found in 1984, takes a look at another subculture by way of “Nobody Knows I’m a Dog,” a two-act comedy and the debut of playwright and Parkside Theater Group thespian Alan David Perkins.

Inspired by a New Yorker magazine cartoon depicting a dog surfing the ’Net on his master’s computer with the caption “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” the story explores the lives of six dysfunctional hackers. The comedy is set simultaneously at six home desks where its subjects have retreated from a world that seems to hold no place for their idiosyncratic personalities. The edges of each character’s stage, bedroom or home office blurs into the next, as eventually do the defensive strategies of each into one lonely subterfuge.

Hiding behind his proprietary screen name, “The Cheese” (Peter Bohlman) scoffs at the stupidity of members of his newsgroup as his at-home marriage erodes. He coaxes the insecure and self-effacing Cutiepie (Caroline Bonacci) — whose looks do everything except live up to her screen name — into a date. Sixteen-year-old Plato (Jason Zwick) communicates in a series of famous quotes drawn from a book in an effort to hide not only his youth, but the fact that he can’t even get along with people his own age. Nadine (Lin Cirelli) is the archetypical bored American housewife who attempts, ironically, to strike up a romance (complete with cyber sex) with Plato.

Horndog (Alain LaForest) is to eternal stud-ness what Nadine is to bored housewifery. He attempts to woo Phyllis (Joel Silverman) who is no woman at all, but a 30-year-old man frustrated by the lack of attention he gets online.

Through a series of chat room and private e-mail confrontations, each character is eventually revealed in truth to the group, and to himself or herself. A surprise infiltrator and grand impostor even surfaces in the end.

“Nobody Knows I’m a Dog” is thoroughly enjoyable. It has several things working for it: an able cast, streamlined dialogue that provides the action and tension needed by a play with no onstage movement, and good direction.

Starr, a veteran Colonial Players director, has coached a talented ensemble in the conversational delivery of rapid-fire dialogue. Her believable actors transport the audience through a maze of frustrated hopes and epiphanies.

Alan David Perkins has taken an honest and even optimistic look at the faceless intimacy forged from behind glowing computer screens across the country. His use of humor helps him avoid a maudlin view of society’s outcast and lonely.

Remaining performances of “Nobody Knows I’m a Dog” are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday Oct. 26 and 27 at the Hollis Woods Community Church, 82nd Avenue and Bell Boulevard. For tickets call 718-740-9400 or online at ColReservation@aol.com — that is if you can pull yourself away from the chat room for a few minutes!

Reach Qguide writer John Thomas by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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