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Theatre Review: Bark! and Anastasia Krupnik

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, January 24, 2013

Consider the titles of these two shows. "Anastasia Krupnik" at the B Street sounds like it might be an epic Russian novel by Tolstoy, while the Sacramento Theater Company's "Bark!" sounds like it could be a performance for kids. 

Actually it's the other way around. "Anastasia Krupnik" is a family show, told from a ten-year-old girl's point of view. But the play deals with real life issues that will resonate with all age groups, like the announcement that a new baby brother is on the way.

Anastasia: You're too old to have a baby.

Mom. I am not. And 30-something is not too old, it's not going to put me in the Guinness Book of World Records. Thirty-something is the prime of life.
Anastasia: It is not. Ten is the prime of life.
Dad: You're both wrong. Forty-five is the prime of life.
Of course, it doesn't stop there.

Anastasia: Well, you're probably wondering w-h-e-r-e you're going to put this baby in this extremely small apartment?

Dad: Actually yes, we have been thinking about that. Do you have any ideas?

Anastasia: Yes, yes I do. It can have my room, because I'm moving out! Excuse me, but I have to go pack!

We've all seen a kid make that kind of grand exit to end an argument - but then we see Anastasia develop a more mature understanding of what her parents are going through. I really appreciated this show's entertaining, perceptive take on changing family dynamics and life's bumpy transitions.

Then there's the unassuming mini-musical on stage at the Sacramento Theatre Company called "Bark!"  It features six adult actors wearing dog collars, backed by a three piece band.  Each number is related through a canine viewpoint, including a song about an aging dog who gets the royal princess treatment:

("But I have blintzes every night, topped with sour cream in every bite, with calories galore… Oy, they couldn't love me more.")

Another scene features by a Labrador Retriever carrying a torch for a famous collie he's only glimpsed on tv:

(King, a Labrador Retriever: "I'm in love! Lassie! Lassie! Lassie!"

Sounds kind of like the ghost of Al Jolson being channeled by pooch.

The actors work extremely hard in this little production. But the novelty of mature performers doing cute doggie mannerisms wore off pretty fast. I could have done without the bit about a Chihuahua wearing Carmen Miranda fruit basket headgear. And the constant jokes about fire hydrants and neutering got old.
This little show gets pretty childish at times, but it's not really intended for kids. "Bark!" has good intentions, and may amuse devoted dog lovers who enjoy lightweight songs. But for general audiences, it's got limited appeal.
The B Street Family Series production of "Anastasia Krupnik" and the Sacramento Theatre Company's production of "Bark!" both continue through Feb 17th.
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