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'The Biscuit Club' moves in at Bradley's Bed & Biscuit

This hilarious riff on The Breakfast Club gets audiences howling with laughter.

Photo by Howard Schnapps

It's the play you didn't know you needed. Marianne Driscoll's The Biscuit Club takes the basic set-up of classic film The Breakfast Club—a group of individuals from vastly different walks of life are temporarily confined together and end up bonding through telling their stories--and transforms it into the world of a doggie daycare. Though the characters and the situations they find themselves in are of course different from those in the movie, these canines are a perfect fit.

When the caretaker is away, the dogs will play. The show begins in the absence of bed-and-biscuit owner Gus, and the pooches are kicking for a way out of their crates. There's Champ the pretentious Airedale Terrier, Jiggs the military Beagle mix, Sparky the airhead Black Lab puppy, Dolly the pampered Shih Tzu, Whiskey the terrifying Pitbull and Chester, the elderly canine who lives at Bradley's. And each dog both perfectly typifies their breed and is so much more than their stereotype, all in one.

The Biscuit Club has the same languorous, plodding pace of its inspiration film, but is filled with enough humor—both clever observations and delightfully bad puns--to keep things interesting. Each dog has layers of stories to reveal, from tormenting human families to lost celebrity status, and it never feels as though we've run out of new things to learn about them. This play is an hour of insight into the lives and motivations of both dogs and their owners, and no one from champion breeders to evil little girls is spared from the friendly mockery.

So how does a human cast effectively play the roles of a pack of dogs? The actors toe the line between literal and more symbolic representations of their canine characters, playing with chew toys and biscuits while at the same time commenting on each others' outfits and openly using their opposable thumbs. The play obviously requires a greater degree of suspension of disbelief than your average piece of theater, but these performers will have you committing to their tale the second they start rattling around in their crates.

Each actor plays their canine role with conviction and detail, and everyone in the audience will come out of the show with a different favorite dog. John Charles McLaughlin's charmingly confused and hyperactive Sparky is the perfect counterpart to Judy Rosenblatt's worldly-wise Dolly, while Paul Nugent as Champ is so unselfconsciously conceited that it is clear he learned it from his owner. Stephane Duret's intensely loyal and dutiful Jiggs, meanwhile, finds his opponent in hardened fighting Pitbull Whiskey (Bob Jaffe), and the simple, kind old Chester (Jack O'Connell) is the only one who can keep them all from tearing each other apart.

Of course, in addition to the six characters we see onstage, there is a host of offstage characters we only know from the dogs' stories yet can still picture clearly: each dog's family and caretakers, Gus the business owner and even Ben, Chester's predecessor as resident Bradley's Bed & Biscuit dog. Many of the tales are humorous, but the play also deals with hardship, death and tragedy with consideration and grace. Whiskey's tragic past of being rescued from the pound after his beloved owner went to jail, only to be turned into a fighting dog, finally opens the character up to the empathy of the others, while Chester's ode to his adopted big brother Ben is as sweet as it is mournful.

But that doesn't keep us from laughing at more minor misfortunes, from Champ's embarrassing dog show loss to Sparky's recent neutering, each played to full dramatic effect. And although the moment leading up to some of these final revelations, in which the dogs get into Gus's supply of vodka, has disappointingly few other consequences, it does prove that these confined canines have far more in common with the teens of The Breakfast Club than you might have thought.

In a charming little theater that perfectly captures the essence of the B&B, the biscuit club make their home. The Biscuit Club is a delightful experience for every kind of dog lover, and will leave you barking with laughter long after the dogs go home.

The Biscuit Club plays at the cell through April 25.

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