NEW YORK — FOUR DOGS AND A BONE Play by john Patrick Shanley. At the Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center.
It's inevitable. Every playwright who hits it big and journeys to Hollywood writes his moviemaking play. From Kaufman and Hart's ``Once in a Lifetime'' to David Mamet's ``Speed-the-Plow,'' writers have been taking their revenge on Tinseltown. In the new ``Four Dogs and a Bone,'' John Patrick Shanley has his turn.
Shanley, who first made his mark Off-Broadway with such plays as ``Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,'' has had a movie career ranging from successes like ``Moonstruck'' to failures like ``Joe Versus the Volcano.'' While this latest work, which he also directed, adds up to little more than a series of sketches, they do contain some of the sharpest writing and funniest performances to be seen on a New York stage these days.
The setting is New York, on location for a film whose budget has spun out of control.``Four Dogs and a Bone'' gives us encounters between Bradley, the producer (played by Tony Roberts); Brenda, a young actress desperately scheming to beef up her part (Mary-Louise Parker); Collette, the lead actress aware of Brenda's maneuverings (Polly Draper); and Victor, the scriptwriter of the film (Loren Dean), who doesn't let a little thing like his mother's death interfere with his plans to replace the director.
Each of the characters has an issue: Victor, who wrote the screenplay, won't cut a line from it unless he has to; Brenda, in a bid for sympathy, tells everyone she has been ``incested''; and Collette, who wears skin-tight outfits that would make Madonna blush, thinks she's playing the ``ingenue.''
Shanley, who describes the action as taking place ``not long enough ago'' and ``not far enough away,'' has channeled his bitterness about the film business into a frequently hilarious evening. While lacking in structure and broad to the point of buffoonery, ``Four Dogs and a Bone'' proves that theatrical success is the best revenge.