A single white wall endures graffiti, advertising, a prophetic message and a hastily designed mural.
Using four interwoven tales, Hatch Arts Collective's new play Walldogs examines the nature of art and artists. It's staged at Artists Image Resource, and the intimate setting allows the raw energy of the stories to shine. Playwright Paul Kruse, director Adil Mansoor and producer Nicole Shero collaborated on this world premiere, the group's second full-length outing as a company. After curtain call, the audience can participate in a live art-making event with artists Saric Feng and Katie Kaplan overseeing a screen-printing and wheat-pasting project designed specifically for Walldogs. Although Pittsburgh already boasts a plethora of theater companies, Hatch Arts Collective offers an interactive, interdisciplinary performance above and beyond the typical theatergoing experience.
But even without the art-marking, Walldogs is a venture worth seeing. Portraying four characters apiece, Mallory Fuccella and Parag S. Gohel carry this two-person show with flair. From a street-savvy property owner to a neurotic nonprofit manager/wannabe novelist, Fuccella excels in capturing the nuances of her varied roles. Likewise, Gohel shifts effortlessly among his diverse characters, including a noncommittal artist who buckles under pressure and a serpentine "walldog" eager to paint his advertisement on the best wall he can find. The simplicity of these tales coupled with the fast-paced yet philosophical dialogue instills the play with an exhilarating combination of humor and poignancy as the characters try — and often fail — to connect with one another.
With its deliberate anachronisms and epic scope, the Biblical episode involving Gohel's King Belshazzar and Fuccella's Daniel seems somewhat uneven against the unpretentious overtures of the rest of the play. But ultimately, the quartet of stories coalesces into a rousing exploration of how one ordinary wall can affect the lives of so many people.
At the close of the brisk, one-hour play, Fuccella portrays an adolescent graffiti artist opposite Gohel's awkward teen. Through their shared confessions at the wall, the two forge an unlikely bond. This sentiment captures the message of Walldogs and the trajectory of Hatch Arts Collective: Nobody said being an artist was easy, but it doesn't have to be isolating either.