The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour

A theater review by Larry P. Madden dead dog comedy hour

College of Menominee Nation (CMN) and Oneida Arts Board produced another successful community theater production. Written by Thomas King (Cherokee), The Dead Dog Cafe was a radio comedy series that kept Canadians in stitches for four seasons. This production adapted the first three episodes into a stage production in the vein of National Public Radio’s famed Prairie Home Companion, Dec. 6-7. 2017, for theatre. This time, instead of Norwegians from Lake Wobegon, it was Skins from Blossom, Alberta telling their stories.

With Jacob Friendly Bear, played by Andrew Heubel, striving to find meaning and purpose, he lands on the idea of a radio show for First Nations’ people. With cooperation from café proprietor Gracie Heavy Hand, played by Dolly Potts, Friendly Bear secures a grant for his halfcocked attempt at storming the airwaves. Native celebrity Thomas King, played by Joseph Waukechon, is drawn (or forced) into participation with his two friends’ far-fetched scheme to create an informative, entertaining outlet for the far-flung First Nations’ audience.

With segments such as “Aboriginal Decorating Tips,” “Blackout Bingo,” and “Ask Tonto,” along with celebrity interviews of prominent Canadian authors and entertainers, Friendly Bear and Heavy Hand drag straight man King along through their hijinks. By combining live acting, sound effects, and projected imagery the show sucks its audience into some real deep woods humor.

At its core, this was a show of quick laughs and down punchlines. It didn’t have the plot twists or timely issues featured in past CMN productions, but that made it a fun evening where one could just kickback and chuckle at the fast-flying humor. King has a knack for building jokes to fruition, and the cast seemed to truly enjoy their characters’ idiosyncrasies.

It always amazes me how CMN continues to succeed with first time actors who’re recruited by way of enrolling in a production course to fulfill their educational electives. Yet, director Ryan Winn has been doing just that throughout the twenty-six shows he’s produced in Wisconsin’s Indian communities. The impact of using our people to stage stories from our Indian relatives can’t be measured.

This production was staged at Menominee High School for the entire student body during their school day and in the evening for the community. The show then traveled to the Norbert Hill Center auditorium in Oneida, which is always a draw for the theater faithful. This kind of effort to bring the arts to what have historically been deprived areas is a feat not to be ignored or treated lightly.

Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.