Pictured: A promotional photo for GO, DOG. GO! Photo courtesy of Mesner Puppet Theater.
By Abigail Trabue
I have a very vivid memory of snuggling up in my Mom’s bed with my younger brother and listening to her read P.D. Eastman’s GO, DOG. GO! It’s one of many memories I have of my Mother reading to me as a child, but this particular book was on a whole other level because Mom would voice the dogs, especially the dogs “going around” on the Ferris Wheel. We would laugh, and laugh, and laugh, as each dog was given a personality and an opinion on going around again.
Now, all these years later, I sit in a theater with my own child watching Eastman’s world come alive as Mesner Puppet Theater puts their spin on the classic tale, a spin that is sure to delight the youngest dog fan, and has just enough nostalgia to keep the grown-ups in the room swimming between reality and childhood memories.
Brought to life by puppeteers Amy O’Connor and Zachrey York, and adapted for the stage by Steven Dietz and Allison Gregory with music by Michael Koerner, Mesner’s GO, DOG. GO! fills out Eastman’s story nicely while staying true to the book. O’Connor and York keep the pace moving forward, and alongside Director Erika Baker, the dogs feel alive, have their own individual personalities, and are funny — drawing numerous laughs from the children in the room, and even some genuine hearty ones from the adults as well.
But what really makes this production stand out is the care and creativity put into the puppets and scenery. Mesner uses a style of puppetry where the performers are dressed from head to toe in all black, allowing them to seamlessly blend in with backdrop and give the illusion the puppets are operating on their own. It’s effective, and thanks to the “curtain of light” from designer Kris Kirkwood, York and O’Connor often melt away leaving only the bright colorful world of GO, DOG. GO! on stage. It’s also impressive, especially when you get a chance to see the puppets and the puppeteers up close during the brief post-show talkback.
With a running time of around 45-minutes (the sweet-spot for preschool focused children’s theater) GO, DOG. GO! delights. While it’s not my Mom’s animated bedtime version, it will certainly leave your little one enchanted as big dogs, little dogs, black and white dogs all head for the ultimate dog party.
GO, DOG. GO! runs through July 15th. For more information visit mesnerpuppets.org.