Four Dogs and a Bone, GroundUp Theatre, at Breadline Theatre. Although John Patrick Shanley does a fine job of aping the vacuous Hollywood mind-set, as a critique of the film industry Four Dogs and a Bone comes up short. Compared to the ferocity with which he attacked cinema stock characters and situations in Congo, his screen adaptation of a Michael Crichton story, this piece seems almost tame. And while Shanley has managed to curb some of the pedantic, overly intellectual mind games that characterize most of his works, this one fails to attain any depth in its approach to mindless fluff.

Part of the problem is that the script isn’t vicious enough. There are only four characters, and one of them–Victor, the screenwriter–escapes the proceedings entirely unscathed. Of course, screenwriting happens to be Shanley’s meal ticket. Every play needs a moral center, but the self-protective measures Shanley takes in regard to Victor are too transparent.

At least the young members of the GroundUp Theatre have some fun heightening the script’s more superficial, farcical aspects. Krishna Sallman’s fast-paced staging keeps things taut, and the performances are all solid, especially Sabrina Lloyd’s as the dried-up old stage actress Colette. GroundUp’s production adds color to an otherwise joyless mess, but it can’t disguise the fact that Four Dogs and a Bone is all bark and no bite.

–Nick Green