The Winners and the Floras both have turned their love of dogs into full-time professions. Michael and Ellen Winner of course own Barkwells; and you (or at least your dog) may recognize the name Three Dog Bakery, which is Tom and Joy Flora’s strictly-canine confection shop whose treats often make their way into Barkwells’ cabins. It was no surprise then, when they wanted to support Asheville Community Theatre’s production of Bark! The Musical. The two couples recently went to see their patronage in action, followed by one of the best dinners in Asheville at Strada on Biltmore Ave. One word: DUCK! (Not as in “look out below!” ; as in “most delicious meal in the history of fowl entrees.”)
And the play was really great, too!
Six pups packed with personality (and powerful vocal cords) tumble into the playground at Deena’s Doggy Daycare. They introduce themselves as a bichon frise who sings opera with her two dads in their high-end apartment. A young Jack Russell who lives to love and is trying to find his voice as his comrades teach him to bark. A compassionate and stunningly talented cocker spaniel with an obsessive sock complex. A chocolate lab who’s getting on in years and reminiscing about the unrequited loves of his younger days. A sassy pug who tells it like it is and holds nothing back. And lastly, a mangy mutt with a ‘tude, tethered to the tribulations of the real world and dreaming of big meadows and endless butts to sniff.
I know what you’re thinking, but this play is so much more than The Breakfast Club, doggie style. The talent crammed into a local all-volunteer theatre production in this town is absolutely remarkable. The bichon frise has performed with the local opera company, and the performers crooned and howled with the precision and range of any professional cast. For two hours, the actors-turned-canine tussle with the daily ordeals of being a dog, and enlighten us as to what the world looks like from their black and white perspectives. Looking us right in the eye, Sassy Pug explains, “The only reason I get into the garbage is because your food is better than mine!” The Jack Russell offers up a ditty about the joys of finding the ideal place to pee (which, in case you’re wondering, is a tire if you’re lucky enough to find one, a hydrant no matter how cliché, and the cat). As the three ladies put it: “Life’s a bitch and so am I.”
Their problems of wearing the dreaded cone or facing the day their human goes off to college without them are illuminated in song, dance and playful banter. In one absolutely hilarious number, King, the chocolate lab, wakes up to find that he’s missing a key ingredient of his physiological masculinity. Rather than feeling despondent, King discovers that he’s been saved from the evils of “Satan’s dice”: “Brothers and sisters – when life’s got you by the balls, snip them off!” He preaches from the top of the doghouse to his puppy parishioners about the perks of life as a Castration convert.
Above all, Bark! serves to remind the audience of the simple joys in life – laughter, unconditional love, honesty, and living in the moment. Barkwells was delighted to be one of the many dog-friendly businesses around Asheville to sponsor such a fun production. The theatre exhibited canine organization information and local dog artwork, including the smiles of a photo competition to find the face of Asheville’s Bark! Forty-three pups were entered, and the proceeds were split among three puppy lovin’ non-profits: The Animal Compassion Network, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue and The Asheville Humane Society. This was the first time that the three organizations have collaborated on a large undertaking like this competition.
The play runs through March 10th at the Asheville Community Theatre in downtown Asheville, and makes for a delightful evening out for lovers of dogs and theatre alike.