It’s a homecoming!
A former Bay Ridge resident and playwright is returning to the neighborhood — and to St. Patrick’s, the school he attended — to bring one of his most popular shows to the Narrows Community Theater (NCT).
Joseph Simonelli’s “Men are Dogs” is a romantic comedy, but with several twists. It follows the life of a psychologist with relationship difficulties, her mother, a potential love interest and her female patients.
Simonelli wrote the comedy in 2003, and although he’s written about 18 plays, this one has seemed to resonate with crowds the most as it’s been performed around the country.
“This play gets a lot of laughs. It’s a very humorous story, although you get some seriousness at the end,” said the playwright, who doesn’t like to tell conventional stories. “It’s a comedy about relationships and couples in group therapy. I try not to write typical plots. There’s a twist at the end. I try to throw a few curves to make it more complicated and topical.”
The show made its premiere in New Jersey’s First Avenue Playhouse before several stints Off-Broadway and at theaters around the country.
Although Simonelli loves most of his shows, he has an idea why this one may be special to audiences. “All my shows are like my children, but what makes this show special, as an actor who was in this show a couple of times said, is that it’s like watching an old ‘Honeymooners’ episode. I know what’s coming. I’ve been in the show and I laugh anyway,” Simonelli noted.
The show profiles eight characters, and each of them bring something unique to the table. “The leads and the rest of the ensemble are extremely funny characters,” he said. “Most of your comedy comes from realistic situations. You put people in kind of tragic situations. A lot of these stories are actual events that happened that women told me about and that I put in the story.”
Director Dawn Barry Hansen’s ties to NCT go back to the troupe’s beginning. Her mother was one of the founders of NCT and she’s been a member of NCT since it began in 1971.
“I was in their first show,” she recalled.
As for “Men are Dogs,” Hansen said, “It’s a lot of fun. The cast is having a ball putting it together. You relate to the scenarios that are going on and different things that come out during the therapy sessions.”
Around 30 actors auditioned for the show. “We had very talented people come out so it was difficult to choose, but I’m happy with the cast we have,” Hansen said. “They’re working very hard. And I’m loving the moments with them because they each bring their idiosyncrasies with them so it’s watching them develop into these people and finding themselves with the characters and getting comfortable.”
It was an easy decision for Hansen to get involved once she found out about the story. “I hadn’t even read the script but I thought it would be very interesting to direct a play in the church and area. I’m a St. Patrick’s parishioner. I grew up here,” she said. “So I was interested in directing a play written by someone who also was from St. Pat’s. Then I read the play and I thought it was the funniest thing I’d read.”
In addition, she said, “I could relate to some of those stories in my life.”
Simonelli is looking forward to his return to his old hood.
“It means a lot that it’s my old neighborhood and it’s being played where I went to grammar school,” he said. “It’s fun. I don’t go see my shows a lot but I’ll go see this one. I know it’s a winner.”
“Men are Dogs” premieres at St Patrick’s School, 401 97th Street, on Friday, February 19 at 8 p.m. Shows will take place on Saturday, February 20 and Sunday, February 21 at 2 p.m. The following weekend, performances will be held from Friday, February 26 through Sunday, February 28. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors. For reservations or more information you can call (718) 482-3173. To purchase tickets, visit www.narrowscommunitytheater.com.