Let’s say you’re a fan of romcoms, but have exhausted all the options available at the multiplexes, on Netflix, and through whatever other cable or streaming options you have. Consider, then, seeing one live, onstage at the Bickford Theatre in Morris Township, where “A Dog Story” will end its brief run, April 22.
This romcom musical, which ran off-Broadway in 2016 and 2017 and is making its New Jersey premiere at the Bickford, follows the rules of the genre pretty … uh, doggedly. But that kind of goes along with the territory, and “A Dog Story” still winds up feeling somewhat fresh. Gayla D. Morgan’s songs are clever and catchy, and a bit of novelty is added through the invisible dog’s presence in the action; this gives the actors an opportunity to have some fun pretending to cradle him, to be licked on their faces by him, to be tugged while holding him on a leash, and so on.
Roland (Daniel Robert Sullivan) is a young, career-obsessed New York lawyer who is desperate to become a partner at his firm, but believes he won’t be considered for that position unless he gets married. It’s the start of the summer, and a partner is retiring in the fall, so he has to make that happen soon.
He’s going to be spending some time in the Hamptons this summer with his best friend, Guy (Shabazz Green), a crass but confident ladies’ man. Guy suggests that Roland gets a dog, to help him break the ice while attempting to meet women.
“Get a dog/Just take that dog for a walk/Some babe will stop you to talk/About dogs/But that’s just the first step … Or better yet, get a pup/The ladies lap that shit up,” Guy sings.
And so Roland buys a puppy, and names him Cupid. He also hires a no-nonsense trainer, Miranda (Allie Ambriano), to help him get his rambunctious new pet under control.
Voilà! It works. Cupid helps Roland attract the interest of beautiful, successful hedge-fund manager Blair (Clare Fitzgerald), who seems like perfect wife material.
Complications ensue, as you know they will. Roland, after all, has a lot to learn about life: He’s not really interested in romance, or having a deep relationship with anyone. He just wants to use Blair to further his career. And he plans to get rid of Cupid at the end of the summer. Hiss!
Also, Blair seems too good to be true. As in any romcom, flaws inevitably emerge.
Meanwhile, Guy tries to have fun in the Hamptons while Roland remains tethered to work, via his laptop (it’s explained that this odd couple became friends as roommates in college). And what about Miranda? She’s single, too, and though she seems off-puttingly stern at first, as we get to know her, her warm, caring side starts to come through.
Rest assured, everything works out, more or less. The final scene — which has a nice surprise that I won’t ruin for you — is sweet and hopeful and uplifting.
But you’d expect nothing less from the sort of theatrical comfort food that “A Dog Story” clearly aims to be.
“A Dog Story” will be at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum in Morris Township through April 22; visit morrismuseum.org/main-stage-performances.
For a chance to win two tickets to the 8 p.m. April 21 performance, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight April 19 with the word “Dog” in the subject line.