Disturbing vision of the state of theater and humanity in ‘Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel’ Off-Broadway at SoHo Playhouse

As part of the fifteenth season of its International Fringe Encore Series, SoHo Playhouse is presenting a limited nine-performance engagement of Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel, an award-winning solo show from the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, written and performed by British playwright and experimental theater-maker Tim Crouch, whose work has also been seen regularly, and lauded, in NYC.

Tim Crouch. Photo by Stuart Armitt.

Directed by Karl Janes and Andy Smith, Crouch offers distressing insights into the state of theater and the world by interweaving his descriptions of a metaverse performance of the universal tragedy of King Lear and the audience in attendance, critical observations on the encroachment of virtual reality on our lives and culture, and the darkest and dirtiest of stand-up comedy routines, including his updated take on the tasteless tradition (since the Vaudevillian era) of “The Aristocrats” joke. It all packs a powerful punch, while propounding that theater, as we’ve known it, really is dead, and implying that he, in the role of the wise Fool – who chooses to leave the drama – may be metaphorically whipped like a dog for speaking the truth, as referenced in the show’s title (a quote from his Shakespearean character).

Crouch, dressed in casual everyday attire in understated neutral tones, presents a tour-de-force delivery of his brilliantly conceived message, while moving around the bare stage, wearing and removing a VR headset, reading the house, pointing directly at the viewers, offering out-of-character asides, and taking to the mic for his interspersed stand-up bits, all of which trigger our imaginations and immerse us in his very visual or sometimes evasive (“you know”) language.

Tim Crouch. Photo by Stuart Armitt.

Speaking softly at first, he assumes the increasing emotion and horror at the divisiveness, intolerance, and violence he sees, from the gravitas of Shakespeare in his eloquent recounting of the virtual performance he watches (and from which he has removed himself, because, he’s “a Fool, not a fucking idiot”), to the socio-political realities of today, to the frustration he feels with contemporary theater and the current trend of digital experiences, exacerbated by the long pandemic shutdown of in-person performances before a live audience (which has drastically reduced attendance and continues to threaten the survival of shows, and the future of the industry at large), in his direct-address commentary.

The distressing content (with Brian Ferguson and Adura Onashile credited as creative associates) is supported by Pippa Murphy’s jarring electronic music and sound design, and lighting by Laura Hawkins, which keeps the house fully illuminated so Crouch, and we, can perceive it all clearly, until the final blackout comes. Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel is an innovative and engrossing wake-up call by a compelling and insightful artist that should be seen and must be heeded.

Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes, without intermission.

Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel plays through Sunday, January 8, 2023, at SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $40.75-50.75, including fees), call the box office at (212) 691-1555, or go online. Masks are no longer required but are recommended.