The complexity of families: Terry and the Dog

A woman poses for a portrait in a back yard.

Maralyn Ryan in Terry and the Dog. Photo credit: Ryan Parker.

They say the third time is the charm. At least Terry Mire hopes it is as he waits for his dog Buddy to come back to life after dying for the third time in Collin Doyle’s latest, Terry and the Dog.

Collin says Terry (played by Robert Benz), a recovering alcoholic in his 60s, is “trying to find meaning because his dog has died for the third time. He tells the stories of the previous times his dog has died and why they happened and when they happened. He also tells a story about his wife, who takes him back after he’s been sober for quite a while. He tells a story about his son who wanted nothing to do with his dad, but eventually forgives him.”

Two of Collin’s previous plays have focused on alcoholism, drawing from both Collin and his father’s experience with the disease, but he had yet to write a play from the other side. Terry and the Dog, Collin says will likely be his last play about alcoholism, drawing from the desire “to write another play about alcoholism, but about recovery and the reconciliation that happens within a family”.

Collin has been writing the play on and off since 2005, punctuated by several public and private readings facilitated by Workshop West Playwright’s Theatre. When Dave Horak and Edmonton Actors Theatre approached Collin to bring the show to life, Collin jumped at the opportunity to work with him. “I really admire Dave Horak as a director – I think he’s incredible. One of the reasons I wanted to work with him was because of Stupid F@#king Bird last year. That play blew me away, I thought it was the best thing I’d seen in years. It was incredible… He gives a permission in the room for actors to explore things.”

A family poses for a picture in a back yard.

Maralyn Ryan, Cole Humeny and Robert Benz in Terry and the Dog. Photo credit: Ryan Parker.

One of those themes that the team has been exploring as part of getting Terry and the Dog on its feet is the question of belief. Collin muses, “What do you believe in and how do you believe in stuff? Terry’s wife says to him, ‘I believe in you’. What does that mean when we believe in someone?… Sometimes that belief is wrong but we still do it. Even when you believe in someone, they still have their faults and they can still fail but we keep coming back to having to have belief.”

Amongst all the darkness though, is Collin’s classic humour – it’s not all doom and gloom and dead dogs. “If you’re going to write a dark play, you need to have some comedy in it to let people into the play before you can go to the dark areas. The comedy comes from Terry and his wife as they come back together as a couple and their conversations. It comes from this weird situation of this dog that keeps coming back to life. There are comedy and sweetness sprinkled throughout. The play is a love story between Terry and his wife and I think that helps before we get to the dark stuff.”

Terry and the Dog plays in the PCL Studio Theatre at the ATB Financial Arts Barns May 9 – 19. Tickets are $16.75 – $22 through Tix on the Square.

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