Double bills are, for whatever reason, not always all-that-popular. Possibly because it's frequently the case that one half of the evening vastly supersedes the other, that you feel like you're getting theatrical snacks rather than a full meal, or that the two plays are great individually but just don't taste right together.
Such is not the case with "The Dog/The Cat", possibly because both were written with the express purpose of being companion pieces. WHile they both have different characters and different concerns, they are both clearly contemporary Australian plays perfectly suited to the three actors performing them. They are also perfect expressions of their individual writer's skills. Brendan Cowell kicks the evening off with "The Dog", which tells of two guys who share ownership of the same dog but who otherwise wildly contrast (one a writer with a disastrous work and personal life, one a phone-app entrepreneur who's super-slick) and the woman that both meet in the same park while walking the dog. Cowell is a master at expressing Australian masculinity in writing, and these two guys are vivid creations. The woman between them is also a pretty solid creation. It's been way too long since Cowell's written a full-length mainstage play (three years since "The Sublime" at MTC), and I'm not entirely sure why.
Lally Katz has the other half of the night with "The Cat", a somewhat more whimsical piece about a divorcing couple who decide to share custody of the cat. This goes some truly eccentric places (starting with the cat being represented onstage by an actor and progressing from there) and lets Katz express her oddball view of modern life and dating in a fast-moving set of scenes that produce regular giggles.
The trio of performers get to show off a wide range of skills - Xavier Samuel engages our heart as the sad-sack Ben and produces regular giggles as the moody cat, Sheridan Harbridge is effortlessly cool as Miracle, equally uncool as ex-wife Alex and goofily airheaded as girlfriend Sophie, while Benedict Hardie locks in as the dapper Marcus, the nerdy Albert and the super-physical Jeff. This is a two-years-later remounting of a production originally directed by Ralph Williams, with Anthea Williams doing the remounting for the upstairs space, and however the combination works, this feels suitably effortless.
Entertainment that feels this freewheeling and easygoing is damn hard work, and I'm deeply appreciative that Belvoir's brought this back for a bigger audience to catch.