“Sheepdog” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – March 13, 2022



Stray Cat Theatre, Studio Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts, Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio

Theater Critic

As local theatergoers have come to expect, Stray Cat Theatre delivers a stellar and exemplary Arizona premiere production of Kevin Artigue’s, “Sheepdog,” that hits hard and revealingly at many of today’s prime relationship issues.

It focuses on Amina, a Black police officer and her budding relationship with fellow White officer, Ryan, who kills a Black man.  Is the murder accidental or even justified?  Ryan sees the man pull something from his jacket that he thinks is a knife, but is it?  The play discusses just what he saw and how it impacts the two officers’ tenuous bond.  It explores the need for complete truth between individuals.

All the expected issues surface and the characters differing reactions to the potential incident show how things that seem clear and upfront to one person can be seen very differently by another person with a different perspective and after learning more about a changing situation.

Under Louis Farber’s tight and revealing staging, the play is exquisitely performed by Shonda Royall as Amina and Devon Mahon as Ryan.  Royall’s part is larger and more decisive as she expresses doubt and struggles to reconcile Ryan’s dramatic action.

Royall is on stage the entire play and lets her reactions fluctuate and modulate as Ryan’s story grows more dramatic and less tenable.  It’s a performance that reveals the recently transplanted Chicago actor to be a performer of great depth who constructs her character subtly so her evolution over the situation changes mindfully suggesting Ryan’s action to be less appropriate after what he initially claims evolves as more details are produced.

Devon Mahon does well as he attempts to justify the more obvious and biased Ryan.  The pair play off each other with gripping sincerity making the play fully believable as it probes the difficulties of racial partnerships.

The play presents its thought-provoking conclusions in a tight 90-minute journey that exposes these unions with depth and perspective.  “Sheepdog” leaves audiences with a better understanding of the struggles of racially diverse relationships.  “Sheepdog” continues through March 26.  For tickets, call the Tempe Center for the Arts box office at 480-350-2822 or order online at straycattheatre.org.

Grade: A