A boy and his dog is one of the most enduring narrative tropes in popular literature, and for good reason. We tend to view our canine companions as embodiments of courage, loyalty and friendship.
Jack London, Fred Gibson, Harlan Ellison and many other novelists have produced classic stories about the bond between humans and dogs. But those are fables. Sometimes we can encounter heroic dogs in the real world.
Logan Black probably understands this narrative better than most. That, at least, is a logical conclusion after viewing his one-man show at the Kansas City Fringe Festival. Black, an actor and a veteran of the war in Iraq, wrote and performed “Bond: A Soldier and His Dog,” which I caught at its final performance Saturday afternoon. It’s an autobiographical account of his service in Iraq with an exceptional yellow lab named Diego. Together they sought out hidden bombs and munitions and survived to be reunited after Black left the Army.
To call it an affecting story is an understatement. Black describes his training with Diego and gives examples of Diego’s keen intelligence. He offers an account of their tours of duty in war zones, harrowing near-death experiences and the moral consequences of war, in which innocents can sometimes be mistaken for bad guys. The show is realistic to the extent that Black wears an authentic uniform and equipment, but he’s the only actor on stage and through his skill allows us to see the various backdrops in which he and Diego served — from beautiful river vistas to bombed-out villages with people living in abject poverty.
It’s also a story of healing. The war took a toll on both Black and his dog, and both reacted in different ways. But together, he suggests, they’ve been able to address lingering invisible wounds. The performance concluded with an appearance by Black’s fellow veteran, and it was instantly clear that Diego has mastered the ability to do something all actors dream of — to win over a crowd by doing virtually nothing. Logan took a few questions at the end of the performance, after which many in the audience — including yours truly — stepped up to the stage to meet a most remarkable dog. He gladly accepted pats from his new fans and sniffed a theater critic’s toes.
I hope Black can revive this piece at some point down the line. It’s a strong show.
To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.