The Dog, by Brendan Cowell & The Cat, by Lally Katz | Directed by Ralph Myers

Belvoir | Belvoir Downstairs Theatre, Surry Hills, Sydney | Until 9 August

With The Dog/The Cat, two quite distinct but thematically linked plays form a charming double bill. If the thought of rom-com puts you off, think again. This might be funny, light-hearted stuff, but it is also clever, poignant and sharp.

Brendan Cowell’s The Dog sees two sparring housemates Ben (Xavier Samuel) and Marcus (Benedict Hardie) vying for the attention of university lecturer Miracle (Andrea Demetriades) while their shared dog, Jerry Seinfeld, vies for the attention of Miracle’s dog Lola.

From the moment Samuel deadpans a “fetch” game with an offstage dog, I was hooked. The chemistry between Samuel, Hardie and Demetriades in both plays sizzles, there are many laughs and — this sounds a bit bizarre — it felt like there was a shared camaraderie between actors and audience.

Perhaps the latter could be due to the universal relatability of love, but I suspect it’s just as much to do with the role pets play in so many of our lives. Starting a conversation with a stranger, especially an attractive one, is a pretty daunting thing: add a dog into the mix, and things run so much more smoothly.

In most cases, that is. Cowell wouldn’t let it be that easy …

After interval, Lally Katz’s The Cat thrums with her signature quirky style. Divorce is tough, even tougher if kids are involved. Katz shows that shared custody of a cat comes with its own challenges too. While Alex (Demetriades) and Albert (Hardie) navigate separation, their cat (Samuel) navigates life between two houses, new respective partners, and a burgeoning rap-music career.

You read that right. This is Katz, after all.

The plays run around 40 minutes each, but that is enough time for both of the multi-talented playwrights to develop engaging trajectories that would stand well individually. Run together, connected by love, pets and capoeira, The Dog/The Cat complement each other beautifully.

Ralph Myers seems pretty much besotted by the plays too. It shows through in his steady and gentle direction and minimalist design, allowing three wonderful actors to bring this sparkling writing to life.

If you’ve ever loved; if you’ve ever pulled two humping dogs apart; if you’ve been on the receiving end of a feline death stare; if you enjoy great theatre: don’t miss this.

Images: Brett Boardman.