by Lynn on January 31, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Heart of a Dog

Part of Next Stage Festival, on demand until February 13, 2022.

Based on the novel, “Heart of a Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Adapted and directed by Mohammad Yaghoubi

Translated by Mahsa Ershadifar and Mohammad Yaghoubi

Lighting designed by David DeGrow

Composer, Farshad Fozooni

Videographer and editor, Peter Riddihough

Cast: Ali Ghorbanian

Melanie Grace

Aida Keykhaii

Neta J. Rose

Yury Ruzhyev

Aylin Oyan Salahshour

Siavash Shabanpour

Adaptor/director/Mohammad Yaghoubi has created an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, “Heart of a Dog”, (written in 1925 but only officially released in 1987) that is set in Russia, but has filled his production with subtle references to his Iranian culture.

The result is fascinating.

In the story a starving dog named Sharik is taken into Professor Preobrazhenski’s household. The Professor enjoys a preferred place in Russian society because of his important work. He also enjoys talking down to hapless civil servants who want him to conform to a more equitable way of sharing space etc. The Professor refuses and shows his considerable influence to get his way.

The Professor also gets an interesting idea to experiment on the dog. He decides to take the pituitary gland from a corpse and put it into the dog, in a sense, beginning the process of making the dog human. Manners, decorum, subtlety are complex issues to teach Sharik. Another difficulty is that the pituitary gland came from a thug-like thief, so Sharik shows those tendencies as he makes his progress as a human.

It’s a play about the proletariat vs. the upper class, class distinction, the inequality of life between the haves and the have nots. When Bulgakov wrote it the book was considered a satire of communism.

Mohammad Yaghoubi has opened up his resultant play to reflect his Iranian background and the constraints that are in place in his native Iran.

First of all, he has cast a woman, (Aida Keyhaii) to play Sharik the dog. This would not have been tolerated in Iran as a woman’s body is a political statement. But Mohammad Yagoubi lives in Canada now and he uses his freedom to make a political statement without fear.

The part of the Professor is cast with non-binary actor (Neta J. Rose) who wears men’s clothes complete with suit and tie. Again Mohammad Yaghoubi uses gender switching to make a statement about the restrictions of gender roles in Iran.

Added to this, when other characters, not in the Professor’s household, enter the apartment, all the male characters except Sharik, wear head coverings, as women would do. Again, Mohammad Yaghoubi is being ironic and bold.

The acting is mainly declarative and broad, but the pointedness of Yaghoubi’s point of view and intention is what makes this adaptation compelling.

Produced by Nowadays Theatre Company for Next Stage Festival.

Runs Until Feb. 13, 2022.

Running time: 90 minutes.

Leave a Comment

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mohammad Yaghoubi February 2, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Thank you for the review and your time.

All the best.


2 Sarah Marchand February 2, 2022 at 7:37 pm

Hello – one of the cast members is misgendered: Neta J. Rose goes by they/them. Can you please update this review with the correct pronouns? Thanks.


3 Lynn February 2, 2022 at 9:43 pm

The review was ‘revised’ to reflect that Neta J. Rose is non-binary. I could not find any indication of preferred pronouns or gender identification in the cast list. Perhaps this might also be adjusted for clarity.
All the best,
Lynn Slotkin