Two of the Twin Cities’ more interesting small theaters – Workhouse and Hardcover – team up for “Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children,” and their combined efforts make for an entertaining evening. Adapted from a trio of graphic short novels by Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman, the stories take an off-kilter view of the world where lemmings have proms, death makes an unexpected – and rather dull – visit, and the secret lives of dogs become clear.
The last of these – “I Am Paul’s Dog” – is the best. In it, Buster (Workhouse artistic director Jeff Redman) goes through the confusing life he has with his owner, Paul, and the other neighborhood creatures. Instead of being overly cute, the story, also adapted by Redman, puts a dog’s life into human terms without losing any of the essential canine-ness – be it eating garbage or chasing the mailman.
The opening segment, “Beneath the Useless Universe,” also has its moments, especially in the portrayal of death as a bored functionary who has no more answers about life than the souls she ushers to their ultimate reward. The only weakness is the finale, “By the Light of the Screaming Moon”; it has good performances from all four actors in the show, but is undermined by a weak ending.