It starts with an eviction notice. Dorotea (Gabriela Medina-Toledo) and her dog, Toto (Samuel Regueros), discover that the owner of their apartment building in Chelsea is selling, and they’re about to lose their home.
“¿Qué vamos a hacer? Tia EmI and Tio Henry have been living here ever since coming to Boston,” protests Dorotea. “No quiero ver sus vidas echa pedazos. Plus, I work across the street.”
“It’s a Dunkin’ Donuts . . . in Massachusetts,” Toto retorts dryly, “You’ll find another one.”
Shortly after, a storm hits, and they’re swept into Oz.
In Apollinaire Theatre Company and Teatro Chelsea’s “And Your Little Dog Too!/Y Tu Perrito También,” a bilingual, modern-day retelling of “The Wizard of Oz,” the audience literally follows Dorotea, Toto, Scarecrow (Ethan Williams), Tinwoman (Alondra Pérez), and Lion (Alan Kuang) on their journey through Oz to find their way home. Audiences are on their feet for much of the 90-minute show, following actors from set to set in Chelsea Square.
You’re not just watching a play, you’re a part of it. The audience helps to provide some storm sound effects to help transport Dorotea and Toto to Oz (“woooosh”), and they’re along for the journey from Chelsea to Munchkinland (a community of retirees played by an ensemble of children), to see the Wizard.
People who use mobility aids and wheelchairs may find it difficult to navigate to each of the staging locations because of the curbs and brick-laid portions of the square. But it’s an ambitious concept, and good news for kids who are able to weave their way to the front of the crowd. The audience mingles and changes vantage points in between most scenes, so there’s no best seat in the house; you’re going to see some things and miss others.
The real heroes of the show are the ensemble who go through multiple costume changes, physically pick up Dorotea and Toto to whisk them away to Oz, and embody a troupe of (overworked and probably about to unionize) flying monkeys under the Wicked Witch’s dominion. (The pre-show contains a hilarious burlesque from flying monkeys set to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.”)
As for the bilingual structure of the play, most of the major plot points are voiced in English, and the balance between the two languages doesn’t feel quite right. Some of the actors are not fluent Spanish speakers, and their delivery suffers in the Spanish portions of their lines, which never quite feel organic.
The play, directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques, does offer interesting commentary on gentrification, and the problems that Scarecrow, Tinwoman, and Lion seek the Wizard’s help with are familiar and delightfully satiric. Scarecrow is an anti-vaxxer who believes in “K-anon,” Tinwoman wants to turn back time to fix things with a former flame, and the Lion wants to come out of the closet and be his authentic (vegetarian) self.
To quote the script, Dorotea’s adventure “was weird and cool and scary and funny and sometimes oddly political,” but something is lost in translation if you’re not intimately familiar with the plot of “The Wizard of Oz” or willing to piece together the parts that you’re missing if you don’t speak both Spanish and English.
Still, for those along for the journey, “And Your Little Dog Too!” is a joyful celebration that makes the most with minimal sets and special effects. The magic of the play is love that clearly went into putting it together.
After all, “no hay lugar como Chelsea” — there’s no place like Chelsea.
AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO!/Y TU PERRITO TAMBIÉN
Play by Brooks Reeves. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company and Teatro Chelsea. At Chelsea Square (meet outside Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St.). Through Aug. 20. Free. 617-329-5350, apollinairetheatre.com
Serena Puang was a Globe intern in 2022. Follow her on Twitter @SerenaPuang.