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Spotlight on playwright Joe Simonelli and his ‘Men Are Dogs’ comedy


Seven years ago, brash Brooklyn playwright Joe Simonelli talked his long-time girlfriend into taking a trip to Florida.

“I said Lori you wanna go down … let’s take a trip to Florida. We’ll go to Disney and go see a play.”

That play was Men Are Dogs, and it was being produced by Cultural Park Theatre. Simonelli had offered to do a talkback for them.

It went so well that he and Lori decided to make Southwest Florida their home.

By then, Simonelli had published nearly two dozen plays. He was, and continues to be, represented by the late Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart’s agent, Gary DaSilva. Da Silva says that Simonelli is “in good company with his more famous counterparts.”

Simonelli’s body of work ranges from comedies and dramedies to ghost stories and thrillers. He’s even written a full-length musical about internet dating called, which he expects to bring to the stage locally in a season or two. But his flagship play is a relationship comedy that goes by the name Men Are Dogs, which is on stage at Fort Myers Theatre through May 25th.

It’s an ironic turn of phrase. As a breed, dogs are renowned for their loyalty. But when applied to a man, it’s shorthand for a guy who is unfaithful or lacking in morals and integrity.

Simonelli didn’t start out writing a comedy about a player or philanderer. To the contrary, he was working on a story about women bonding with each other and their therapist in a support group for single and married women.

Enter serendipity.

“I didn’t have a title, so at the time I was the resident playwright Atlantic Island in New Jersey, a little theater, and I asked one of the actresses who was often in the plays there, I said, ‘You know I’m working on a play about relationships and I don’t have a title yet.’ She goes … she must have been having a bad day … because she said ‘Why don’t you call it men are dogs!’ So I said, ‘Hey, that’s catchy, I think I will.’ So then it evolved after that.”

The storyline revolves around a therapist by the name of Dr. Cecilia Monahan (played perfectly by Wendi Nicholson). The women she’s counseling are, in a word, zany.

For example, her newest client, Allison, has a weakness for men whose first name begins with the letter “B.” She sums up her experiences in a little ditty (to the melody of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”) that she teaches to the rest of the support group in this scene early in the show.

“Men, men, men are dogs, sad but it is true. You meet ‘em, you date ‘em, you love them, you hate them. What are we to do?”

Dr. Monahan is witty bordering on acerbic, and she uses her formidable training and clinical experience to cajole an out-of-work actor and package delivery man to role play with her clients during their group sessions. But the good doc has a pastel of her own problems, not the least of which is a constant stream of unsolicited advice from her well-meaning, but overbearing live-in mom who eavesdrops on her daughter and her clients through an air-conditioning duct that leads to the laundry room. But if you think you’ve got the ending figured out, guess again.

“A lot of my plays aren’t your typical romantic comedies where you see the plot and it’s a happy ending,” Simonelli explains. “A lot of my plays take turns at the end. And that’s just the way I write. So you expect a little bit of a different ending here, but an empowering ending I think.”

For some, Men Are Dogs will seem like a reunion. Not only did Cultural Park produce the comedy in 2017, so did Island Theater Company on Marco Island. And the Charlotte Players produced it in 2021. Cultural Park and Charlotte Players have produced other Simonellis too, including Wake Me at Midnight, A Ghost in the Meadow and With This Ring.

And Southwest Florida theater-goers are in for even more Simonellis in the near future due Joe’s recent affiliation with Fort Myers Theatre.

“We’ll be doing Where’s There A Will in August, and, uh, January, Old Ringers, which is sort of the follow-up to Men Are Dogs,” Simonelli reports. “And I’m excited that Broadway Palm is going to premiere Half Baked next year for 40 performances. So I’m excited about that. That’s next April.”

Whether you’re a Joe Simonelli newbie or alum, the laughs are non-stop and the comedy timely.

“Funny play, and as I said, you can bring your girls, bring your boyfriends, your husbands. They’re going to laugh just as hard as the women will.”

You can also listen to this segment on WGCU.


  • For remaining play dates, times and cast information, read here.
  • Men Are Dogs was Joe Simonelli’s third play. It premiered in 2003, was published by Baker’s Plays in 2007 and converted to Samuel French, Inc. (now Concord Theatricals) in 2010. Since then, it has been performed by many theaters in the United States and Canada. “It just premiered in England two years ago,” Joe points out. “So we’re over the pond now in the U.K.”
  • Not only did Simonelli write Men Are Dogs, but he co-directed and also appears in the Fort Myers Theatre production in the role of Bob.

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