The Little Dog Laughed
This Little Dog Bites

By Geary Danihy

Have you ever wondered what might happen if you threw a ravenous wolverine into a roomful of kittens?
Well, if you have, now's your chance to find out. Simply buy a ticket to The Little Dog Laughed, sit back
and watch the fur fly.
The wolverine in question in this Hartford TheaterWorks' production is a theatrical agent named Diane
(Candy Buckley) who is attempting to negotiate the purchase of an award-winning play so that it can be
turned into a movie vehicle for one of her clients, Mitchell (Chad Allen). The only problem is, Mitchell is
sticking more than his nose out of the closet, having become smitten with Alex (Jeremy Jordan), a call
boy who has a girlfriend, Ellen (Amanda Perez) on the side. As Mitchell becomes more enamored with
Alex the deal begins to sour and Diane must take drastic steps to force everyone to come to their
Buckley owns the stage from the moment she steps into the spotlight, teeth glistening, a plastic smile
locked in place, jaw jutting forward as if she is ready to head chomp anyone in the audience who might
even think of crossing her. Rasping her "H's" as if she is trying to bring up a fur ball, Buckley, a
Movieland Machiavelli, proceeds to tell it like it is, sparing no one's emotions.
Set against this whirlwind with teeth, the rest of the cast must fight for breathing space. Allen and
Jordan handle the growing relationship between the two men with a great deal of subtlety, with Allen
attempting to sort out his feelings and Jordan gradually becoming aware that the movie star is more
than just another John.
There is nudity in Douglas Carter Beane's play, but unlike that in last year's Take Me Out, which often
seemed gratuitous, here it is used quite effectively, no more so than near the end of the first act when
passions rise between Mitchell and Alex and they are about to tumble into bed only to have Diane burst
in on them. It is a scene craftily directed by TheaterWorks' associate artistic director Rob Ruggiero -
the audience can't help but be fixated on the two men as their clothes fall away and they embrace, so
when Diane crashes the party the audience jumps as the two men explode out of each other's arms.
Alex ends up huddled in the corner with his hands over his privates and Mitchell quivers in
clothes-grasping embarrassment as Diane strides about the room, lashing all of the naked flesh with
barbed words.
Making her professional debut, Perez gives a tart yet tender, poised performance as a refugee from
"Screecher," her mother ensconced in Westchester, letting the audience see the wide-eyed innocence
hiding beneath the schoolgirl pseudo-sophistication. Her most engaging moments are her monologues,
which include her introduction of "Screecher," a description of a visit home and her negotiations with
Alex's landlord.
It is, however, Buckley who keeps the evening spinning, for whenever she is on stage sparks fly. She
has an especially good set-piece with Allen as they take a restaurant meeting with the playwright, a
manic moment filled with Hollywood doubletalk, pronoun pontification and sly zingers, and rises to new
manipulative heights in the play's final scenes as she sorts out everyone's emotions and maneuvers
each character into accepting the role she wishes them to play.
Some may find Buckley's performance a bit over the top, for she is never in anything less than
high-gear, but she is playing a creature who is always "on," a succubus who lives for the deal and will
not let anyone or anything stand in her way. The frightening thing is, her performance might actually
seem low-key to those who have ever had the good or bad fortune to deal with a La-La-Land barracuda.
Whatever your feelings, I guarantee you won't soon forget Buckley's Diane. She may even be featured in
some of your nightmares.

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