The Little Dog Laughed

by Tom Holehan

Taking potshots at Hollywood and its superficial denizens is as close to shooting fish in a barrel as a
writer could hope for and playwright Douglas Carter Beane proves it by having a ball sending up the film
and theatre world in his newest play, "The Little Dog Laughed". This adult comedy is currently on stage
at TheaterWorks in Hartford and, yes, you will laugh.
Big-time agent Diane (Candy Buckley) represents up and coming Hollywood hunk and closeted gay
actor Mitchell (Chad Allen). (Any resemblance to a certain Scientology-loving superstar is purely
intentional.) Diane and her client are in New York to look at a hot new play that just happens to have a
gay role that is perfect for Mitchell. Diane wants to buy the property as a film project for her star just as
Mitchell has suddenly fallen for Alex (Jeremy Jordan), a hustler he recently hired for entertainment.
While Diane is anxious to keep Mitchell's secret life firmly under wraps, the actor begins to seriously
reconsider if the closet is a place he wants to remain. Add in the complication of Alex's some-time
girlfriend, Ellen (Amanda Perez), and you have the ingredients for a modern satire rich in snappy
rejoinders, malicious gossip and juicy innuendo.
Beane's comedy probably plays best to audiences who make a point to watch "Entertainment Tonight",
read Daily Variety and, in general, keep up with all things Hollywood. There are plenty of in-jokes
sprinkled throughout "The Little Dog Laughed" and the comedy, itself, takes a few scenes before it
really gets cooking. The role of Diane dominates the production and in Ms. Buckley it has a game
player even though the actress tends to push and over-articulate the role (her "k" in "New York" could
cut glass!). As the play progresses, however, she settles into the character's four-inch heels and
out-sized personality quite comfortably, managing to steal most scenes with élan.
As the closeted actor, Chad Allen - who is fondly remembered as the haunted, autistic Tommy
Westphall in the television classic "St. Elsewhere" - uses his craggy handsomeness and sweet
vulnerability most effectively. He's quite wonderful in garnering sympathy for what could be - in lesser
hands - a shallow and self-involved character. The best scene in the play has Allen and Buckley
meeting with the (unseen) playwright at a Manhattan restaurant to pitch their proposal to turn his play
into a movie. With hilarious, split-second timing both actors make the acidic asides and hilarious
zingers in this inspired sequence soar.
Mr. Jordan succeeds in basing his hustler heartthrob in truth -- never forgetting the seamy side of his
business, but showing us a troubled soul underneath the flashy veneer. He and Mr. Allen also share a
vibrant stage chemistry. The underwritten role of Ellen puts talented actress Amanda Perez at a bit of a
disadvantage. She eventually comes into her own, though, most evident in the second act when her
character takes charge and moves in unexpected directions. To this end, it is to Beane's credit that he
keeps a firm and consistent hold on the play's cynical charm right until final curtain.
Adrian W. Jones' sleek and clever set adapts itself smoothly to several locales and David R. Zyla's
costumes are right on target with Diane's fashions, in particular, making a statement at her every
entrance. Director Rob Ruggiero seems perfectly in tune with both his actors and the material pacing
the saucy script seamlessly. There is plenty of rude (albeit hilarious) talk and some full-frontal male
nudity in "The Little Dog Laughed" - which may explain the packed mid-week performance I caught.
Whatever it takes.

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