The Little Dog Laughed
Mitchell (Chad Allen), an actor, is making his way out of the closet as his film celebrity might very well take off. Brazen agent Diane (Candy Buckley) has an opinion about everything, especially Mitchell's desire to come out. From the moment she takes to the stage, Diane is irretrievably over the top. Brassy, obnoxious, loud and hard-edged, she is single-minded in her zeal to propel Mitchell (and herself) big time. Anyone out there feel sympathy for Diane? No. Well, that is the precise intent, and director Rob Ruggiero urges Buckley's Diane front and center. This skillful yet annoying in-your-face performance is undeniably effective.
Alex (Jeremy Jordan) is a young guy who quickly finds his way to Mitchell's bedroom. Alex pronounces that he doesn't want to be gay – but he is. Too bad for Alex's girlfriend Ellen (Amanda Perez), who reads Alex's face in a New York minute and concludes she's the odd the one out. Toward the very end of the evening, Alex explains to Diane, "This is like a party game for mean people." Pretty sweet. Diane, narrating with gumption and bravado galore, serves as the play's fulcrum.
Beane, through his dialogue, effectively delineates Ellen's character. Perez, making her professional stage debut, is a newcomer to watch. Her impersonation of Diane's mother, the Westchester "Screecher" is, for example, a hoot. A graceful actress, Perez finds herself in a difficult, awkward situation. Beane assists lines that provide glimpses of his characters' impulses if not motives.
Chad Allen's impressive credits includes television series work on "St. Elsewhere," "Our House," "My Two Dads," and "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman." The Little Dog Laughed finds him falling fast for Alex, who hustles around. Meanwhile Diane insists that the relationship between Mitchell and Alex be kept secret.
In summary, then, Mitchell wants to come out but his agent demands that he stay covert with his sexual preference. Mitchell is on the verge of making a name for himself in the movies, but Diane doesn't want him to pass on the moment – which would be disastrous for her, too. Alex is a pleasure-seeking individual who is, at best, indirect with his girlfriend. She informs her lover that he's impregnated her. Only Diane could possibly save the day!
The sites for the action are New York City and Hollywood. Designer Adrian W. Jones furnishes a sliding bed, complete with silver linens. Many of Zachary Williamson's musical "sounds" are harsh and borderline irritating. Again, this, no doubt, is by intent.
TheaterWorks' production is tight, fast-paced, and sometimes clever and amusing. Ruggiero does a fine job of creating a balance among the characters. Diane, whenever she opens her mouth, dominates a scene. That she does not obliterate many vignettes featuring the other performers speaks to the play's strength. I find her absolutely distasteful and wish she would vanish. That, however, would eliminate the essence of the play. The Little Dog Laughed is an Off-Broadway piece and TheaterWorks' specialty is Off-Broadway theater. The play fits the theater's mission.
The Little Dog Laughed continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through March 9th. For ticket and schedule information, call (860) 527-7838.
- Fred Sokol