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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Little Dog Laughed

Also see Susan's review of The Seafarer

The Little Dog Laughed
Matthew Montelongo and
Holly Twyford

The incandescent Holly Twyford provides the main reason to see The Little Dog Laughed, Douglas Carter Beane's Hollywood satire now at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, but she's far from the only one. Beane's delicious dialogue sizzles and crackles, well navigated by director Michael Baron and all four members of the cast.

Twyford, one of the Washington area's leading actresses, has the standout role of Diane, a hilarious, manic yet hard-nosed agent determined to push her main client, Mitchell (Matthew Montelongo), into mainstream movie success. However, as she explains to the audience, Mitchell has "a slight, recurring case of homosexuality," which she insists he keep under wraps—even though the star vehicle she has in mind for him has a gay theme. (A straight actor in a gay role gains prestige for his perceived bravery and open-mindedness, according to Diane; a gay actor in a similar role simply becomes the target of gossip. Of course, movie audiences aren't really that shallow ... are they?)

The plot becomes farcical as Mitchell finds himself drawn to Alex (Ivan Quintanilla), a male escort who says he's straight and only has sex with men for money. In fact, Alex has a girlfriend, Ellen (Casie Platt), with problems of her own.

Diane gets the juiciest lines, of course, and Twyford gives them their due, such as her description to Alex of her friendship with Mitchell: "It's like a relationship, only it's enjoyable." While she truly cares about Mitchell, she is most interested in herself, pursuing the spiritual quest of the perfect salad for lunch and describing the sacrifice she makes when she flies business class instead of first class.

Montelongo conveys a pleasing sincerity in his desire to be true to himself; Quintanilla ably shows an opportunist finding parts of his personality he never knew were there; and Platt, while outwardly waif-like, depicts the survival instincts that make Ellen not that different from Diane.

Lee Savage's clever scenic design makes good use of the intimate ARK Theatre, with small acting spaces on either side of the main thrust stage; audiences surround the action on three sides. Costume designer Guy Lee Bailey has found suitably trendy styles for Platt and sleek, intimidating looks for Twyford; the men get less flashy costumes, but they display more well-toned skin.

Signature Theatre
The Little Dog Laughed
January 13th March 8th
By Douglas Carter Beane
Mitchell: Matthew Montelongo
Ellen: Casie Platt
Alex: Ivan Quintanilla
Diane: Holly Twyford
Directed by Michael Baron
The ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or www.signature-theatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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