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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

The Little Dog Laughed at Intiman Theatre

Also see David's review of Intimate Exchanges

The Little Dog Laughed
Christa Scott-Reed and Neal Bledsoe
Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed is not a comedy for the ages. In fact, the play's examination of being a closeted gay Hollywood actor seems positively dated in Intiman Theatre's handsomely produced staging directed by Fracaswell Hyman. The Tony-nominated Broadway production was apparently a grand showcase for Tony winning actress Julie White, but none of the four actors in Hyman's cast are particularly able to garner any big chuckles from Beane's acid-tinged, showbiz-based script.

A venal lesbian Hollywood agent named Diane is in New York City with her hot, handsome, boy next-doorsy actor client Mitchell who is receiving an award. Mitchell is poised to make the leap to Hollywood superstar. A critically lauded, gay-themed Broadway play with a central gay plotline seems just the ticket. Of, course one can count on one hand gay-themed plays to films that weren't diluted or soft peddled in some way to be made—when a big studio is involved anyway. And Mitchell himself is quite the closeted gay man, more at home renting a young stud for the night than playing house with one. But when rent boy Alex enters the picture, things change. Of course, Alex isn't gay, as he keeps telling himself. It's just a job. And he has a girlfriend named Ellen. But things heat up quickly between Mitchell and Alex, and pretty soon Mitchell is thinking that Alex might be Mr. Right and not just Mr. Right Now. Diane, between one-sided conversations with the playwright whose script is about to be subverted in La-La land, doesn't want Mitchell to make his private lifestyle public, and Ellen finds herself knocked up by Alex. Diane comes up with a solution to all their problems that even Hollywood would have trouble formulating—but not playwright Beane—and they live frantically ever after.

To director Hyman's credit, the play clips along briskly, and his staging is often adroit. As for Beane, I will say that his twists and turns kept me involved. I might have had a superficially fun evening at the theatre if Hyman had chosen the right cast for the job. But Neal Bledsoe plays the superficial actor superficially and is also a good decade too young looking for the role. Quinlan Corbett as Alex doesn't have the charm or edge to make Alex a believable New York hustler, and he isn't able to handle becoming the moral compass of the story that Beane requires late in act two. Megan Hill as Ellen brings too much warmth and empathy to a character who is in actuality as scheming as Eve was in the great show-biz bashing Hollywood film All About Eve. Christa Scott-Reed is downright curious in the showy, key role of Diane. The character needs to come on with full force at the top and build to a crescendo for her big act two scene, but Scott-Reed comes on with charm and eccentricity at the top but little else. Oh, that big scene is a doozy when it comes, but it comes pretty much out of the blue. Imagine Rose in Gypsy not delivering anything but a misunderstood matriarch for two hours and 15 minutes and then tearing into her final scenes and "Rose's Turn" with real ferocity. The actress clearly has what it takes to do this role, but why save it all for the end?

The real shining stars turn out to be Matthew Smucker's creative, amusing and delightful turntable centered set and Elizabeth Hope Clancy's absolutely on-the-money costumes. Having heard so many great things about this particular play, I guess perhaps my hopes were too high. In any case, The Little Dog Laughed but I merely had a few passing chuckles.

The Little Dog Laughed runs through September 13 at Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer Street in Seattle Center. For more information visit Intiman online at www.intiman.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David Edward Hughes



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