Entertainment » Theatre

The Little Dog Laughed

by Jennifer Chen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Dec 6, 2008
Julie White in "The Little Dog Laughed"
Julie White in "The Little Dog Laughed"  (Source:Craig Schwartz)

The Little Dog Laughed, by Douglas Carter Beane, playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, garners its name from a simple children's nursery rhyme and yet there is nothing simple about this play. Handsome, suave movie star, Mitchell Green (Brian Henderson), has it all--money, fame, success, and as his shrewd and sharp-tongued agent Diane (Julie White) describes as his only flaw--a "slight recurring case of homosexuality."

Mitchell drinks away his sorrows in a lonely New York City hotel room and in his drunken stupor calls for a male prostitute. Alex (Johnny Galecki) arrives at Mitchell's hotel room ready to get to it but finds that Mitchell is resistant to hop right into bed and eventually he passes out in bed. After looting Mitchell's wallet Alex heads to a nightclub to meet up with his gal pal Ellen who flashes a gold credit card--a gift from her sugar daddy, an older British author.

Meanwhile, Diane is eager to book Mitchell in a choice part of a new movie based on a play about two men falling in love. With Mitchell's guy-next-door charm and perceived heterosexuality, Diane believes he'll be a shoo-in for award possibilities as a straight actor who plays a gay character.

Mitchell continues to call Alex to show up in his New York City hotel room before he has to return to Los Angeles. During their first night together Mitchell pays Alex to simply sleep next to him. The next morning as Mitchell finally grabs Alex in a fierce embrace, Diane bursts in to usher Mitchell to his important lunch meeting with the playwright. Diane doesn't mince words and demands that Alex leave, even as Mitchell asks Alex to attend the a play with him that evening.

Diane keeps Mitchell on a tight leash, insisting she knows what's best for him and telling him that he can do whatever he wants as long as he keeps it quiet and away from the public eye. Meanwhile, party girl Ellen begins to miss Alex who spends more and more time with Mitchell and less time with her.

Act Two begins with an with intertwining of characters and poses the big question, "What is happiness?" For Mitchell, is it being a famous actor or having an honest relationship?

Outstanding actors give their characters all the vim and vigor that Beane intended with his witty, biting dialogue. Of particular note is Julie White, who won a 2007 Tony award for the role of Diane in "The Little Dog Laughed". White plays with sophistication, comedic charm and sheer cunning. One of the best scenes occurs when Diane and Mitchell meet the playwright of the soon-to-be-adapted play. Diane and Mitchell speak directly to the audience, as if it were the playwright, while giving quick asides translating lines the literal into subtext for the audience. White and Henderson work the scene with such gusto that the audience is bursting with laughter at the over-the-top antics.

Beane incorporates monologues, overlapping dialogue, and asides to the audience into a pure harmony on stage. Enhanced by the stunning set design work of Allen Moyer, "The Little Dog Laughed" is a play incorporating all the best elements of theater--fantastic actors, strong story and characters who are conflicted, charming, and ultimately doomed.

Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City. Running time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission. Through December 21st. Wednesday?Saturday, 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sundays, 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
$20?$55. (213) 628-2772. www.centertheatregroup.org.

Jennifer Chen is an editor, magazine writer, and young adult novelist based in Los Angeles with an MFA in dramatic writing.


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