REVIEW: THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED

at Vintage Theatre

by Noah Lee Jordan

It’s a Friday night at Vintage Theatre. There’s about 30 people give or take in the house, and as I take a sip of my wine, the lights dim signaling the start of THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED. As the lights come up and the play begins, I immediately feel like Carrie Bradshaw (aka Sarah Jessica Parker) in SEX AND THE CITY, “you’ve got this big hotshot LA agent running around New York City in a rhinestone barrete?l A barrette!” I know it’s nit-picky, but it’s the first thing I noticed. Once I manage to get over my initial gut reaction, I start actually paying attention to the show, and to be honest, it’s good. Jacqueline Garcia is actually really entertaining in the role of Diane. So needless today we’re off to a pretty great start.

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED is mostly a craftily composed excuse for Diane (Garcia) to repeatedly rush in and try to save Mitchell, her hotshot actor client played by Drew Hirschboeck, from himself. The idea is that battle-scarred Diane, eternally in search of her next big score (and the ideal of a perfect, nonfat Cobb salad), has been grooming Mitchell, a handsome boy-next-door type with the potential to move up to leading-man parts. Together, they latch onto a play about a pair of gay lovers, which Diane is convinced could be turned into a major motion picture, with Mitchell finally achieving mega stardom in a breakout role.

The one hiccup is that Diane doesn’t want Mitchell playing a gay character in a movie. She subscribes to the belief that a bachelor of a certain age portraying a gay man will be subject to whisperings about his sexuality and, as a result, his climb up the ladder of romantic leading roles will be seriously stymied. And although LITTLE DOG is set in the present, parts may represent Hollywood as being much less flexible on gender issues than by today’s standards. So even as Mitchell pursues a new relationship, with the rent boy, Alex (Christian Munck) whom he’s invited to his hotel room, Diane seeks a meeting with the gay playwright. She wants to persuade him to turn the play’s gay lovers into a straight couple for the movie version.

That leads, among other things, to a highly diverting restaurant scene, in which Diane and Mitchell shamelessly flatter the unseen playwright in the effort to secure the rights and soften him up for the forthcoming script revisions.

The play attains its pinnacle moments while sending up Diane and her industry’s tribal business rites. The ancillary threads of the plot, which entangle Mitchell in the lives of Alex and, by extension, Alex’s materialistic on-again, off-again girlfriend Ellen (Miranda Byers), feel like obligatory mechanics. The sensation is reinforced in the far-fetched ending that Beane concocts, a tying-up that’s somehow makes all the sense and very little sense at the same time.

Still, director Rachel Bouchard, provides a jauntily entertaining account of Beane’s play, which is nice and intimate in the smaller of the two Vintage spaces. However, in another wave of my nit-picky issues with the show, I felt the costuming reinforced the idea that this play is in fact dated. While some of the styling felt very 2000s, it was the styling of Munck’s character Alex that really felt jarring. The leather jacket felt too big and clunky, the ripped jeans and some of the shirts gave very clear early 2000 vibes. And I’m not particularly sure who “approved” of Munck’s cut and highlight, but I did find it somewhat bothersome given the style and aesthetic of today’s modern man (gay or straight) who wouldn’t be too found of bright blonde boy band highlights. That being said, if the play listed 2006 as the time, I would say the styling was on point.

On to the acting…Hirschboeck is convincing in his role of Mitchell. He teeters nicely on the line of a confused actor perplexed by whether he should focus on the needs of his heart or his Internet Movie Database profile. Munck is a slow build for me for me as Alex. I found his “relationship” with Ellen to be a bit unconvincing, but later he really sold his affection for Mitchell. Byers is particularly strong here, too, with Byers really taking command of her role. Even though Ellen is a bit annoying, for some reason Byers makes you really like her. And finally there’s Diane. She’s the juice that fills the comic cup of LITTLE DOG LAUGHED to overflowing. And with Garcia in the role, that cup is overflowing with champagne. Bravo, Garcia.

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED might not be one of Beane’s “best” plays, but it’s a good time nonetheless. And if you’re looking for something to do on an empty weekend, a trip to Vintage Theatre should certainly be an option.

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED plays at Vintage Theatre now through Oct. 22nd (www.vintagetheatre.com)

PHOTO CREDIT:  RDG Photography

 

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