Friday, January 05, 2007

. . . As the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon

Theater-goers won’t be able to see Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed much longer. It closes Feb. 18. The reviews were excellent—I blame the title. The line from the nursery rhyme makes sense once you’ve seen the show, but it does not have any real meaning to prospective ticket buyers.

It is one of the smarter, funnier straight (non-musical) plays of recent years. There isn’t even the obligatory Bush joke. In fact, center-right patrons would probably enjoy it, if they don’t mind gay themes and brief on-stage nudity (I mean, whatever), because Beane absolutely savages the PC-money-grubbing hypocrisy of Hollywood.

It might be just as well that it closes with the original cast, sparing patrons the revolving door of celebrity stunt casting. Julie White should be nominated for her performance as the manic agent-manager Diane, and its hard to envision the play without her. Oddly, in a play whose central event is an affair between a closeted movie star and a rent boy, the women characters are actually much more interesting. Julie White’s profane uber-agent is a force of nature, almost equaled by Ari Graynor’s “edgy” “party-girl,” Ellen. Alex the hustler actually evolves in an interesting way, but movie star Mitchell Green does seem somewhat shallow and dull. Of course he is a Hollywood star, so the role may have been deliberately written that way.

Little Dog is a funny, well-staged play. It even uses Lewis Flinn’s pleasant electronic incidental music in an amusing, referential way. It is an entertaining play, but certainly I wouldn’t predict a movie sale now.