New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

New York City Theater

"The Little Dog Laughed"
Second Stage Theatre

Tomorrow’s Hollywood weather report might very well be "red faces followed by fear and trembling" once the coast crowd gets a load of "The Little Dog Laughed." Douglas Carter Beane's familiar but sly, cunning, sarcastic, and very funny comedy about a "don’t ask / don’t tell" male movie star is also filled with bitter and unlikable people. When the most appealing character is a hustler who turns tricks for $200 a throw, you know you're not in Kansas anymore.

Yet, this bitchy look at closeted, manipulative, grasping, and amoral folk is also a pithy comment on truth and deception, desires and compromises. Diane is a hard-nosed agent who acts as beard for her up-and-coming gay client, Mitchell. In New York to scout a new play (their meeting with the unseen playwright is brilliant), Mitchell gets involved with Alex, a heart-of-gold rent boy who's willing to chuck livelihood and girlfriend, Ellen, for a loving life with Mitchell.

Everything is a commodity – sex, money, love, ambition. People cheat, people lie but, ironically, when they try to tell the truth, the world comes crashing in and they wind up like the nursery rhyme that gives the play its title: The cow jumps over the moon, the dish runs away with the spoon and the little dog, triumphant, laughs all the way to fame and fortune.
Scott Ellis's sharp direction can’t quite make us really care about the characters. But we watch these cobras in fascination anyway. Julie White is wondrous as the demonically cruel and knowing Diane. Even her stiletto heels pound out a take-no-prisoners message and she gets a huge guffaw by merely clearing her throat.

Johnny Galecki finds all the pathos and vulnerability in Alex, skillfully tracing the character's growing awareness. Neal Huff is properly conflicted as Mitchell, while Zoe Lister-Jones is an edgy Ellen.

-- David A. Rosenberg
Jan. 17, 2006

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