Opening Nights: The Little Dog Laughed

The Little Dog Laughed

ArtsWest, 4711 California Ave. S.W., 938-0339, $15–$34.50. Runs 7:30 p.m. Wed.–Sat. 3 p.m. Sun. Ends Feb. 16.

Remember last year when Jodie Foster came out during the Golden Globes, confirming what everyone knew? Her announcement would’ve been impossible back in the days of Rock Hudson living in the closet; and it would’ve been unlikely still in 2006, when Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed had its New York premiere.

Mitchell Green (Alex Garnett) is a movie star who would have it all if he didn’t have that tiny trouble of keeping his “slightly recurring case of homosexuality under wraps.” He develops tender feelings for rent boy Alex (Jeff Orton), much to the chagrin of Diane (Heather Hawkins), a Hollywood agent who makes Californication’s Charlie Runkle seem compassionate. Mitchell’s honesty about his sexuality would threaten both their careers, and Diane is determined to keep him in the closet—there’s your plot.

As a dialogue junkie, I want to mainline Beane’s script. Stylistically, it reminds me of my favorite living playwright, John Guare, as Little Dog tests the cast with intense monologues about the human condition that still advance the Hollywood satire. The cast of four—all characters deplorable enough to be expanded into their own Showtime series—dazzlingly delivers Beane’s droll writing. Orton acutely animates lines that could be careless clichés, such as “Let me guess—you are straight but curious.” (EmilyRose Frasca plays Ellen, Alex’s naive girlfriend.)

John Allbritton’s low-budget costumes are the only hitch in this production, well directed by Annie Lareau. In her opening monologue, Diane dons a dress supposedly worn to a prior awards ceremony, but it looks more like Nordstrom Rack. Was she really wearing a navy wrap with a black frock and—for the love of all things sacred—bone shoes? Luckily, Hawkins’ stage presence stopped me from being too distracted by the sub-Hollywood wardrobe. On which subject, I’ll be more interested next month to see what the stars are wearing at the Oscars than hearing which are gay.

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