We’ve all met our fair share of legendary divas, but the characters in Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed make Miranda Priestly look like a strawberry shortcake. Beane possesses a particular linguistic talent that he shares with satirists like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw: the gift for making spoiled, greedy people seem compelling —not because of how they spend their money or with whom they sleep, but because of how they talk.
Even when they’re despondent and desperate, the characters in Theatre Intime’s production of The Little Dog Laughed express themselves with a crackling lyricism that most tongue-tied mortals can only hope to possess in their actual lives. The most sparkling riffs belong to Diane, an unrelenting shark of a movie agent portrayed excellently by Katie Frorer ’18. Frorer’s brisk and rapturous problem-solving speech in the second act brings down the house.
The story goes something like this. Mitchell (Nico Krell ’18) is a semi-famous actor who embarks upon a semi-secret relationship with Alex (Cody O’Neil ’15), a male prostitute. Said relationship almost blossoms into something serious. The problem is, both men are squeamish and reluctant when it comes to identifying as gay. Not to mention, Alex kinda sorta has a girlfriend, Ellen (Abby Melick ’17). Making matters worse, the cunning and savage Diane has good reason to believe Mitchell’s “slight recurring case of homosexuality” could threaten his budding stardom and her skyrocketing career. Thus, everyone is on a journey to claim their own bit of happiness — and not everyone can win.
This play is about the hardship that comes with accepting gayness as a part of your identity, rather than something you do accidentally, in the dark, on nights when you’ve had too much to drink. It’s about the violent internal battle that plagues you when homosexuality (suddenly, alarmingly) moves from verb to noun. Strangely enough, however, this production is not driven by the men in said gayrelationship — it’s driven by the two women whose lives are rocked by Mitchell and Alex’s affair. Though I would have liked to see a few more vulnerable moments from Frorer’s Diane, it’s hard to find fault with her pitch-perfect portrayal of unadulterated ambition — the kind that makes people forgo sleep, ethics and personal lives. Such intensity burns those who get too close to it — but, as channeled by Frorer, at a safe distance, it is the perfect wattage for filling a theater with incandescent light.
Melick, too, is luminous as the vivacious Ellen. Her Ellen is doe-eyed and shallow, with a lyric wit and just a touch of viciousness. In particular, Melick shines in a scene that includes an abstract dramatization of Ellen and Alex making love. As O’Neil stands in place and intermittently murmurs sweet nothings, Melick steps out of the scene and delivers a tragically frank monologue on the experience of making love to a man who turns out to be just the tiniest bit absent from the whole process. “It’s like they’re running into your arms,” she says "but if you get a good look at his eyes you can sometimes see that he was just plain running, and you, poor roadkill, got in his way."
Directed skillfully by Jack Moore ’15, this is a deftly executed production that satirizes artists’ capacity for self-deception. Its only weakness is the central relationship between Mitchell and Alex, which unfortunately at times feels forced and superficial. Both Krell and O’Neil deliver fine moments as the emotionally scarred, survivalist male escort and the actor tormented by the stigma of his sexual orientation. However, their repartee can feel hollow and lethargic compared to the captivating interpersonal connections found elsewhere in the play. And, regrettably, since this relationship is meant to be the heart of the play, these faltering moments have a larger-than-usual detrimental impact upon the pace and energy of the play as whole.
But don’t let that discourage you. This production is jam-packed with wit and tragedy —and its scathing critique of showbiz packs a wallop. Come see this play where the cow jumps over the moon, the fork runs away with the spoon and the little dog laughs her way all the way to fame and fortune.
Pros: Fantastic individual performances, beautiful language
Cons: Weak central relationship