Hope Is Not Dead at 24: “The Little Dog Laughed”

Presented by
Take Your Pick Productions
By Douglas Carter Beane
Directed by Cassandra Lovering

March 24 – April 7, 2017
Plaza Black Box Theater
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA

Trigger warning – brief but not inconsiderable penis

Review by Kitty Drexel

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon,
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.”
-an English nursery rhyme.

(Boston, MA) The Little Dog Laughed spins heteronormative Hollywood on its ass. It unmasks the romantic comedy paradigm and reveals the festering truths wriggling underneath the surface of lies. It does so sweetly, calmly, but so honestly.  

Mitchell Green (Victor L. Shopov) is a touch-starved gay man so thirsty for Hollywood stardom that he’s willing to sell himself every which way to achieve his “aspirations.” His burgeoning career is managed by his personal crisis counsellor, Diane (Audrey Lynn Sylvia). Mitch is untouchable until he meets call boy, Alex (Matthew Fagerberg). Alex is in a non-relationship with non-escort Ellen (Aina Adler). As love triangles do, Mitch, Alex and Ellen complicate each others’ existences. Diane Rock Hudson-s them all out of their complications, and into a mutually beneficial agreement.  

Beane’s script has a unique shape to it. The majority of the scenes occur between Alex and Mitchell. They are sandwiched by monologues from Ellen and Diane. The boys are props used in the monologues (if they’re in them at all). We don’t get all four of the characters in the same room until the second act. Beane uses this form to give the gals more agency than that of a sexy lamp. Both characters have great monologues that could be used for auditions. The boys get to skip directly to their woo pitching. The audience gets all the exposition it needs. No one’s time is wasted.

It would be so easy for Little Dog to collapse into cliche. Mitch is a striking but closeted gay man. Alex is a prostitute with a heart of gold. Ellen is his beard/hag. Diane is the uppity lesbian tear down patriarchal constructs while simultaneously building them up. Fortunately, Beane doesn’t let us down. Director Lovering finds sincerely touching moments in all the real (as well as contrived) melodrama. Little Dog is confronts consumable artifice; mature relationships require more than a carb-free diet and great marketing. True happiness can’t be sold as a franchise.

The cast does a great job. This isn’t a play that beats its audience upside the head with its message; we’re entertained and are asked to consider romance in ways more than fast or loose. Sylvia  channels Carrie Fisher as Diane. Shopov, Fagerberg and Adler deliver their usual excellence.

Marc Ewart’s set design is a gentleman’s Polly Pocket meets Murphy bed. It’s clever, efficient and effective. It’s entirely too reminiscent of the tuck in moment of Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” video (last 20 seconds).

There is nothing wrong with selling out if that’s what you want. Bills are easier to pay if there’s money in the bank. If it’s acceptable to stay in the closet to remain safe, who’s to say that “safe” doesn’t also mean successful enough to come out? It becomes an issue of morality when Mitchell drags others into his BS. Mitch isn’t a bad guy because he’s driven. He’s a dick because he’s inconsiderate of the person he’s supposed to love. Fortunately, Diane has so few fucks to give, is so impersonal that she’s able to separate fact from fiction. A job is only a “just a job” if one’s humanity is secondary to cash.  

Queen’s Note:
we elected a thin-skinned bigot to the office of the President dead set on turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. His plan to slash the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities is HERE. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so. Fight him. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

Sign the petition to protect the National Endowment HERE.

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