The Little Dog Laughed will make you smile with recognition at the hypocrisy and contradictions inherent in this game of day-to-day survival we call life. This acid-like portrait of the compromises one must make in order to get ahead in this “dog eat dog” world is all too relevant on an individual basis and on a societal basis. This light yet trenchant play by Douglas Carter Beane (author of the currently-running The Nance and the new revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella) compels us to sit raptly while the savage etiquette and personal political choices of this cast of four characters plays out on the intimate stage at Silver Spring Stage.
The scenario of the arrogant, sarcastic agent Diane (Leta Hall) who wants to make sure that her client-handsome actor Mitchell (Eric Jones) – can convincingly gain the lustful attentions of female audience members (when, in reality, he is a closeted gay male) makes for a darkly comic series of vignettes on themes of public persona, hidden identities and the quandaries of making moral and personal choices of real desire instead of settling for the easy answer. Complications ensue when rent-boy Alex (Robert Kittler) falls for Mitchell even though he is already involved with the delightful Ellen (Dana Medford).
Under the Direction of Eric Scerbo, this energetic ensemble works valiantly to capture the verbal virtuosity of Beane’s writing and they are to be applauded for tackling such mature and complex fare. Overall, they are successful but the dualities in the characters of Jones and Hall need to be more fully developed and the production needs to move a bit more briskly. Jones captures the man in love but not the inner anguish. In the high-profile role of the bilious agent Diane, Hall is a shade too stolid and literal in her delivery in a part that calls out for quicksilver comic timing. Hall is best at breaking through the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience. More successful is the drifting rent-boy Alex, played with just the right amount of loquacious languor the part demands by Kittler. Dana Mefdord’s portrayal of Ellen is a charming composite of this vulnerable yet tough character.
Most successful and effective is Scerbo’s direction as he paces this piece with a succession of slow-dissolves and fade-outs that are almost cinematic in feel. Scerbo is aided here by the evocative Lighting Design of Bob Scott. The Set Design by Joy Wyne is serviceable but especially compelling is the design of a sliding screen that could be easily manipulated to show scenes and monologues in juxtaposition to the action center stage. Costume Design by Mark Hamberger is top-notch.After two hours of crisis alternating with hilarity, we can finally leave this “dog-eat-dog” world of Los Angeles and New York City show business hypocrisy and have the requisite happy ending where ‘The Little Dog Laughed.’
If you are looking for fare that is offbeat, mature and darkly comic, look no further than Silver Spring Stage’s production of The Little Dog Laughed.
Running Time: About two hours, with one intermission.
The Little Dog Laughed plays though June 8, 2013 at Silver Spring Stage inn Woodmoor Shopping Center – 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, purchase them online, or call the box office at (301) 593-6036.