**1/2 (out of ****)
Perhaps it was my lack of sleep from taking a red-eye from San Diego to New York two nights ago. Maybe it’s because I went to a funeral earlier in the day yesterday. Or I guess I could blame it on the rain. But whatever it was, I wasn’t digging the self-loathing nature of The Little Dog Laughed, which I finally took in last evening at the Cort Theatre.
Ostensibly, this is a morality play about selling out. In fact, it’s about selling one’s soul to the devil. The force of darkness here is manifested in Diane (Julie White), a very high-strung, fast-talking manager for a rising boy-next-door movie star, Mitchell (Tom Everett Scott). Only Mitchell apparently has an affinity for getting drunk and calling rentboys, including Alex (Johnny Galecki) with whom he develops a relationship. The hitch is that Alex also happens to have a girlfriend named Ellen (Ari Graynor), who’s pregnant with his child.
For Diane, Mitchell is her ticket to Hollywood’s big leagues. She’s pinning all of her hopes and aspirations on him to be a huge success. She also believes that the only way that will occur is if she keeps him in the closet -- oh, and did I mention that she’s a lesbian to boot? Yet all her passion has long since been channeled into her own Hollywood dream. So ultimately steamrolling over the personal lives of three people (four, if you count the unseen gay playwright) to get what she wants is second nature to her.
As Diane, White is every bit the dynamo you’ve heard. She commands the stage with an exhilarating tour de force performance that is razor sharp and wickedly funny. Scott is actually quite good and very believable as the actor who is trying to straddle the two worlds he’s created for himself (one of the more clever aspects of Allen Moyer’s sleek set design demonstrates the balancing act at work via banquet chairs precariously stacked all the way to the proscenium arch). Scott is particularly poignant as Mitchell divulges how thought he had lost his life’s promise when he lost his virginity as a boy scout. Graynor is a hoot as party girl Ellen, who’ll apparently do anything for buck.
As for the 31 year old Galecki, references are continually made to his Alex as being very young and even looking like a kid (Diane basically says at one point that he looks to be 14); however, the mature and buff Galecki simply doesn’t look the part. Furthermore, his Alex should be so intoxicating that Mitchell is willing to defy Diane by being out in public with his “friend.” But Galecki seems very distant and almost drug-addled -- as if he isn’t quite there. I just didn’t find the Mitchell/Alex match plausible.
Yet most unsatisfying was Douglas Carter Beane’s story itself. Sure, it was filled with some killer lines (typically delivered by Diane), and it certainly parallels life as it probably is in Tinseltown. And while the second act is much better written than the first, it’s hard to walk away from this play feeling any sympathy for any character given the pitiable manner each has sold out by selling their souls.
Ironically, the Hollywood ending one would have hoped for in this story could probably only have come on Broadway. But it wasn’t in The Little Dog Laughed.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).