FACTS & FAQs
CHAD ON TV
TERMS OF SERVICE
The Little Dog Laughed Play Reviews
The Little Dog Laughed
(TheaterWorks, Hartford, Conn.; 200
seats; $58 top)
TheaterWorks' presentation of the
Douglas Carter Beane play 'The Little Dog Laughed.'
A TheaterWorks presentation of a play in two acts
Douglas Carter Beane. Directed by Rob Ruggiero.
Ellen - Amanda Perez
Douglas Carter Beane's satiric look at
Hollywood duplicity and deception, "The Little Dog Laughed," is hitting
the provinces, and while auds might not get every insider reference or
bitchy zinger, there's still plenty to connect with in this story of four
self-absorbed characters and their desperate pursuit of some kind of
The Hartford production gets a reality check --
and some bonus subtext -- with the casting of out (and once-outed) thesp
Chad Allen (TV's "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman") as Mitchell, the
up-and-coming movie actor on the brink of stardom who falls for
gay-for-pay New York rent boy Alex (Jeremy Jordan).
Allen's performance grounds the often facile play
in deeply felt human terms, showing the pain, confusion and narcissism of
an actor coming to grips with the price of fame and sexuality. Playing
Mitchell more as young turk than macho stud, Allen brings a boyish
vulnerability, ego and panic to the part, rooting the role someplace real.
Mitchell is practically atremble at the prospect of allowing this
possibility of personal fulfillment to enter his life, and he's terrified
of the consequences of his tentative actions.
Though the hyper-rhythms of
Julie White (who won a Tony as barracuda talent agent Diane) are
instilled in the character, the role is still ripe for the fearless.
Candy Buckley seizes each moment with complete
comic command. She does fine in the monologues but really comes into her
own in scenes when Diane has other actors to bounce off. Whether she's
explaining why there is no country for gay stars, giving her word "as an
entertainment industry professional," or whipping up an 11th-hour match
"Access Hollywood" heaven, Buckley, is an unstoppable force as the
uber-agent of anti-change.
Mitchell also shows he's a Hollywood pro at heart
when it comes time to doubleteam with Diane to woo and win the trust of a
gay playwright who has a hot property they want. The scene remains the
dazzling centerpiece of the play, deliciously performed by Buckley and
Amanda Perez makes an impressive bow in the more
schematically written role of Alex's shallow, shopaholic girlfriend,
Ellen. Perez brings a wide-eyed, almost sweet self-centeredness as the
party girl from Westchester. "I wouldn't be able to identify one of my
emotions in a police line-up," she says, but Perez deftly belies her
too-cool "whatever" attitude.
Fresh-faced Jordan gives credibility to Mitchell's
dream by making his character sharp, confident and appealing. If he
doesn't suggest enough of Alex wounds to make his struggle with his
sexuality -- as well as his final decision -- more of a bittersweet
triumph, he at least makes it understandable.
Helmer Rob Ruggiero tempers the pace and quips by
bringing heart to a play that skirts superficiality. He makes the show not
just a glib exercise in Hollywood hypocrisy and Gotham ennui but almost a
human comedy, too.
Sets, Adrian W. Jones; costumes, David R. Zyla;
Thomas Dunn; sound, Zachary Williamson; production stage manager,
Sharon Lynn Miner. Opened Feb. 1, 2008. Reviewed Feb. 3. Runs through
March 9. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.
Lots Of Laughs, A Few TearsCourant Theater Critic |
February 5, 2008
A homosexual who decides to come out of the closet should no longer
pay a penalty in our society, but as Douglas Carter Beane reminds us
in his sharply written, insightful and often savagely funny play "The
Little Dog Laughed," the perils are, in some cases, quite real.
A politician's recent escapade in a public restroom, a New Jersey
governor's painful outing and persistent rumors about which seemingly
straight A-list Hollywood actor might be gay are the off-stage
cultural context for Beane's play, which was first performed in 2006
and opened Friday night at TheaterWorks in Hartford.
At the center of Beane's comedy is Chad Allen's Mitchell, a rising
Hollywood actor whose "boy next door" screen persona is at odds with his
sexual orientation, at least when he can be honest about what it is.
Mitchell actively denies his homosexuality, even if, wh
en drunk and alone in a
Manhattan hotel room, he makes calls to a service for male prostitutes.
The young man who arrives, Alex (Jeremy Jordan), has conflicts of his own,
a denial evident in the schism between his career choice and the existence
of a girlfriend, Ellen (Amanda Perez).
Mitchell is not the "Little Dog" character who voices what is at stake
in his movie career and his personal life. That job belongs to Beane's
most hilarious invention, Mitchell's longtime agent, Diane (Candy
Buckley). A closet lesbian herself, Diane knows the game, knows the rules
required to climb to the top of the marquee, and is ruthless in insisting
that Mitchell play inside the lines, even if it means concocting a
personal life that is a lie. Diane is a savage creation — equal parts
pragmatic and obscene whether describing the pain of watching showbiz
professionals order power-lunch salads, walking in on Mitchell during one
of his "little adventures," or manipulating the ends of a story or a play
so "the little dog" might laugh and the dish won't run away with the
But the choice here is Mitchell's, and if Diane dominates Rob Ruggiero's
production for TheaterWorks, the play's emotional core lies with the young
actor who must choose between true love and fame and fortune.
Ruggiero's company had a nervous start on Friday. Buckley couldn't stop
playing with her hair in an opening monologue. Perez was rushing her
lines. Allen and Jordan seemed closed to the audience, internally involved
in ways that made it difficult to sympathize with their situations.
But the jitters passed, especially in the case of Buckley, who found her
spiked-heel footing as the production went on and chewed up the scenery
with obvious relish. Elongating vowels for emphasis, working the cellphone
to flatter and then bully an up-and-coming playwright, and controlling,
like a puppeteer, the lives of the play's young people, her Diane was the
devil in David Zyla's designer clothes. But as with any performance that
is so broad, it risks getting too big, and a bit of modulation might have
been in order to avoid making this "Little Dog" the "Diane Show."
Perez, a recent graduate of theater school, also shed opening night
nervousness speedily and turned in an amusingly wide-eyed performance as
Alex's shopaholic grifter and sometime girlfriend.
The male leads were more problematic. Allen, familiar to TV audiences from
"St. Elsewhere" and "Our House," continued to seem internally distracted
through much of the show — as if the problem he was dealing with was
something other than the one being dramatized on stage. Jordan did a
better job connecting with the audience, but the chemistry between the
pair suffered. Ruggiero's blocking could not be faulted. Scenes involving
the pair's intimate encounters — including one or two with full nudity —
were well staged, but if the script and the direction called for a great
love to blossom before our eyes, the characters' feelings for one another
were never entirely convincing.
Beane, whose other credits include the book for the musical "Xanadu," the
play "As Bees in Honey Drown," and the film "To Wong Foo, Thanks for
Everything, Julie Newmar," is a funny and incisive writer. Here, his
sympathy for the world's Mitchells is palpable while his view of Hollywood
and its operators is as scathing as it is amused. An agent-actor alliance
is, as Diane sees it, "Like a relationship — only it's enjoyable." A gay
man's reference to the Boy Scouts prompts mention of, "The merit badge
that dare not speak its name." The only gay actors who get away with being
out are British. "Are you British?" Diane demands of Mitchell. "Are you
knighted? If not, shut up."
The playwright has lyrical moments, as well. A young gay man can voice
aloud his reluctance to be homosexual. "Am I gay? I don't want to be gay.
Everybody has something on you if you're gay." A young woman going home to
Westchester and her craft-making mother can find herself, for no
particular reason, making a bracelet. A young man draping his coat over
his girlfriend's shoulders on a cold subway ride can be the kindest thing
she'll ever experience — and she may know it at the time.
Coming out stories are not new in the field of popular entertainment, but
the rigor and humor of Beane's exploration of the topic are what
distinguish his work. Ruggiero's production drew a standing ovation on
opening night, and a lot of laughs.
THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED continues through March 9 at
TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. Information: 860-527-7838 or
Cast Members Bare It And Grin
February 5, 2008
What was on and what was off was the theme for the weekend around
Hartford starting with press night and the cast party for TheaterWorks'
production of "The Little Dog Laughed."
Led by actor Chad Allen, best known for his
portrayal as Jane Seymour's son in the popular TV
series "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman," the Tony award-nominated Broadway
show included a couple of nude scenes that the actors knew had some
audience members wishing they had seats farther back from the intimate
stage. "Yeah, I could feel the scenes made some members of the
audience uncomfortable," admitted Allen, who posed for pictures (with
his clothes on) at a cast party at Bin 228 after the show. But then
there were others who enjoyed the view, Allen said grinning. "I had
one audience member tell me that I had one nice ass."
By the way, in terms of "on," as in on YouTube, TheaterWorks, which is
also celebrating a very successful fundraising efforts that had
executive director Steve Campo and play director
Rob Ruggiero smiling, has added a little bit more
to life, smile-wise, thanks to some clever marketing efforts for the
Think Idaho senator Larry "Bathroom"
Craig. The theater has posted its own variation of the infamous
bathroom story, featuring Hartford mayor Mike Peters,
wide stance and all. Go to youtube.com, and type in TheaterWorks. It's the
mayor as you have never seen him before.
Now back to the cast party.
Among those attending was writer/director Matthew Lombardo,
who has a new project that is nearly ready to go. Lombardo, who wrote "Tea
at Five," a one-woman show about actress Katharine Hepburn,
is taking on another famous female — this time bonne vivante and talk-show
host Tallulah Bankhead.
"It's called "Looped," said Lombardo about the play, scheduled to debut in
the spring. Lombardo was coy when it came to telling exactly who is
playing the leading lady, although it has been rumored it will be Tony
Award nominee Tovah Feldshuh. "There is an H in her
name," was all he would reveal, other than to say it will be coming to
Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol
The Little Dog Laughed
and Chad Allen
Quirky and edgy, The Little Dog Laughed
gains resonance through its second act. Running at Hartford's
TheaterWorks through March 9th, this biting contemporary satire begins
with starts and jumps, and then escalates through playwright Douglas
Carter Beane's sideways look at the possibilities of stardom.
Mitchell (Chad Allen), an actor, is making his way
out of the closet as his film celebrity might very well take off.
Brazen agent Diane (Candy Buckley) has an opinion about everything,
especially Chad's desire to come out. From the moment she takes to the
stage, Diane is irretrievably over the top. Brassy, obnoxious, loud
and hard-edged, she is single-minded in her zeal to propel Mitchell
(and herself) big time. Anyone out there feel sympathy for Diane? No.
Well, that is the precise intent, and director Rob Ruggiero urges
Buckley's Diane front and center. This skillful yet annoying
in-your-face performance is undeniably effective.
Alex (Jeremy Jordan) is a young guy who quickly
finds his way to Mitchell's bedroom. Alex pronounces that he doesn't
want to be gay – but he is. Too bad for Alex's girlfriend Ellen
(Amanda Perez), who reads Alex's face in a New York minute and
concludes she's the odd the one out. Toward the very end of the
evening, Alex explains to Diane, "This is like a party game for mean
people." Pretty sweet. Diane, narrating with gumption and bravado
galore, serves as the play's fulcrum.
Beane, through his dialogue, effectively delineates
Ellen's character. Perez, making her professional stage debut, is a
newcomer to watch. Her impersonation of Diane's mother, the
Westchester "Screecher" is, for example, a hoot. A graceful actress,
Perez finds herself in a difficult, awkward situation. Beane assists
lines that provide glimpses of his characters' impulses if not
Chad Allen's impressive credits includes television
series work on "St. Elsewhere," "Our House," "My Two Dads," and "Dr.
Quinn: Medicine Woman." The Little Dog Laughed finds him
falling fast for Alex, who hustles around. Meanwhile Diane insists
that the relationship between Chad and Alex be kept secret.
In summary, then, Chad wants to come out but his
agent demands that he stay covert with his sexual preference. Chad is
on the verge of making a name for himself in the movies, but Diane
doesn't want him to pass on the moment – which would be disastrous for
her, too. Alex is a pleasure-seeking individual who is, at best,
indirect with his girlfriend. She informs her lover that he's
impregnated her. Only Diane could possibly save the day!
The sites for the action are New York City and
Hollywood. Designer Adrian W. Jones furnishes a sliding bed, complete
with silver linens. Many of Zachary Williamson's musical "sounds" are
harsh and borderline irritating. Again, this, no doubt, is by intent.
TheaterWorks' production is tight, fast-paced, and
sometimes clever and amusing. Ruggiero does a fine job of creating a
balance among the characters. Diane, whenever she opens her mouth,
dominates a scene. That she does not obliterate many vignettes
featuring the other performers speaks to the play's strength. I find
her absolutely distasteful and wish she would vanish. That, however,
would eliminate the essence of the play. The Little Dog Laughed
is an Off-Broadway piece and TheaterWorks' specialty is Off-Broadway
theater. The play fits the theater's mission.
The Little Dog Laughed continues at
TheaterWorks in Hartford through March 9th. For ticket and schedule
information, call (860) 527-7838.
Photo: Lanny Nagler
NEW YORK TIMES
Fresh From Broadway, Souls (and
Sex) for Sale
There are four hustlers onstage at TheaterWorks in Hartford, but
only one of them is in the business of peddling sex. The other three
Douglas Carter Beane’s satirical comedy about Hollywood, “The
Little Dog Laughed,” cheerfully sell their souls instead.
Buckley plays the agent of Chad Allen’s character.
What they want in exchange, of course, is success, and it means
something different to each of them. For Mitchell, a closeted actor
breaking out from the pack of young Hollywood studs, it’s stardom.
For Diane, his take-no-prisoners agent, it’s power. For Ellen, the
New York gadabout who becomes involved with them through her
friendship with Alex, the male prostitute, it’s celebrity. And Alex?
His motives seem almost laughably naïve alongside the others: he
lowers his trousers — and yes, the audience will look on as he does
so — strictly for the cash.
In the vast literature of fear and loathing in the movie industry
— and is it any wonder that so much of it originates in the theater?
— rapacious agents, craven performers and shallow party people are
not exactly novelties. But Mr. Beane’s play, about the lengths to
which Diane will go to keep Mitchell’s sexual orientation a secret,
did not ride triumphantly to Broadway last season because it had
something new to say about the hypocrisy of Hollywood. An
off-Broadway hit in 2006, “The Little Dog Laughed” created a stir on
the strength of
Julie White’s definitive, unforgettable, Tony-winning
performance as Diane.
Mr. Beane tailored the role for Ms. White, who managed to mask
Diane’s predatory bite, and the play’s problems, with a clamorous,
irresistible charm. Somehow, the TheaterWorks associate artistic
director, Rob Ruggiero, and his Diane, the usually reliable Candy
Buckley, must also make something delicious of this piranha. It’s a
tall order. Although she looks sexy in David R. Zyla’s stylish
outfits and crisply conveys Diane’s brio, Ms. Buckley never musters
the appeal that will make the scheming agent a guilty pleasure for
the audience. Her Diane is all flashing, snapping incisors.
It’s possible that this is a directorial choice. Although Diane
announces at the beginning of the play that she is a lesbian, “The
Little Dog Laughed” was criticized in New York for the homophobic
slurs Mr. Beane has her fling repeatedly at Mitchell (and, less
overtly, at the gay writer whose gay play she is trying to acquire
for him). Mr. Ruggiero, who is, like Mr. Beane, openly gay, may not
want us to see Diane as anything but a monster: If we’re not seduced
by her, it becomes harder to gloss over the ugliness of her
corrosive, withering contempt for everything and everyone around
But if we’re not seduced by her, how is it that Mitchell has put
up with her for seven years? How has she been able to get his career
to the point where he has so much to lose by hooking up publicly
with Alex? And perhaps most important, how will this comedy get its
laughs? Alex and Mitchell are too busy having sex and falling in
love to be funny, and Ellen’s caustic wit serves primarily to
underline how pathetically empty she is. Mr. Beane’s play
needs us to fall a little bit in love
with Diane — like it or not, everyone else on the stage is basically
a stooge for her machinations.
In a casting coup that should be a marketer’s dream, the closeted
actor Mitchell is played by the formerly closeted actor Chad Allen —
he came out after a tabloid published photographs of him smooching
with a boyfriend, and he has since become an outspoken advocate on
issues affecting the gay community.
Mr. Allen’s chiseled features and easy charisma come across
clearly on the small screen — his seasons as the son in “Dr. Quinn,
Medicine Woman” garnered him an avid following of teenage girls, and
he’s won fans more recently as the gay detective Donald Strachey on
Here! Television. But live theater makes different demands on an
actor, and even in the intimate confines of TheaterWorks, Mr. Allen
seems a bit too small and too wan to be persuasive as a rising
Fortunately, the two attractive newcomers in the cast, Jeremy
Jordan and Amanda Perez, give both heft and sparkle to Alex and
Ellen. It’s not hard to buy them as pretty, crass young things
accustomed to bouncing through life on their looks. And when life
throws Mitchell and Diane their way, one of them will bounce all the
way to the top, and the other will finally stop hustling.