Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

The kid stays in the picture

December 01, 2008

Julie White as Diane
Photo: Craig Schwartz/CTG 2008

At the heart of Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed, now on stage at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City, is an amazing performance from Julie White. The play, which transferred up to Broadway in early 2007, now arrives in Los Angeles, the city of its inspiration if not its setting, largely intact. White reprises her Tony award-winning role as Diane, the lesbian up and coming agent whose hottest property, Mitchell Green (played by the very good Brian Henderson), is about to seal the deal on a big new property for himself when he meets a hustler who stirs some of Green’s own deeply-suppressed homosexual desire. Alex, who is played by Johnny Galecki, also straight from the Broadway cast, finds himself a little more (or perhaps a little less depending how you look at it) bisexual than either he or his girlfriend have thought. Rounding out the cast is said sardonic girlfriend, Ellen, played by Zoe Lister-Jones, who stands up well to the other big wattage performances in the cast. Needless to say, the whirlwind romance creates havoc in the primary relationships of both male characters, and soon things are speeding to their not-so-inevitable conclusion.

Brian Henderson and Johnny Galecki
Photo: Craig Schwartz/CTG 2008

The play is hysterically funny, and all of the big lines go to White. Her calculating and ruthless Diane is a marvel and White’s ability to maintain such a high energy level throughout without ever becoming grating or shrill is a master class in acting. To entice the audience into rooting for her schemes at the expense of more sympathetic characters is a very big feat. Especially when two of those are hot guys appearing in the (albeit all too briefly) all-together. Of course, the heart and soul of the story, which is actually as much melodrama as comedy, is the relationship between movie star Mitchell and hustler Alex. It’s affecting even if the whole “things we do for love” storyline is a bit worn and the relationship on the whole is exactly the kind of thing that happens only in stage plays. There is a clever bit of self-referential posturing as well concerning Mitchell and Diane’s cajoling of a New York playwright to sell his gay-themed play to Hollywood for the inevitable heterosexual rewrite. The author of the play, repeatedly referred to as “he meaning him” slyly allows Beane to wink at himself through the characters in the very play he is potentially selling.

But don’t worry about things getting too metaphysical. Little Dog never goes that far astray. But it is hugely enjoyable—a real bright spot here in L.A. right now. It runs through December 21. Oh and BTW, Spring Awakening is also on stage at the Ahmanson theater downtown through this weekend. I saw it again after NY and SF viewings, and it holds up very well. The sound problems from up north have largely been worked out, so take my advice. With so many discount seats available, catch it if you haven’t already.


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