Palladio's own Zoe Lister-Jones in Off-Broadway smash hit:
'THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED'
Actor in the Closet, Agent in Control
By BEN BRANTLEY
Published: January 10, 2006
Lean, mean, brash, crass and about as deep as a shot glass, Diane the Hollywood agent is just the tonic New York theatergoers need in the gray depths of an urban winter. Played by Julie White in an irresistible adrenaline rush of a performance, Diane can be thought of as the wicked witch or the fairy godmother of "The Little Dog Laughed," the tangy new fable of fame and its discontents by Douglas Carter Beane that opened last night at the Second Stage Theater. Either way, she's certainly more of a pick-me-up than your average jukebox musical.
Directed by Scott Ellis - with a terrific cast that includes Neal Huff as Diane's client, a sexually confused movie star, and Johnny Galecki as the rent boy who loves him - "The Little Dog Laughed" is the tastiest homegrown comedy of manners to hit New York since, well, Mr. Beane's "As Bees in Honey Drown." [...]
What has garnered the most advance attention for "Little Dog" has been the promise that it would be about a closeted gay actor who knows his homosexuality is incompatible with being a matinee idol. Sure enough, the character of Mitchell (Mr. Huff) is suggestively familiar enough that certain contemporary male stars (names withheld in view of possible litigation) should probably stay away from this show if they want to avoid sleepless nights. (Diane muses wonderingly on her client's naïve idea of taking his mother as a date to an awards ceremony "so that no one will know he's gay.") [...]
What makes "Little Dog" more than an extended satiric sketch, though, is Mr. Beane's use of the big lie to consider more subtle forms of self-deception - from Mitchell and Alex's insistence to each other that they aren't really gay to the emotion-deflecting armor of downtown hipness assumed by Alex and his girlfriend, Ellen (Zoe Lister-Jones).
Like "Bees," "Little Dog" unfolds in artful counterpoints of lyrical internal monologues and quick scenes, with two or three vignettes sometimes occurring simultaneously. (Allen Moyer's sleek paneled set allows this to happen with beguiling fluidness.) Much of the dialogue is eminently quotable out of context. (Ellen on wishing she had figured out earlier that club-hopping was boring: "I might have done a little more drugs and paid a little less attention.")
But the one-liners are always particular to their speakers. Don't feel restless if in the early scenes it seems as if the performers (Ms. White aside) aren't landing their jokes; it's because they're grounding their characters instead of going for laughs.
And surprisingly intricate characters they turn out to be. Mr. Huff (of "Take Me Out") presents a Mitchell who is both charming and blurred around the edges, the way actors without parts to play can be. You can see why Alex would both fall hard for and be exasperated by him. Mr. Galecki, best known as Darlene's spineless boyfriend on "Roseanne," finds the unexpected will and resilience in a man who at first registers as a passive drifter. Ms. Lister-Jones, who has less to work with, still shapes a complete portrait of a conflicted and corruptible young woman.
All these folks - along with other, unseen characters, like the self-righteous gay playwright and battalions of lawyers and producers - are to some degree the pawns of Diane, who is to movies what Faye Dunaway was to television in "Network," a business's calculating heart made flesh. Fortunately, Ms. White's Diane isn't the melodramatic masochist that Ms. Dunaway's Diana was. [read on...]