Nearly a decade after its Off Broadway premiere, Douglas Carter Beane’s satire, “The Little Dog Laughed,” may be a little less likely, but the latest production from Island City Stage still delivers the laughs, thanks to a first rate cast and direction.
The play centers around the relationship between a rising and uncomfortably closeted movie star, Mitchell (Chris Crawford), and a gay-for-pay rent boy, Alex (Michael Uribe).
Mitchell’s manager and the show’s narrator, Diane (Mia Matthews), is a shrewd and sometimes shrewish lesbian who has sacrificed the joys of love to cynically advance the best interests of her clients and, incidentally, her own career.
She delivers the best line of the play, lecturing Mitchell after catching him in bed with Alex: “If a straight actor plays a gay man, it’s a stretch, it’s noble. If a gay man plays a gay man, it’s not acting, it’s bragging.”
Ellen (Ashley Chang) is Alex’s girlfriend, who also is willing to overlook a few scruples in pursuit of the material comforts that come with pleasing a sugar daddy.
Handsome Crawford, winner of a Carbonell Award this year for “Murder Ballad” at Actors Playhouse, and the svelte Uribe deliver fine performances as two men who develop a deep, emotional bond from a chance sexual encounter, both forced to make compromises in search of true love.
But it is Matthews, a veteran of the Nickelodeon TV series, “Every Witch Way,” who delivers most of the stinging jabs and jokes and propels the sometimes tedious, two-and-a half hour-long show.
Ultimately, at Diane’s urging, the boy, Mitchell, chooses the glamour of celebrity and winds up with the girl, Ellen, while Alex is left to pursue his own happiness, anything but the typical Hollywood happy ending.
Island City Stage’s associate artistic director, Michael Leeds makes excellent use of the intimate Empire Stage space and sets a fast pace, especially during the 75-minute first act, as the complex relationships are introduced and developed.
Michael McClain’s elegant and clever set features a backward allusion to the famous Hollywood sign, suggesting the ugly side behind the façade of Tinsel town.
Costumes are not usually a category that gets much notice in South Florida theater—except when lavish period musicals are on the bill—but Peter A. Lovello does a fine job outfitting this contemporary drama, especially the dresses and gowns worn by Diane throughout.
We are constantly reminded that millennials are increasingly fluid in their definitions of sexuality and Beane’s comedy offers plenty of opportunities to ponder these sometimes arbitrary labels, even if through the lens of a dated setting.
Island City Stage concludes its 2014-15 season at Empire Stage with the world premiere of South Florida playwright Michael McKeever’s “Daniel’s Husband,” May 28 – June 28, before making the move next fall back to the Island City and its new home, Abyss Theatre on Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors.
Island City Stage presents Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Little Dog Laughed” at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive in Fort Lauderdale, through May 16. Performances are on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. Tickets are $30 at IslandCityStage.org.