Monday, February 10, 2014

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED • Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog's production of Douglas Carter Beane's Tony-award winning, sharp-tongued comedy about the closeted foibles of the showbiz industry, is the perfect thing to knock off the chill of this frosty St. Louis winter.

Diane (Sarajane Alverson), is a Hollywood agent whose ambition is only matched possibly by her problem solving abilities. As she reels us in immediately with a monologue that acclimates us to a Hollywood headspace and introduces us to her most promising client, we learn that rising star, Mitchell Green (Bradley J. Behrmann), is on the brink of cash cow potential. Diane's eyes are firmly fixed on purchasing the film rights of a hot new play -- the perfect star vehicle for Mitchell. The one thing that threatens to derail Diane's plans is Mitchell's "recurring case of homosexuality". Even though she's a lesbian herself, when she finds him and a young hustler he initially ordered in a drunken stupor named Alex (Paul Cereghino) together, she is determined to keep this as far from the press as possible, lest Mitchell lose his potential matinee idol status, and her upward mobility vanishes in a poof of smoke. Mitchell enjoys his time with Alex, though he's not ready to come to grips with his sexuality, and neither is Alex for that matter. Alex has a "sometimes" girlfriend named Ellen (Paige Hackworth) whose chatter when we first meet her makes it clear that she truly deserves her own Bravo reality show.

Paul Cereghino (Alex)
and Bradley J. Behrmann (Mitchell Green).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Just as the relationship between Alex and Mitchell grows and threatens to turn into something substantial, further developments come along that put the golden goose at risk.

Gary F. Bell's direction keeps the pace high and the laughs coming through Beane's rhythmic, rapid-fire dialogue. Before any role had been cast, when I first read that Stray Dog was going to stage this play I immediately thought, "Cool. Okay so Sarajane Alverson, right?" Sure enough, she shines brightly as Diane. Yes, Diane gets the best lines, but Alverson makes those lines pay off, bringing Beane's words to life, crackling and snapping with wit and style. Behrmann's Mitchell plays well off of his scheming agent, particularly during a scene where they're meeting with the playwright, and he's heartfelt coming to terms with himself, while Cereghino's Alex has his own issues to face, and is convincingly sincere in his scenes with Mitchell.

Bradley J. Behrmann (Mitchell Green)
and Sarajane Alverson (Diane).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Hackworth settles into her role as Ellen a little later on, but rounds out the cast nicely. Rob Lippert's scenic design makes good use of the space, putting a big ole bed front and center with panels and multi-leveled platforms on either side that highlight the monologues. There's also original artwork featured on the walls by Gary L. Karasek that will be available for purchase after the show's run. Tyler Duenow's lights direct our attention to the action nicely, with costumes by Gary F. Bell.

A lot has changed since Beane wrote this play in 2006. Several states have legalized gay marriage and many stars have come out of the closet to cheers instead of jeers, but homosexuality is still taboo, and the crispness of this play has lost none of its oomph over the past several years. The title is taken from the nursery rhyme, "Hey Diddle Diddle", but the play is adults only. So leave the kids at home and check it out for some great laughs. It's playing until the 22nd.


Sarajane Alverson (Diane)
and Paige Hackworth (Ellen).
Photo credit: John Lamb
THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED

Written by Douglas Carter Beane
Directed by Gary F. Bell
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through February 22 | tickets: $18 - $20
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Saturday, February 22 at 2pm

Cast:
Sarajane Alverson (Diane), Bradley J. Behrmann (Mitchell), Paul Cereghino (Alex) and Paige Hackworth (Ellen).

Creative:
Scenic design by Rob Lippert; costume design by Gary F. Bell; lighting design by Tyler Duenow; property design by Gary F. Bell, Justin Been and Jay V. Hall; stage manager, Justin Been.

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