Fells Point Corner Theatre bites into 'The Little Dog Laughed'
There is plenty of theatrical material to be derived from stories of closeted gay actors worried about discovery.
In his play "The Little Dog Laughed," which had a well-received run on Broadway in 2006, Douglas Carter Beane mines some of that fertile ground.
The playwright has created a spicy, wickedly funny scenario about a movie star named Mitchell, prone to a "slight recurring case of homosexuality."
That description comes from Mitchell's uber-agent, Diane, which has to be one of the juiciest roles to come around in years.
Holly Pasciullo dives into it with a vengeance to deliver a production-anchoring performance of "Little Dog" at the Fells Point Corner Theatre.
Although the rest of the cast doesn't quite match her assurance and flair, there is ...
The plot finds Mitchell (Tom Burns) in a New York hotel with rent boys on his mind. The one who arrives, Alex (Chris Krysztofiak), is not quite what the actor expected. Despite the seamy side of the situation, serious sparks begin to crackle. But when Diane discovers that Mitchell may actually consider a career-threatening relationship, she springs into defensive action.
Meanwhile, there's the little matter of Alex's girlfriend (don't all male hustlers have girlfriends?). It turns out that Ellen (Emma Healy) has something to say that might affect the blossoming romance, too.
It's all pretty much regular sitcom territory, excepting the mature audience stuff (of course, there's nudity), but Beane's clever writing keeps things remarkably fresh. Even when the action takes a weird turn or two, the piece holds together.
The playwright's understanding of the prism of sexual identity and desire shines through the comedy. And he sure does know the Hollywood crowd, skewering all sorts of things, from the one-upmanship ritual of the power lunch ("A Cobb salad with everything on the side") to the drafting of milk-every-penny contracts.
Diane symbolizes many hideous things about that world, but she's wonderfully cool about her calculated manner. And she's armed with so many cutting remarks (a sample: "Gay men hate all women, unless they're in black and white and suffering majestically") that it's a wonder there isn't blood all over the stage by play's end. You just can't help liking her.
Pasciullo, whose delivery has something of the snap that Megan Mullally brought to the similarly no-holds-barred Karen in TV's "Will and Grace," is delectably adept at revealing Diane's coldblooded streak. But she also makes it possible, if only for an instant, to notice the beating of what might be an actual human heart beneath the steely veneer. That helps confirm the richness of the play.
Burns doesn't exude the star quality that would make Mitch seem like such a big deal, but he neatly conveys the character's volatile case of nerves and his giddy flirtation with closet-busting.
Krysztofiak's work here is not as confident and colorful as it was earlier this season in the Glass Mind Theatre production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ "Den of Thieves," when he played an impetuous would-be thug. Still, the actor gets across enough of Alex's engaging, conflicted nature.
The character of Ellen has nearly as much tangy material as Diane, and Healy gives it quite an amusing spin.The production runs through Dec. 11.
PHOTO BY KEN STANEK