Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Little Dog Laughed

by Pa Rock
Citizen Drama Critic

It's a given that an evening at the Nearly Naked Theatre in downtown Phoenix will result in a good time, and The Little Dog Laughed does nothing to diminish that expectation. This play, which was on Broadway just a scant two years ago, is clever, funny, and very touching. The four-person cast under the direction of Nearly Naked founder, Damon Dering, bring their characters to life flawlessly, engaging each other and the audience in an intricate dance of love, fame, and deal-making.

Mitch Green (Ian Christiansen) is a young actor who phones out for a rent boy one evening when he has had a bit too much to drink. Alex (Owen Virgin) answers that call and almost inadvertently begins a serious affair with Mitch. As their love develops, complications arise when Mitch's agent and wannabe producer, Diane (Patti Davis Suarez) tries to keep him closeted while she pursues the rights to a hot play that has a perfect role for Mitch - and is a perfect vehicle for her producer aspirations. And then there is Alex's girlfriend, Ellen (Laura Anne Kenney), who, even though she knows her boyfriend is a hustler, has some significant jealousy pangs as she watches him falling for Mitch.

Okay, it's not your normal boy-meets-girl, boy-courts-girl, boy-marries-girl pablum that has passed as real life for way too long. The Little Dog Laughed is a contemporary love story that explores the topic in an open and honest way. It feels very, very real - from the queen-sized bed that occupies the center of the set, to the occasional and relaxed nudity of the lovers. Much of the dialogue is rapid fire and dead-on, and there are enough twists, turns, and triangles to be worthy of the Bard of Avon. And while the plot is far from predictable, the story is easy to follow.

While each of the actors nailed their roles, it was Patti Davis Suarez who carried the production. In addition to being superb as the pushy agent, she functioned as the narrator for much of the show and kept pulling the various story tangents back into focus. She was also the only member of the cast who managed to remain fully clothed throughout the play!

Ms. Davis Suarez, who has apparently been a staple of the Valley arts scene for several years, was the local news anchor in another era when I was living in southern Missouri. (I won't embarrass her or me by saying how many years ago that was!) I remember her final broadcast - for some odd reason - when she announced that she was leaving and moving to Los Angeles. A couple of years later Saturday Night Live took a swipe at her when she refused to give up her stage name (Patti Davis) so that Reagan's daughter (also Patti Davis) could use it. Gutsy move!

The Little Dog Laughed will run through December 5th. It is a lot of fun and very well done. This show will make you laugh and touch your heart.

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