Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Beane, Garrick Theatre 11-Jan-2010 – Directed by Jamie Lloyd

I'm not sure that this play, about the hypocrisy surrounding the need for leading gay Hollywood actors to stay in the closet, is quite as biting and funny as it wants to be. There are plenty of laughs – not quite as many when Tamsin Greig's agent character Diane is not on stage – but I didn't think it was telling me anything I didn't know already or doing it in a way that made me feel strongly that the situation in Hollywood ought to change. It is arguable whether satire should have to generate those feelings but I do think that satire should produce more righteous indignation than shrugs and “whatevers” that I felt. Of course that is probably just me and I should have let myself have fun because there was fun to be had in this play.
The plot essentially is that an up and coming Hollywood leading man, Mitchell (Rupert Friend), falls for a hustler, Alex, (Harry Lloyd) who he hires one night. Mitchell's feelings are reciprocated by Alex which is problematic because he has a girlfriend, Ellen (Gemma Arterton), and has never really thought of himself as gay in spite of being a rent boy. The affair threatens Mitchell's career – according to the play you can only get a away with being gay and a leading man in Hollywood if you are British and have a knighthood – and his up to his agent Diane to sort things out. My problems with this play may have stemmed from not believing that Rupert Friend's Mitchell was enough of a Hollywood star but I couldn't say whether it was the acting, direction, writing or me that was at fault. Rupert Friend was certainly good, as were the others, but I didn't think Hollywood when I looked at him. There is also a sense of nervousness that I feel whenever I watch British actors play Americans; questioning whether or not they are getting it right. I couldn't fault the accents and they didn't seem to waiver much but the uneasy feeling was still there.
I wonder if this play is born from a Broadway Hollywood rivalry that isn't strong here – maybe we don't discriminate between east and west coasts when we sneer at Americans. Also I had the feeling it was behind the times. Maybe I just wanted more darkness and savagery than the light-hearted fun that was on offer here.

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