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Monday, November 13, 2006

 

ModFab On...The Little Dog Laughed

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED
Starring: Tom Everett Scott, Julie White, Johnny Galecki and Ari Graynor
Written by Douglas Carter Beane
Directed by Scott Ellis
Opening tonight at the Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street, NYC


When Ben Brantley of the New York Times called The Little Dog Laughed "the tastiest homegrown comedy of manners to hit New York in years" last February, he was paying a compliment to a small Off-Broadway hit. But when the Times speaks, things happen -- and tonight, a mere eight months later, the saucy and surprising comedy opens on Broadway under the watchful eye of veteran producer Roy Gabay. Often, these moves uptown reveal the threadbare nature of the original work; dwarfed on a Broadway stage, smaller plays sometime have trouble finding their footing in the brighter lights and bigger budgets of the Great White Way.

But that is, delightedly, not the case with The Little Dog Laughed, which has just become the best Broadway comedy since Avenue Q made a similar transition three seasons ago. A savvy, scene-stealing glimpse into Hollywood and homophobia, it boasts the first star-making turn of the season by Julie White, who clearly has a Tony Award in her future. White's performance -- packed with zany physicality and dazzling verbal contortions -- is a rare thing of beauty. It is one of two legendary performances happening at the moment (down the block is Christine Ebersole in Grey Gardens), and it must be seen to be believed.

The plot will be familiar to anyone who's ever read a tabloid with a headline about Tom Cruise -- a closeted Hollywood action star (Tom Everett Scott) hires a rentboy (Johnny Galecki) on a drunken whim, and ends up falling in love. It's up to his powerhouse agent (White) to save the career and the romance...and do what she can about the rentboy's girlfriend (Ari Graynor).

There's a great deal of Noel Coward mixed in with the Hollywood chatter and the everyone's-really-bi hipsterisms, but what is really astonishing is the way author Douglas Carter Beane (To Wong Foo...) flips our own prentensions and sexual politics back on us. By the end of the play, you'll be pulling for the quartet to pull their closeted-movie-star hat trick off. It's ingenious, funny, and savage in the way it takes apart our sacred cows. The show still suffers from a sluggish second act, but it's a minor irritation...The Little Dog Laughed is the best time one can have right now at the theatre.

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