There is a gem of a show just waiting to explode from the tiny Havana Theatre right now, but for me the Stage One Theatre production of The Little Dog Laughed doesn’t quite live up to its obvious potential.
Mitchell Green (Michael Coen Chase) is one of Hollywood’s “it” men right now, having the fame and fortune to pretty much get anything he wants. Problem is, even with Tinseltown’s liberal political tendencies, the idea of one of their biggest leading men being gay is still considered box office suicide. When Green meets rent boy Alex (Julian LeBlanc), Green becomes infatuated with the young 24 year old and they soon become an item. Fearing for his career, Mitch’s agent Diane (Sarah Ann Chisolm) does everything in her power to dissuade Mitch from getting involved with Alex. When Alex’s girlfriend Ellen (Laura Cairn) throws a wrench into Mitch and Alex’s blossoming relationship, agent Diane contrives a plan that Mitch believes will give him the best of both of his worlds.
While there were a few really nice moments throughout the show, especially from Chase, there were also a couple of issues that ultimately let this production down.
Playwright Beane provides each of his character with a number of opportunities for both internal and external monologues. For example, Diane talks about Hollywood’s distaste for homosexual leading men, Alex talks about the first time he got paid for his “services”, Green gets to whine about how everyone and everything seems to be against him, and Ellen, well Ellen gets to be sad about pretty much every aspect of her life. I found that all four actors just couldn’t get the cadence right in these monologues, leaving me a little confused as my mind tried to reassemble what they were trying to say. I am sure there were many funny (and touching) moments that I simply missed because the phrasing was off. On a couple of occasions as well, we saw actors delivering their lines to the audience when it was clear the moments were meant for the characters and not an aside to those of us watching. And what is it with all the whining? Whining is not an emotion, it is just annoying.
Despite these real issues, Chase’s Mitch managed to stand-out for me. Where it can be difficult sometimes to provide a depth to as narrowly written characters as some of these, Chase manages to provide Mitch with just the right balance of vulnerability and resilience.
Director William Fraser does a good job getting his actors from point A to point B but has not gone far enough in helping them in always effectively delivering the playwright’s very witty words.
Perhaps with a little extra time in rehearsals the problems with the show may have been mitigated. Indeed, if the company were to go back to the studio and then remount the production, I would be first in line to see this show again as I am convinced a real gem of a show really does exist here.
Tickets are $18 – $20 available through Tickets Tonight or by calling 604.684-2787. Visit www.stageoneinfo.com for more information. The show carries a warning of adult themes, sexuality, and male nudity.