“The Little Dog Laughed” at Arts West

Heather Hawkins is a big presence on any stage, and, as Diane the Hollywood agent in “The Little Dog Laughed,” she’s loud, crass, conniving, convincing and always in control. Diane’s the epitome of the grab-all-you-can mentality rampant in contemporary society. There’s no situation she can’t manipulate, and watching her do her self-interested work is simply delicious. She spits out her lines, throws her entire body into her rages, flings her hair in emphasis, and is a presence to be reckoned with.Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Her property is pretty boy Mitch (Alex Garnett) whom she’s angling to move into a role that will make him a big Hollywood star. Only there’s a bit of a problem. He’s unable to control his homosexual proclivities and actually falls in love with the hustler he hired one night for pleasure in a New York hotel. Alex (Jeff Orton) does it for money. He has a girl friend, but servicing gays earns him a living. So he too is shocked and confused to find that he’s developing strong feelings for Mitch.

Of course there are complications. Even today few Hollywood stars will come out as gay? Diane can’t get what she wants if people know Mitch is gay. So she sets about to straighten this mess out. I won’t ruin the impact by telling you how Diane does it. Instead I’ll encourage you to see this fine production of a really good play. It’s fast moving, incredibly well written, and wonderfully acted by the Arts West cast under the direction of Annie Lareau.

It all takes place on Jenny Littlefield’s elegant set. You’ll recognize the hotel room with its lovely, big bed, the designer bedclothes and its lack of personality. New York, Seattle, Chicago, or Hollywood, they’re all the same. It’s exactly the right environment for the impersonal sexual encounter that turns out to be so much more.

Playwright Douglas Carter Beane is a master at funny but edgy dialog with lots of meat below the surface. Here he presents an extended look at self-deception and at the hypocrisy of celebrity and Hollywood—a morality tale, wrapped in laughter.

Though Feb. 8, at Arts West, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle; (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org).

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