Article Title:Review: The Little Dog Laughed @ Downstage
Category:Performance
Author or Credit:Steve Attwood
Published on:8th November 2008 - 10:49 am
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:6710
Text:Richard Knowles except to agree with Auckland reviewer Larry Jenkins that, for gay men, this story of guy meets guy in the closeted and farcical world of Hollywood, is not a very comfortable one; and that Beane certainly loves his stereotypes. And that was at once the strength and weakness of the Downstage production in Wellington. The strength was that stereotypes are instantly recognisable characters we can all identify with. They contributed well to this high energy, OTT, cutting tragi-comedy. But when OTT so occupies the character that we lose sight of the flaws and vulnerabilities underneath, it istaken too far. We're presented with the mask of a cartoonist's caricature, and subtlety is all but lost. I left feeling I had enjoyed a competently produced and professionally acted play - worth going to in that regard - and yet, somehow, lacking any real depth. Was this first night nerves? Was it the struggles with maintaining a believable accent throughout the entire performance? Was it a slightly stiff body language from guys who were getting their kit off in front of a real audience on opening night? I'm not sure, but not once did this play inspire me, draw me irrevocably into its world, or thrill me with its passion. It was good, it was funny, it was clever; but it was not great. I feel that if Wassenaar had had the courage to draw his actors back from the stereotype - just a little - and tone them down - just a little - he would have had a much stronger, more believable play. They came close on several occasions, but even when the linescalled for passions raw, exposed and bloody honest - the Hollywood facade torn away by anger, grief, fear and ambition - still I was not drawn over that edge from being an interested but slightly detached observer, to a being a passionately involved voyeur. Sheridan, as Diane the scheming agent, was for the most part extremely entertaining. Hers was the best captured caricature but, unfortunately, she gabbled. Yes, she was playing a motor mouth on speed, but the audience still needs to hear the words. There were several times when her dialogue went beyond fast to incomprehensible. Sophie Hambleton as the girlfriend of the "straight" rent boy Alex was an amusing foil to the ambitious and ruthless Diane, but failed to get beyond the OTT stereotype to reveal the heart of her character. The boys did slightly better, though they took their time getting there. Eventually we were drawn past the masks into their more fragile, complex, emotionally wrought world, but, again, to the edge, not over it. I have a feeling they will improve as the season progresses. Set-wise, the play on the Hollywood sign was starkly clever, but the fact that I spent so much time worrying about whether naked men were particularly comfortable lying on unprotected wooden blocks - think of the splinters! - in itself indicates that my mind was able to wander. Steve Attwood - 8th November 2008    
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