Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Little Dog Laughed” follows four people who, as one of them puts it, couldn’t identify their feelings in a police lineup. Translation: they’re excellent company. The uneven revival at Secret Rose Theatre doesn’t quite do them justice — think of a crisp vodka tonic arriving watered down.
In Manhattan to scoop up movie rights to a hot new play, almost A-list actor Mitchell (Owen Martin) falls for Alex (Trip Langley), a sensitive hustler who divides his time between four-star hotel rooms and the outer borough comforts of friend-with-benefit Ellen (Laine Jennings).
As Alex and Mitchell discover that they have more in common than just the closet, an ugly choice looms: What does Mitchell need more -- Alex, or his name on a multiplex marquee? As his longtime manager Diane (Bernadette Birkett) keeps reminding him, “gay” and “star” only work together when you’re British. Mitchell insists he’s not really into guys: “I have adventures,” he reasons. “You’re like Huckleberry Finn … on a raft made of rent boy,” retorts Diane.
The play cannily burrows under the categories of gay/straight, love/exploitation, before Act II soaps out and Beane thinks he needs to Say Something. Still, director Jon Cortez has a sure sense of physicality, and handles the nudity and love scenes — they don’t always occur simultaneously — with skill. The play’s comedy doesn’t always receive equally strong treatment, with one notable exception: Jennings may be playing the beard, but she’s the secret star here, a bruised glam doll, all legs and lethal timing.