Another from the C-T
Review: ‘Little Dog Laughed'' funny, powerful
Jim Cavener take5 Correspondent • published February 20, 2009 12:15 am
“The Little Dog Laughed,” now being presented at Asheville Community Theatre's 35below black-box house, is frequently funny, earnestly edgy and — often — comedic in content.
But wait, there's more: a climax that borders on Frederick Durrenmatt's classic chiller, “The Visit,” where the vicious and vindictive female lead issues a challenge that paralyzes a community and terrifies the audience.
This is high drama, not (at least entirely) to be taken lightly. Come prepared for fun and fantasy as you enter the world of “Hollywierd” — although most of the action takes place in New York. Then expect to fasten your seat belts before the show ends. This is going to be a bumpy ride, for sure.
A shrewd and aggressive talent agent has a chore trying to keep her handsome male protégé in the closet. As this conniving shrew is confronted with obstacles, she concocts a duplicitous dilly to achieve her goals. As the demanding and demeaning Diane, one of Asheville's best, Joan Atwood, turns in a chilling performance that ranks close to her pinnacle as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's “The Master Class.” Atwood, a classically trained theater maven, is a treasure. It's hard to imagine a more effective rendering of the role.
David Ely is electric as the would-be star, Mitchell. The character is not gay, he says, but has increasingly frequent dalliances with guys. Ely holds his own against the diva, Diane, and his struggle is both touching and troubling. The immediate source of the conflict is that Mitchell is more and more involved with a young hustler, and this increasingly significant relationship provides the threat to Diane's plan for getting Mitchell onto the top rung of stardom.
Mitchell's paramour, the “rent-boy” Alex, is given life by young Waynesville actor, Adam Kampouris, known for his impressive work at Haywood Arts Regional Theatre. Adam gives Alex a winsome and winning persona the playwright would have to love. There's enough in him of the opportunistic and ambitious to make us wary of this lad's intentions.
But, he's the whore-with-the-heart-of-gold when the chips are down. It's a lovely rendering of a dicey role.
The apparent lightweight in the cast is the part of Alex's girlfriend, Ellen, as portrayed by Jamie Shell. Shell takes this pivotal role, without flash or dazzle, and gives it life. It's possibly the hardest-to-interpret role in the script, due to its ambiguity and desperation. It may only appear that little is demanded for this realization. But all that is needed is forthcoming. Nice casting, all around.
The spirited and effective direction is by newcomer to our locally heavy theater scene, Francis Cullinan, former theater professor at University of Missouri in Kansas City. For a newbie at Asheville Community Theatre, Cullinan must have had lots of good advice to locate and score the fine talent, both on- and backstage. Let's hope to see more of his fine work in coming seasons.
Jim Cavener reviews theater for take5.
20 February 2009
Another from the C-T