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THEATRE: 14 FEBRUARY 2017

By JOHN ROZENTALS

The Little Dog Laughed, by Douglas Carter Beane | Directed by Alice Livingstone

New Theatre (http://newtheatre.org.au) | New Theatre, Newtown, Sydney | Until 4 March

Tom Bannerman’s economical, sophisticated set is immediately striking and whets the appetite as the audience files into New Theatre.

And from the moment that classily clad publicist/agent Diana (Sarah Aubrey) delivers the first of her pithy monologues — this one about Mickey Rooney completely destroying the mood established by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, just by making an appearance — you know you’re in for a treat.

American playwright Douglas Carter Beane sports a very witty and sardonic pen and uses it to great effect in giving Hollywood and its shallowness a thorough going over.

You wouldn’t have thought that gayness would be a problem for aspiring actors these days, but that’s certainly not how Diana sees it when Mitchell (Brett Rogers), her next big thing for the silver screen, starts falling in love with Alex (Charles Upton), a New York rent boy whose girlfriend Ellen (Madeline Beukers) has quite a liberal attitude towards his means of making a living.

The occasional covert homosexual fling wouldn’t be a problem, but a serious, public relationship with Alex is quite out of the question if Diana is to use Mitchell’s boy-next-door appeal to push him up the ladder of stardom and make her own big bucks.

But Diana has a cunning plan that might just work — marry Mitchell off to Ellen, move Alex into their home as live-in help, and create a menage-a-trois that keeps everyone happy.

Is she successful? Sorry, you’ll have to see for yourself.

And is the play successful? Absolutely. The great lines simply fly from Douglas Carter Beane’s acerbic machine gun and the side plot involving Diane’s negotiations — “Trust me, I’m an agent” — for screen rights to a leading playwright’s masterpiece is packed with enough cynicism to be quite disturbing.

There is terrific chemistry and emotional connection between Brett Rogers as Mitchell and Charles Upton as Alex.

Rogers skilfully manages the requisite hollowness of the Hollywood heartthrob, and Sarah Aubrey is brilliant as the world-wise and manipulative Diane, both in dialog and as narrator.

Madeline Beukers conveys well the requisite poise of the worldly, almost aloof Ellen, but also handles the young woman’s fragile side with ease, while delivering some terrific lines with fine timing.

Director Alice Livingstone skilfully oversees a tale of emotional rollercoasters and razor-sharp, barbed satire.

Her use of skillfully lit, almost cocooned ‘side pods’ for Diana and Ellen to deliver observations on developments works excellently and highlights Lighting Designer Louise Mason’s work.

Absolutely scintillating theatre.

Above: Charles Upton, Madeline Beukers, Sarah Aubrey and Brett Rogers. All images: Bob Searey.

Charles Upton and Brett Rogers.

Sarah Aubrey.