REVIEW: Miami University’s The Little Dog Laughed

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Mario Formica, Adam Joesten, Catilin Douglass, and Theresa Liebhart

A friend of mine recently raised the question about whether or not Douglas Carter Beane’s THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED was relevant in 2014, with major stars coming out of the closet at a rapid pace with no real consequence.  It’s a fair question.

And its one that I imagine Carly Mungovan, the director of Miami University’s production would answer with vehemence.   Not only based on her notes in the program, but in the way she has staged this beautifully funny production, it is obvious that she “get it.”  That the show is still relevant today because sexuality is just one area of identify in which people struggle.

You can see her strong direction throughout this piece.  All the pieces worked together nicely and the ensemble all shared a similar tone.  The acting work, while uneven in places, was sturdy. I appreciated many of the choices made and was drawn in emotionally more than once by moments that hadn’t moved me when I’d seen the show prior.

Adam Joesten gives a buoyancy to “Mitchell.” I believed him as a shallow movie star and he has matured both physically and in ability since I saw him in PETER PAN last year.  Mario Formica (“Alex”) has potential but he must slow down his speech and work on subtlety.  There were several things he did, though, that I thought were inspired.  Caitlin Douglass as “Ellen” was the most natural in the intimate black box space and seemed the most comfortable with her character and probably herself.  The friend who accompanied me said he believed her and thought she was pitch perfect.  Finally, Theresa Liebhart as “Diane” absolutely nailed the role.  Her pacing, her vocalization, and the way she understood the humorous dialogue and her ability to spit it out and emote at the same time was wonderful.  While each of these actors need more training (and more importantly, more stage time), I really enjoyed myself.

Perhaps even better than these unpolished but impassioned performances was the versatile set.  Set designer Gion DeFrancesco captured the glitz of Hollywood but added functionality.  The layered set is symbolic of the layers of this story and I loved it. I also adored the costumes. Designer Bobby Vlasic dressed each character appropriately and captured the personalities of each only adding to the production.  Miami University Theatre should be extraordinarily proud of this one.  THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED was as cohesively designed, directed, and acted a production as I’ve seen in awhile.

And to answer my friend’s question… yes, the show is absolutely relevant. In an age where people are still killed for their sexuality or rumors about it, we must continue conversations about who we are as people and not as labels.  I think that’s what this show is mostly about.

Up next at Miami is COMMUNICATING DOORS running from November 19th – 23rd.  More information including ticketing can be found here.

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