The Little Dog Laughed is a comedy with bite 

Heartthrob Looking for Same: Playhouse opens the comedy closet

With every affair and visit to Betty Ford plastered on tabloid covers, there aren't many secrets left in Hollywood these days. But a handful of leading men on the Walk of Fame work diligently to hide their private emotions.

Last month, gay director Todd Holland (a three-time Emmy winner for The Larry Sanders Show and Malcolm in the Middle) talked about how he "lives honestly," making a sort-of political statement by kissing his husband at the Emmys. Then he told a small crowd at an LA film festival that he advises young, gay actors to "stay in the closet." And that's coming from someone with a personal interest in the broader introduction and eventual acceptance of gay people in America.

While Holland's comment made a lot of folks angry, there was also a silent understanding that a handful of leading men and a few up-and-comers have taken such advice. All one has to do is look at the box office receipts in Mayberry to understand why one would bring his mother as an awards show date.

It's this tragic setup that births the comedic adventures of The Little Dog Laughed, Broadway playwright Douglas Carter Beane's tale that shines a light on the gay glass ceiling and other Hollywood secrets. The story centers on Diane, an agent desperately trying to suppress the slight homosexual tendencies of her number-one client, leading man Mitchell. When the pair hit New York to pick up an award, Mitch hires a hustler, Alex, who's also juggling his girlfriend, Ellen. The original show was nominated for a Tony for best play, and Julie White won a best actress for playing Diane.

Steve Lepre, the director for the Charleston production, sums up the play as, "Entourage meets Breakfast at Tiffany's." It's Ari and Paul wrangling a sudden romance between Vincent Chase and Holly Golightly.

Lepre also headed up a local production of Beane's earlier play, As Bees in Honey Drown, and he says the new one shows the writer's growth.

"He's much tighter with his writing," Lepre says, noting that Bees was an eight-person ensemble. "It moved very fast and was very complex."

This time out, Little Dog is "fast paced and hilarious," the director says. It focuses on the four characters after the one-night stand between Mitchell and Alex gets complicated, leading Diane, played by Liz Butler Duren, to do her dastardly best to untangle the pair.

"She's a cross between Vlad the Impaler and Leona Helmsley," says Lepre.

The cast also includes local theatre regular Randy Risher as the closeted actor.

"Randy has done a lot of stuff in town, but he's never done anything like this," Lepre says. "He's throwing everything into it."

College of Charleston actor William Haden plays Alex after a sexually-charged supporting role in the college production of Quills earlier this year.

"I thought this would be a role that would stretch him," Lepre says. "He's really working past his charm and going deeper."

And Emily Wilhoit carries just as much water as the girlfriend, Ellen.

"She's taken a part that, in most productions, doesn't have the emotional depth Emily has brought to it," LePre says.

This comedy is for adults only. There's saucy language and nudity.


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