"They had the truth, but they were looking for something else." .. so reads the quote just before the play begins. Keeping with the Hollywood trend (see Moonlight & Magnolias post, below), this play is a more modern portrayal of the city of angels.. comedic yet with the kind of humor that is biting, The Little Dog Laughed does not go easy on us while showing us the "truths" of show business. We have the sharp as nails agent, the good looking leading actor, his male "friend" prostitute, and the "friend's" girlfriend. Quoi? That's right folks, our strong leading man is of questionable sexual nature. This brings me to what is perhaps my favorite thing about this play. The three young characters - Mitchell(movie star), Alex(prostitute), and Ellen(party girl) - are in a love triangle of sorts, but their sexuality is not easily defined. Both Mitchell and Alex are straight, or so they claim, but they happen to love being with each other. To outside eyes it would be easy to label them as gay, since they are sleeping with each other and are both male, but Alex sleeps with men only for money and also enjoys sleeping with women and while Mitchell enjoys sleeping with men, he's never really had a relationship with one. What begins as just another trick melts into something much more intimate. There are gray areas in sexuality that are too often pushed one way or another and Beane manages to create relationships that illuminate this.
There is a point in the play where the three young lovers are faced with a choice - Mitchell's agent does not want the public to know he is seeing Alex so in a nutshell she tells them they can compromise and hide who they really are or they can go their own ways, having lost love but being true to themselves. For Mitchell and Ellen, who choose to hide, the end of the play is also the end of their individual happiness. Ellen has married a man who does not love her and Mitchell has chosen his career over a deep connection with Alex. But for Alex, who gives up Mitchell and Ellen in exchange for freedom, this marks the beginning of a new path for him. He is heartbroken, yes, but he recognizes that, "My life is beginning." For now he knows who he is, finally, and may go on to find someone who will love him and not be ashamed of it. The love that he and Mitchell shared has changed him. To quote James Baldwin: "Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."
Thursday Play-a-day: The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl