‘Little Dog’ plays for laughs and heartstrings

The sign of a good show is how long it takes you to stop thinking about it after you’ve walked out of the theater. Little Dog will be a topic of conversation the next day at breakfast and stay with you for a long time

AURORA | We all want a Hollywood ending. Credits roll, love has been found, the good guys have come out on top and everyone rides off into the sunset. It’s why we see crap movies and plays. No it’s not shocking when the ingénue who visits home leaves her big city boyfriend for her childhood sweetheart. But audiences generally don’t want shock, they want schlock.

The ridiculousness of the Hollywood ending is exactly why “The Little Dog Laughed” is such a wonderfully heartbreaking play. It exposes both the false veneer of Hollywood’s manufactured dreams and the facade we all put up to protect ourselves from heartbreak. And Vintage Theater’s production is a pitch-perfect interpretation of the 2007 Tony nominee for Best Play.

“The Little Dog Laughed” centers around the relationship between up-and-coming actor Mitchell, forced into the closet to pursue his dream of Hollywood, and callboy Alex, a confident hustler whose bravado is both genuine and a front for someone looking for a home. Drew Hirschboeck as Mitchell and Christian Munck as Alex have chemistry for days. If these two couldn’t work together, the play would be doomed. Instead the audience is treated to two actors whose back and forth feels so real that it shows just how much work the two put into their characters.

Miranda Byers plays Alex’s best friend and somewhat girlfriend Ellen. Byers has the least amount of stage time among the show’s four actors but her presence is felt even when she walks off stage. Ellen’s jaded persona is only a paper-thin disguise to hide her desire for the happy ending. Byers gives us the real Ellen in stages and doesn’t rush to tip her hand to the character’s true center. We get to see the sarcastic shield Ellen carries slowly break down and by the end, we share in her desperation to be anything but alone.

Our guide through this little love story is Mitchell’s agent, Diane, played with total glee by Jacqueline Garcia. She seems to relish every line she delivers as the wickedly sharp agent who long ago gave up being true to herself in order to make it in the film industry. From her perch as someone who has survived for years by knowing how to play the game, Diane has already seen how this story is going to end. And Garcia is a true joy to watch as she tries to steer the rest of the cast to the inevitable ending.

Throughout the show, playwright Douglas Carter Beane uses intersecting monologues to pull back the curtain on his characters. And director Rachel Bouchard has worked with her cast to make these continuous monologues flow smoothly throughout the show. There’s the risk of a show so filled with monologues having clunky timing as characters keep breaking the fourth wall but Bouchard and her cast have a solid handle on the show’s timing.

The sign of a good show is how long it takes you to stop thinking about it after you’ve walked out of the theater. Little Dog will be a topic of conversation the next day at breakfast and stay with you for a long time.