‘Little Dog’ actor too self-absorbed

In Good Medicine Theatre Company’s “The Little Dog Laughed,” John Beane proves himself a peculiar sort of bad actor.

For many amateur performers, the toughest part in impersonating a character is convincing the audience you’re not speaking memorized lines. Beane’s problem is the opposite.

As Mitchell Green, a movie star trying to keep his gay private life secret, Beane is too natural. If you saw a clip of his work, you’d think he was making his words up on the spot. But when you watch him in a leading role over the course of an evening, it becomes very evident very quickly that he’s about being natural and nothing else. He doesn’t play specific actions, he doesn’t respond to the people around him.

Douglas Carter Beane’s plot pits Mitchell against Diane (Tressa Bern), a tough-talking, calculatedly appealing super agent who wants to protect Mitchell’s career by keeping his lover (Alex Bayless) out of the press.

From the first scene, Beane smothers nearly every line of dialogue with the same kind of vocal tricks: constantly repeating words, stumbling over thoughts, stuttering over letters, adding a half-dozen “uh”s to every spoken passage. The self-absorbed performance robs the production of its conflict.

Bern has the makings of an amusing tough-as-nails negotiator. She has many moments of potentially bring-down-the-house comic bits. But her performance feels too set, too rehearsed. You never get the sense that her behavior is the result of what’s happening onstage.

Bayless is vague and monotonous as the male lover. You don’t understand what draws him and Mitchell to one another because the two men are too busy acting to communicate.

Lester Brent’s sparse set lacks creativity. It’s all black curtain interrupted by an occasional piece of nondescript furniture. His lights do nothing but allow us to see.

What saves the show from total disaster is the raw talent in Beane and Bern, but director Susanna Brent doesn’t know how to guide the riches at her hand. I hope Beane finds a strong coach to channel his energy. It would be unfortunate if he were to continue to abuse his considerable gifts by getting by on affectation.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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