Noah Yaconelli and Aubyn Heglie in Ashland High School's 2013 production of 'Lend Me a Tenor.' Photo courtesy of Jenny Graham

ANPF presents 'The Little Dog Laughed'

Ashland New Plays Festival will present a staged reading of playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s "The Little Dog Laughed" as part of ANPF's Actor's Choice series.

The Actor's Choice program debuted last summer with "In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)" starring Kate Hurster. Hurster, a member of Actors Equity and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival company, lined up a director and cast, and "In the Next Room" was presented to a sold-out crowd. The script held a role that Hurster had always wanted to play.

This year, "The Little Dog Laughed," featuring Catherine Lynn Davis, Aubyn Heglie, Samuel L. Wick and Noah Yaconelli, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 29, at the Unitarian Center, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Kenneth Albers directs.

Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased online at ashlandnewplays.org.

“Actor’s Choice gives a great actor the chance to perform a favorite role and guarantees the audience a special evening,” says ANPF president James Pagliasotti. “This season we asked Kenneth Albers and Catherine Lynn Davis. Cate is an outstandingly talented actor, and Ken is one of the finest directors in the country. We were hoping they would agree and were thrilled when they said, ‘Sure, The Little Dog Laughed.’ We anticipate a very poignant interpretation of this funny and touching play.”

The characters include a hard-driving Hollywood agent (Davis), her budding screen idol client (Yaconelli), a sexy young drifter (Wick), and the drifter’s naive, needy girlfriend (Heglie).

Ashland High School graduates Heglie and Yaconelli have worked with ANPF artistic director Kyle Haden before — in a 2010 production of "Noises Off" at AHS, which he directed. Heglie now attends Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, and Yaconelli is studying acting at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. Haden also is director of OSF's Summer Seminar for High School Juniors and a faculty member of the OSF Institute.

"The Little Dog Laughed" follows the adventures of Mitchell Green, a movie star who could hit it big were it not for one teensy weensy problem: His agent, Diane, can't seem to keep him in the closet.

Trying to help Mitchell navigate Hollywood’s choppy waters, the devilish Diane is doing all she can to keep Mitchell away from the cute rent boy who’s caught his eye and the rent boy’s girlfriend — wait, the rent boy has a girlfriend? Will there be a happy ending as the final credits roll?

“It’s everything you wanted to know about show business but were afraid to ask,” Davis says.

According to Albers, “For my money, a good play needs four major elements: A great story, great characters, great language, and an audience of at least one person eager to be challenged and entertained. In the case of 'The Little Dog Laughed,' three of the four elements are already in place. The story approaches its subject with humor, humanity and compassion. The characters are fully engaged in a conflict they must resolve in their own unique way.

"And the language is evocative and scintillating, carrying the story and the characters along a careening path toward a common denouement. All that awaits is the audience member — or members — eager to complete the creative equation.”

The play was originally produced off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre, and the cast included Tony Award winner Julie White and Johnny Galecki of television’s "The Big Bang Theory." White and Galecki remained in the play when it transferred to Broadway.

The title is a reference to the fictional short story written by Arturo Bandini in John Fante’s "Ask the Dust." The same title is used for a fictional play that appears in Agatha Christie's "Three Act Tragedy." 

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