Front and Center
Chad Allen gets serious about The Little Dog Laughed and Daniel Breaker talks about his long Strange trip to Broadway.
"This offer came up while I was shooting two films, and when I read the script, it was such a funny sarcastic commentary on the city where I grew up and have lived my entire life, that I didn't think I could pass it up," he says. "I was really impressed with the depth that Douglas has in understanding the way this town moves."
As those who have seen the play knows (spoiler alert), Mitchell is eventually persuaded by his rapacious agent Diane (to be played here by Broadway veteran Candy Buckley) to settle for a sham heterosexual marriage in order to further his career. "I know what it's like to be in that place, and I certainly understand the fear Mitchell has. I know what it's like to be in a room and have people talk about your sexuality and tell you that you won't fulfill your dreams if you're openly gay. It's a scary place to be," he says. "The direction I took is not common. For most human beings, it's hard to follow your heart -- and it isn't always met with cash and prizes. And I think if Mitchell had made the same decision I did, it might not have been as interesting to me to take this part."
The show, at least as written, has a nude scene between Mitchell and his paramour, and Allen admits to a bit of trepidation about taking it all off. "It's scary, but I think baring one's soul is more scary than baring one's body," he notes. "The most important thing to me is that I don't want this to become a show about a nude scene; I can't stand when nudity takes over a show. The way Douglas has written this part is very specific and the act of them both taking their clothes off says so much about who they are."
Being in the public eye, however, is second nature to Allen -- who began his acting career at age 4 and gained fame early on TV's Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. "I've never not lived in a world where people didn't know about my private life. And when I first came out, I felt like I had to personally represent the LGBT community, and so I did a lot of public events," he says. "But right now, I'd like to pass the mantle. I have a partner, and a dog, and a life, and a career -- I'm doing two more of the Donald Strachey films," he says. "I would love to see other actors come out and become famous, but I know it's still a painful decision. However, I wouldn't change what I've done for anything."
"I am so excited to have this opportunity to come uptown with the show. We're looking forward to giving people something different -- if anything, we're now leaning to make this more of a rock concert," he says. "Of course, I'm really curious to see what happens. I think the audience will be a fun mix of people -- downtowners, Stew fanatics, and the traditional musical theater crowd. And in the end, I think the show's coming-of-age story is what will attract people."
It is Breaker's character -- called simply "Youth" and based on Stew -- who matures during the show from a disaffected California teen to a respected European performance artist and musician. "I feel like my character is more of an everyman than he was when we first started. He's really a symbol of the arrogance of youth and the desire of many people to recreate themselves," he says. "And his story is close to mine in many ways. My dad was in the Army, so I grew up in a small town near Frankfurt, so it's funny my character spends so much time in Berlin. I'd love to go back now."
If he didn't have time to visit Berlin or Amsterdam -- another of the show's primary locales -- it's because Breaker began rehearsals for the Broadway production the morning after closing in Lincoln Center's production of Cymbeline. "Shakespeare is my first love, and I want to do more of his plays," he says. "But Stew's understanding of language is just as beautiful as Shakespeare's in an odd way."