Hollywood agents have long been figures of fun in movies and on TV; the archetype lately is Jeremy Piven as the cynical, frantic Ari Gold (that is, real-life power agent Ari Emanuel) on Entourage. But this fall’s Broadway transfer of Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed suggests a new subgenre: the Agent Morality Play. We are meant, in howling at Julie White’s manic performance as a callow, manipulative ten-percenter, to revile and root for her all at once. “It’s total admiration and contempt,” says Beane, who draws on “every bit of agent behavior” that’s left him amazed or appalled. “You wish you could be as ruthless as they are,” he says. Beane loves Entourage, though he didn’t see it until after writing the play (and issues the disclaimer “Ari Emanuel is lovely to me”).
There is no moment of moral comeuppance in The Little Dog Laughed. For that, you’ll have to wait for Closer playwright Patrick Marber’s Howard Katz, about an aging agent’s professional and personal collapse. “I wanted to render an articulate man inarticulate,” says Marber. Katz, a relic of the days of song-and-dance men, hews closer to Marber’s first agent, back when he was a comedian in the eighties, than to the Emanuels of the world. Most of all, Marber says, he wanted the character to have verbal smarts while being “kind of emotionally stunted. He could have been any profession. At one point he was an estate agent, and I thought, no, that’s Glengarry Glen Ross.”
The Little Dog Laughed, By Douglas Carter Beane; Cort Theatre; opens November 13.
Howard Katz, By Patrick Marber; Laura Pels Theatre; opens February 2007.