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If the Helen Hayes Awards honored Best Play That Sounds Like a Cherry Red Production But Isn’t, What Dogs Do would be a shoo-in. As it is, this amiable offering from the Charter Theatre is likely to receive many other accolades. It’s a sort of love story between two men, and it’s about perceptions of homosexuals, but it’s not what you’d expect—in fact, it’s all about subverting the expected. Daryl (Christopher Lane) and Martin (Chris Stezin, who also scripted), first shown moving tarps and a sofa in the main room of Daryl’s unfinished house, are 30-ish childhood pals who share affections for fine cigars, football, their lovers, and Beavis-level humor. Martin, who’s gay, reveals early on that Daryl stood up during a screening of Philadelphia and yelled at the screen, “Die, you tiresome fag, die!” But Daryl protests that he’s not a bigot—he’s a writer who detests cheap sentimentality. (His closeness to Martin would seem to belie his homophobia, but it’s not without its complications: When Martin came out, in college, Daryl moved out of their dorm room, and that action is the elephant in the rec room that they step around even as they move a lot of other literal and figurative furniture.) Daryl has an idea for a play that draws on a number of cliches, but he believes that because the characters are gay, “it’s only bad if I write it”—in other words, Martin, a computer geek who, his boyfriend says, doesn’t have a creative bone in his body, could get away with posing as the author. A bet is placed, with a box of Macanudos to the winner; Daryl’s director girlfriend (Rachel Gardner) and Martin’s actor boyfriend (Ray Ficca) are called in to participate, unwittingly; and the plot is off and running. What Dogs Do is a typical Charter production—witty in that Frasier-esque way that assumes the audience members are fairly erudite and doesn’t pause to quiz them. (It’s also not above lowbrow humor; there’s a running gag about the Utne Reader—or, as Daryl calls it, “Reader’s Digest for Marxists”—being used as toilet paper. It’s the least plausible element of the script—surely People’s Weekly World would work better than those glossy pages.) Director Keith Bridges has gotten impeccable timing from his five-member cast (Dennis A. Dulmage plays Daryl’s curmudgeonly dad), with quips tossed off by passing characters and simultaneous conversations that manage to be simultaneously intelligible. Not that it’s rushed—the appealing Lane, in particular, delivers every line as if it had just been crafted in his good-ol’-boy-writer’s noggin. Stezin’s efficient script knows where not to go—you don’t get Norman Lear sermonettes, and you don’t have to judge for yourself whether Daryl’s play is any good. Finally, although Stezin is willing to leave a few elements unresolved, he ties up a central conflict in a charmingly lopsided bow. As two characters finally light up the stogies they’ve been brandishing for a couple of hours, you won’t just cough at the stink of success—you’ll wish you had a bottle of 40-year-old Glenfiddich to bring to the party.—Pamela Murray Winters