Laughing Stock is a hilarious backstage comedy in the tradition of Noises Off, written and directed by Pioneer Theatre Company's longtime (and outgoing) artistic directory Charles Morley. It was first produced by PTC in 2001 and has since been produced more than a hundred times around the country. It's silly, sweet, and wildly funny, polished to a shine by a talented cast.
Laughing Stock tells the story of a summer season in a converted New Hampshire barn called "The Playhouse," in which a diverse group of theater veterans and neophytes presents Dracula, Hamlet and Charley’s Aunt. Budget headaches, clashing egos, frustrated ambitions, crazy mishaps and questionable "artistic interpretations" collide with hilarious results. The night I attended, a less-than-packed house filled the theater with belly laughs. Laughing Stock is an outrageous farce with a tender love story, and a genuine love of theatre, at its center.
Morley describes Laughing Stock as his answer to the old adage, "Write what you know." "Everyone in the theatre has his or her own 'Playhouse,' the place where there was never enough of anything: time, staff, money, and sometimes simply not enough talent or skill; where sometimes the doors fell off their hinges, the sound cues ran backwards, and the character man forgot his lines; but where you gave yourself over wholly to the making of plays, to telling stories in the dark on a summer night and along the way made a little family as well for a few months. It is those places, and especially those people, this play celebrates. I hope what finally comes through Laughing Stock is a genuine affection and respect for the mostly honorable and sometimes inspired fools who inhabit this profession."
The well-rehearsed, professional cast carries out Morley's vision splendidly. Some of my favorite scenes were "Producing Executive Administrative Director" Craig Conlin's rant about office supplies, the crazy "watering hole" acting exercise overseen by feminist guest director Susannah Huntsmen, and the extended second act presentation of "Dracule: Prince of the Undead," in which everything goes awry.
The play ends with the company's triumphant production of Hamlet, and the loving goodbyes of cast and crew as the summer ends. I thought the end of the second act could have been a little tighter, and the romance between the central characters could have showed more emotional depth, but in this play it's the laughs, and the romance with the theater, that really matter.
March 23-April 7, 2012
Mondays - Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.
Saturday matinees, 2 p.m.
Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre
300 S. 1400 E., 801-581-6961
$29-$44, $5 more day of show
Children K-12 are half price on Mondays and Tuesdays
Content advisory: 'Laughing Stock' contains some PG-13 rated cursing and mild sexual innuendo. I would recommend it for preteens, teens and adults.
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