Theater review — 'Laughing Stock'

Published: Tuesday, March 27 2012 6:22 p.m. MDT

“LAUGHING STOCK,” through April 7, Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre Company, 801-581-6961, running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (one intermission)

I once fell down on stage, flat on my bottom, during a solo. (OK, truthfully twice, but who’s counting?)

In “My Fair Lady,” some actors forgot to move the sofa onstage. So, during a scene with Higgins and Eliza, "street people" randomly came walking in with the sofa.

Throw in some mics that were left on, countless deer-in-the-headlights-I’ve-forgotten-my-lines looks from fellow cast members, bad light cues and, my favorite, pantomimed props that were left back on the prop table.

Multiply that by the 42 years playwright and Pioneer Theatre Company artistic director Charles Morey has spent in the theater business, and you have plenty of material for a very funny show.

“Laughing Stock,” the comedy running now at PTC, is a loving tip-of-the-hat to an industry and an art form that has consumed the bulk of Morey’s professional career.

Set in a small summer-stock theater in New England, the play revolves around The Playhouse, a barn-turned-theater that is storage in the winter and transforms into a theater in the summer. Hard metal chairs, no air-conditioning, even very large mosquitoes aren’t enough to deter theatergoers eager to escape. The Playhouse runs in repertory — meaning rotates three different productions for the season — in this case, “Dracula,” “Hamlet” and the farce “Charley’s Aunt.”

This happens every summer in regional theaters around the country. Needless to say, the show is filled with interesting characters that are the very essence of the word — the eccentric director, the ditsy blonde, the conceited leading man, the forgetful old guy, the harried set designer, the feisty stage manager, etc.

The able actors, combined with Morey’s script, make for a very fun night of theater. Morey’s script clips along, with the highlight coming in Act II — I’ll not elaborate for fear of giving anything away. The script does slow down a bit the last 30 minutes of the show.

Jack Koenig is wonderfully understated as the manager or artistic director. Joyce Cohen, who was in “Laughing Stock” the first time it was performed in 2001, is delightful as the slightly vacant Daisy Coates. Cheryl Gaysunas (stage manager) is very funny, even when she’s not speaking. And Jeff Steitzer does a spot-on curmudgeon. The whole cast is solid, for the most part. Lesley Shires as Mary Pierre (the ditsy blonde) is a bit over-the-top in her portrayal of an already over-the-top character. It’s just too much and doesn’t match the genuine approach of the rest of the cast.

As usual, PTC’s set (Peter Harrison, design), costumes (K.L. Alberts), lighting (Karl Haas) and sound (Matthew Tibbs) are terrific.

One need not have been in any shows themselves to enjoy this one. But you’ll no doubt leave wondering about these crazy show people who give so much of themselves for your two hours of entertainment.

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