by Michael Dresdner
|L to R: Richmond, O'Hare, Ferguson All photos by Dennis K Photography|
Last night, Paul Elliott’s comedy Exit Laughing, superbly directed by Rick Hornor, opened at Tacoma Little Theatre to a packed house simply roaring with laughter from beginning to end.
Densely packed into this brisk, airy comedy are enough zingers and one-liners to fill at least three episodes of your favorite TV sitcom to bursting. If you are looking for pure, rib-tickling diversion, go out and buy tickets now. This show will sell out.
|L to R: Richmond, O'Hare, Ferguson|
The plot, which exists mostly as a platter on which to serve up classic humor, involves three women who’ve played cards together for years and, somewhat in absentia, their fourth who has just died. I say “somewhat” because her urn of ashes joins them for one last hurrah.
Connie (Carol Richmond) is the sensible, somewhat repressed mother of a 22 year old daughter, and the host of tonight’s gathering. Leona (Sharry O’Hare) is a classic, snarky, quick-witted and sharped tongued inebriate who loves her friends, though possibly not as much as her booze.
|L to R: O'Hare, Richmond|
Then there’s Millie (Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson), the quintessential clueless ditz who brings along the dead Mary’s ashes, which she has stolen from the funeral home. Why? Because Mary’s white trash relatives, whom we never see, are violating what this trio knows were her disposition wishes.
|L to R: Parobek, Ferguson|
Rounding out the cast of archetypes are Connie’s daughter Rachel Ann (Margret Parobek) beautifully filling the role of a volatile young woman with all the explosive passion and fickle heart of a stereotypical teen, and her missing date, who stood her up, showing up instead in the guise of ‘Officer Grayson’ (John Naden), a handsome young man working as a stripper but hiding a challenged past and the requisite heart of gold.
The small cast of five were all excellent, but far and away the most entertaining is the pairing of O’Hare and Ferguson. These two, both outstanding actors separately, are pure comic gold together, and worth the price of admission all by themselves. They play off one another alternately setting each other up to show off their flawless punch line deliveries. Damn, they’re good.
All this plays out in one room of Carol’s house on a perfect set (by Blake York) right out of Golden Girls, only slightly more northern, and festooned with appropriately awful wall art (set dresser and props man Jeffery Weaver). Even Mary’s urn of ashes is a character in itself, a paradigm of the abhorrently tasteless.
|Ferguson, with an urn full of Mary's ashes|
The otherwise spot-on costumes (by Michele Graves) were all overshadowed by those of stripper Grayson (you’ll see what I mean). Predictably solid were the sound design by York and Chris Serface, and lighting by Niclas Olson. Oh, and let’s give a nod to stage manager Nena Curley and (temporarily absent but just as vital) assistant Noelle Shai Edlin for keeping it all running smoothly.
Bottom line: I’m willing to bet that you will find this silly, fluffy romp funny, thoroughly enjoyable, and over too soon.
April 21 to May 7, 2017
Tacoma Little Theatre