Exit Laughing at Carpenter Square—Humorous and Almost Hilarious
Paul Elliott is the successful playwright who created a mythical character, Mary, and then wrote “Exit Laughing” for all of her survivors. That includes any member of the audience viewing “Exit Laughing” or anyone loving someone who left us laughing through our tears. Mary was the fourth in a weekly bridge game alongside her contemporaries, a group of genteel southern ladies who are reminiscent of the ladies in ‘Designing Women’ and ‘Golden Girls’ from sitcoms of the ‘80’s and followed by the hit movie, ‘Steel Magnolias’ in 1989.
In “Exit Laughing” Connie, Leona and Millie meet at Connie’s home following the funeral of their friend, Mary. For many years they had formed a bond of friendship that included their weekly bridge game and they are a little lost. Mary had not only been the ‘fourth’ at bridge, she had been just as necessary to their lives as their card game. Her slightly caustic wit and love of life makes her death more poignant to them.
Connie, a divorced mother, has concentrated her life on raising her daughter since the divorce, doing little for her own pleasure except her weekly bridge game. Her daughter arrives and proceeds to emote with the special acidity only a theatre major can deliver. She has been stood up by a classmate, Bobby, and she is angry and hurt. Leona searches and finds Connie’s liquor stash and Millie arrives late. After the funeral Millie decided to ‘lift’ the urn containing Mary and brings her along—after all this is their weekly bridge game.
Director Tom Cowley cast the show with five talented actors who look very much like the characters they portray. Unfortunately, many of the characters come across without depth and create stereotypes rather than types. As the run of “Exit Laughing” progresses, the cast may become more comfortable with their characters enabling them to become multi-dimensional rather than one-dimensional.
Donna Patocka plays Connie with an excellent façade, but no depth. Hannah Finnegan plays daughter, Rachel Ann at a fever pitch of outrage, finally giving some dimension to Rachel near the end. Laurie Blankenship plays Millie, the slightly dotty member of the group with fairly good timing and moments of clarity. Tim Welch plays Bobby, a student with a job as a dancer. Dressed as a policeman he surprises the girls when he begins to gyrate and then reveals Mary hired him before her death as a last gift to her best friends. Welch is inconsistent and while he has moments of brilliance they are muddied by misplaced cynicism. Princess Gizmo plays Butter-butt, the cat with a calm demeanor.
While the cast has quite a bit of work to do, Lana Henson’s portrayal of Leona is spot on. She has the many layers of Leona to call upon as well as excellent timing. Leona loves Mary, and through her we can appreciate Mary as well.
As it stands, “Exit Laughing” is amusing and cute. It is often the case that a play pulls together after the first weekend passes. Should that occur, “Exit Laughing” will be hilarious, rather than amusing, insightful rather than insipid and a hit for Carpenter Square. At any level, the show is enjoyable and worthy of an interested audience to exit laughing.
For tickets and information visit www.carpentersquare.com or call the box office at 405-232-6500. Carpenter Square Theatre is located at 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City. “Exit Laughing runs through March 11, 2017 with an 8:00 o’clock curtain and a 2:00 o’clock Sunday matinee.