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Laughing Stock – The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
September 8, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

(left to right) Natalie Fox as Daisy Coates, Tom Flatt as Vernon Volker (in the back in green), Kat Sanchez as Susannah Huntsmen, Ted Culler as Richfield Hawksley, and Abigail Ropp as Mary Pierre (on knees). Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

(left to right) Natalie Fox as Daisy Coates, Tom Flatt as Vernon Volker (in the back in green), Kat Sanchez as Susannah Huntsmen, Ted Culler as Richfield Hawksley, and Abigail Ropp as Mary Pierre (on knees). Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

Laughing Stock is Charles Morey’s comic love story to summer stock and the actors and crews that make up these “little families”.  For those who have ever attended a production in a barn turned theater, volunteered to work backstage or were talented enough to perform at their local playhouse, this comedy is sure to spark fond memories.  Shawn g. Byers does a handy job of directing this paean to seasonal theatre – – an incestuous platform where summer romances bloom, show biz careers are launched and lifelong friendships are formed – – or not.

(left to right) Michael Dobbyn as Jack Morris, Kat Sanchez as Susannah Huntsmen, and Richard Isaacs as Henry Mills. Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

(left to right) Michael Dobbyn as Jack Morris, Kat Sanchez as Susannah Huntsmen, and Richard Isaacs as Henry Mills. Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

The setting for our story is a 200-year old cow barn where the Director, Gordon (Lars Klores) and his Casting Director Susannah (Kat Sanchez) are getting ready for auditions for their 82nd season and the cast-to-be is introduced in a series of hilarious vignettes referencing their experience or lack thereof: Mary (Abigail Ropp), an ingénue who seduces the Director for the part; Vernon (Tom Flatt), an aging fop with a long list of theatre credits; Richfield (Ted Culler), a seasoned actor who consistently bobbles his lines; Jack (Michael Dobbyn), the handsome, romantic lead who’s passing the summer before starting law school; Daisy (Natalie Fox), who brings along her mystic sensibilities; and Tyler (Will MacLeod), a cheery lad who is bent on pursuing Mary.  Together they neatly represent your garden-variety summer stock actors.

(left to right) Tom Flatt as Vernon Volker, Ted Culler as Richfield Hawksley, Michael Dobbyn as Jack Morris, Abigail Ropp as Mary Pierre. Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

(left to right) Tom Flatt as Vernon Volker, Ted Culler as Richfield Hawksley, Michael Dobbyn as Jack Morris, Abigail Ropp as Mary Pierre. Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

Gordon’s struggling little troupe is under the thumb of Barbara DeMartineau, a financial backer who insists he mount a production of The Sound of Music.  But Gordon has his season planned for King Lear, Dracule (a ghoulish mystery based on Dracula which he himself has penned) and the farcical Charley’s Aunt, and he tries to dissuade Barbara from her conditions of support while sweet-talking her into mailing in her annual check.

(left to right) Will MacLeod as Tyler Taylor, Abigail Ropp as Mary Pierre, Michael Dobbyn as Jack Morris. Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

(left to right) Will MacLeod as Tyler Taylor, Abigail Ropp as Mary Pierre, Michael Dobbyn as Jack Morris. Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

As for management, the theater’s tiny budget is controlled by Craig (Larry Grey), an endearing martinet who is the Office Supply Overlord and whose chief concerns are the disappearance of script marking pencils and an ancient Coke machine.  Sarah (Melissa Dunlap) is Gordon’s love interest and the troupe’s Stage Manager, and Henry (Richard Isaacs) is the harried Set Designer.

(left to right) Lars Klores as Gordon Page, Michael Dobbyn as Jack Morris, Kat Sanchez as Susannah Huntsmen, Ted Culler as Richfield Hawksley, and Will MacLeod as Tyler Taylor.  Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

(left to right) Lars Klores as Gordon Page, Michael Dobbyn as Jack Morris, Kat Sanchez as Susannah Huntsmen, Ted Culler as Richfield Hawksley, and Will MacLeod as Tyler Taylor. Photos by Matthew Randall, Allrand Photography

This comedy is certain to resonate with anyone who has ever taken an acting class, performed in even the smallest production, or known anyone that has.  You’ll revel in the egotism, melodrama and backstage antics.  In one hilarious bit, Susannah, who is directing their production of Charley’s Aunt, gets the cast to pretend to be animals, a well-known acting exercise that draws on physical realization.  “Stay within your bubble,” she exhorts the odd collection of orangutans, gazelles and wildebeests.  In another she absurdly insists the lead character in Charley’s Aunt is experiencing a modern-day gender crisis because he sports a skirt.  Vernon declares the playhouse to be “the Dachau of summer theatres”.  But, as Sarah insists, “it’s just another playhouse season.”

When at last the hinted-at audience takes its seats in the steamy, dung-filled barn, we view the plays in fast-forward sequence.  Slapstick ensues in spades as we witness the whatever-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong production of the three plays.  Actors bump into each other, exits and entrances are bolluxed up, lines are muffed, props go missing, sound effects go haywire, fog machines misfire and actors miss their cues.  Kudos to the actual Stage Managers, Charles Dragonette and Margaret Evans-Joyce for getting things exquisitely discombobulated.

Tons of fun for anyone who loves theatre and the absurd.

Through September 26th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com

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