ASOLO THEATRE CO.
November 11, 2005 - February 2, 2006
Charles Morey’s “Laughing Stock” is a fitting play to launch the final season of Howard Millman’s tenure as producing artistic director of the Asolo Theatre Co. Amid the laughter about the struggles of a small summer stock theatre in New England trying to survive one more season, there’s also a love letter to the theatre itself... The first act sets up the situations with auditions, the actor’s meeting, rehearsals...The second act looks at how Gordon’s version of “Dracula” and “Hamlet” turned out. ... hysterically funny... generates laughs throughout ... the more you know about theatre history the funnier it becomes. And along the way to its sweet finale, you can fall in love with theatre all over again.
...an energetic farce wrapped in a sentimental story about the bonds that form among actors at a tiny, underfunded summer stock theatre... a gloriously frenetic peak with its slapstick version of “Dracula” ... “Dracula” in which every cue is missed and every prop goes astray, is hilarious magic... Both as a playwright and a director Morey has a deft touch with farce keeping the gags flying much faster than the creaky fake bat that meets an undignified end.
St. Petersburg Times
...a very funny behind-the scenes look at the vicissitudes of preparing plays in summer stock theatre... the laughs are non-stop... Never in the years I have been viewing Asolo productions have I heard so much laughter fill the theatre, ricocheting off every wall. I laughed myself silly, along with everyone else.
...my favorite Asolo play... It captures every aspect of the theatre so knowingly that the fact that it is hilarious is almost irrelevant. Because it is so true. ...at the end of “Laughing Stock” it’s an overpoweringly sentimental moment, and from the sobs behind me I knew it had gotten... the entire audience...
MILWAUKEE REPERTORY THEATRE
December 2005 – January 2006.
This play is sure to hit a nerve with anyone who loves theater either behind the curtain or in front of it … The audience with whom I shared this performance was obviously delighting in the un-predictable happenings and overall chaos. Laughs were abundant … a Christmas present many would enjoy receiving.
Time Out (Milwaukee)
PIONEER THEATRE COMPANY
February 7 - 24, 2001
There’s a priceless scene in...LAUGHING STOCK in which a summer stock production of “Dracula” disintegrates into chaos on opening night. Gothic horror becomes high comedy amid misplaced technical cues, forgotten lines, wrong entrances and eccentric acting... the large audience howled with glee as they watched the mayhem unfold.... written with a light and sure hand, and acted with a precise blend of earnestness and camp...
The Salt Lake Tribune
If you’ve ever seen any disastrous opening nights (and yes, they do occur in real life), then you’ll probably recognize many of the characters in Charles Morey’s comic — and poignant — behind-the-scenes look at a chaotic summer stock company...There are some very funny bits along the way, including a disastrous production of... “Dracul: Prince of the Undead”... many hilarious bits and pieces in Morey’s love letter to the traditions of theater...
“Laughing Stock” soars as farce... in the tradition of “Noises Off”...... all building to an appropriately raucous climax involving a disastrous performance...It’s a wonderful cast... and collectively they provide some true comic highlights. A series of audition blackouts introduces the characters and their quirks with plenty of big belly laughs. One exceptional scene finds the actors releasing their inner African savanna beasts... The grand payoff is the staging of “Dracula”... The pacing keeps building, laugh on laugh... “Laughing Stock” has plenty of comic charms...
SALT LAKE CITY WEEKLY
“Laughing Stock” ...takes on the craziness of summer stock. A master of farce, Morey has chosen to direct his first original script. In “Laughing Stock” , a production of “Dracula” switches to comedy on opening night with missed cues, technical glitches, and odd actors.
July 21 - August 1, 2004
LAUGH YOURSELF SILLY... “Laughing Stock” will indeed have you laughing in your seat if not rolling in the aisles... It’s hard to imagine anyone whose funny bone wouldn’t be tickled by this one... You don’t have to be a theatre insider to love the play... it’s a hoot... it’s a blast... it’s funny, it’s silly, it tells a great story.
...One of the funniest, most compelling, “Behind the scenes” productions ever... A treat for stage vets or aficionados and a great comedic introduction to the reality behind the scenes for those new to theatre. “Laughing Stock” is a delight...
“LAUGHING STOCK” FILLED WITH HILARITY... Scene after scene, beat after beat, “Laughing Stock” piles on the laughs... every single piece crackles with successful wit and abundant humor... virtuoso farce...
I cried, I choked, I fell into a coughing fit, I cried some more... the funniest equity play produced in Southern New Hampshire... can’t help but love this play.
"As with a person, sometimes you can fall immediately, madly, irrationally in love with a play. And I think I fell in love with author Charles Morey's Laughing Stock within its first two minutes… I found its title a bit misleading – Laughing 'Til You Cry Stock, I thought, would've been much more appropriate."
River Cities Reader
PIONEER THEATRE COMPANY - MARCH 23 - APRIL 7, 2012
"Laughing Stock" is a hilarious backstage comedy in the tradition of "Noises Off" ... It's silly, sweet, and wildly funny... Budget headaches, clashing egos, frustrated ambitions, crazy mishaps and questionable "artistic interpretations" collide with hilarious results ... filled with belly laughs ... an outrageous farce with a tender love story, and a genuine love of theatre at its center.
...a perfect penultinate production for this season .... draws plenty of inspiration from "Noises Off" , but the wonderfully absurd situations - most notably the chaotic centerpience "Dracul, Prince of the Un-dead" production with its failing props and flubbed sound cues - make it hiarious in its own right. Yet, ultimately, it's also a deeply affectionate look at what draws so many people to the tehatrical life; the chance to create a makeshift family, if only for several weeks at a time. With his trademark sharp comedic timing and an open heart, Charles Morey has let us all know how it's going to be the say goodbye.
I can’t say it’s a surprise that Pioneer Theatre Company’s latest production is good; the theater rarely delivers a clunker. But Laughing Stock was still an unexpectedly pleasing and joyful valentine to theater lovers that proved sneaky in its effective delivery of nearly non-stop laughs, and some heartfelt emotion, too.
Haven’t heard of Laughing Stock? That’s a shame, because it should be a regular theater feature along the lines of Noises Off!, one of the inspirations to Pioneer’s soon-departing artistic director Charles Morey in writing Laughing Stock in the late ’90s. Like that familiar and still-funny favorite, Laughing Stock is a comical “inside look” at a theater troupe, in this case at a summer-stock theater in New England, and the collection of oddball and endearing characters who make up the theater’s actors, backers and technical staffers.
Laughing Stock has been produced for years across the country, and this year’s production at the Pioneer is its first return visit to the theater where the show premiered in 2001. That’s far too long a hiatus, and here’s hoping the show becomes a more regular feature in Salt Lake City programs.
Of course, it will be hard to replicate the success of Pioneer’s current show. Laughing Stock is a true ensemble comedy, with more than a dozen characters involved–most of them given featured spots along the play’s path to shine, or potentially grind the show to a halt. That doesn’t happen at all in this production; indeed, the sparkling cast is remarkably skilled at delivering the combination of slapstick physical comedy and witty, twisting dialogue that blends a little Shakespeare here and a little Noel Coward there, along with plenty of homey, small-town sentiment.
The play kicks off with Gordan Page (Jack Koenig) showing off the charms of his small New England playhouse to an aspiring actor, Jack Morris (Cary Donaldson), who believes he’s destined for better things than a summer gig in a converted barn. Flash-forward a couple months, and Jack is part of the cast of three plays: King Lear, a new version of Dracula and Charley’s Aunt. Joining him are a hilarious assortment of troupe veterans like the elderly thespians Richard Hawksley (Anderson Matthews) and Daisy Coates (Joyce Cohen), a saucy starlet named Mary Pierre (Lesley Shires), a returning leading man, Tyler Taylor (David Christopher Wells) who may or may not have knocked up a co-star the previous summer, and a crusty big-ego and big-time-in-his-own-mind grump named Vernon Volker (Jeff Steitzer).
The cast is consistently excellent; I tried to pinpoint who was my favorite character as the action unfolds on stage, the cast rehearsing for the shows while Gordon hustles theater donors for funds to keep the theater alive, and it was impossible. In on scene Volker’s acidic asides would elicit laughs, and in the next, Taylor-as-Dracula, with his cape caught in a door, is bringing down the house. Paul Kiernan, as set designer Henry Mills, is a gas every time he’s on stage, whether exasperated at trying to create special effects for Dracula, or drunkenly drinking in celebration of the summer’s end. Shires’ Mary was effervescent as well, a mix of sexy and silly that was a blast to watch.
That pretty much goes for the entire show. It’s quick-paced, blasting by in two acts that have the audience cheering for the people on stage to succeed. It’s cleverly staged by Morey (in his director’s hat), and the sets, as always at Pioneer, are impressive. Even when the show delivers a dramatic aside, as when Gordon and his ex-wife/stage manager Sarah (Cheryl Gaysunas) share an intense conversation about the past, it just works.
Here’s hoping that after Morey departs Pioneer, the theater remembers gems like Laughing Stock and brings it around again sometime.
Pioneer gets everything right in a play where everything goes wrong... Morey's affectionate and often-hilarious farce cleberates the ups and downs of such a mismatcehd family as they struggle to "tell stories in the dark on a summer night" ... one of the funniest scenes has the cast 'exploring" the text by improvising that they are animals at an African water hole at dusk ... Morey's gift for directing farce shines in the second act when absolutely everything goes wrong on the opening night of "Dracul" ...
Salt Lake Tribune
SALT LAKE CITY — Laughing Stock, written and directed by Charles Morey, is a love letter to regional stock theater companies. Inspired by his own history with just such a company, Morey has written a witty, comical and endearing theater piece in the vein of Noises Off Although not as rambunctious as Noises Off, it is every bit as much fun. Laughing Stock is set in a New England summer stock barn theater known as The Playhouse. Gordon Page, the theater’s Artistic Director (played by Jack Koenig), has scheduled a repertory season of Dracula, Hamlet and Charley’s Aunt. This unlikely group of actors and staff go from crazy auditions, to ego-driven rehearsals, and on through disastrous opening nights. They battle through limited resources, personal conflicts and seemingly insurmountable odds to produce what are, in the end, well-told stories for appreciative audiences.
I will admit from the start that I am slightly biased toward this type of show. ... These shows capture what most actors find magical about theatre: the exhilarating chaos that ensues. Everything around you can seem to be falling apart. Yet, once you step onstage, magic happens!—even if the product is less than stellar. Charles Morey has captured that lightning in a bottle here. ...
I loved this production. This truly is one of the highlights of all the shows I’ve seen there. If you have any connection to theatre (and if you don’t, why are you here?) you must see this show. I laughed until I cried, then laughed again at home describing the show to my kids. From beginning to end this show delights.
Utah Theatre Bloggers Association
Originally produced at PTC in 2001, the play draws from Morey’s experiences in New England summer-stock theater, telling the story of an artistic director named Gordon (Jack Koenig) struggling to keep afloat a summer-theater company operating out of a 200-year-old barn. He’ll do whatever it takes to keep the operation running, even if that means trying to mount three simultaneous productions in repertory, and bowing to the demands of his one big financial donor.
Along the way through his backstage farce, Morey delivers a few stock characters: the dizzy ingénue (Lesley Shires, pictured left); the cocky, horny leading man (David Christopher Wells, pictured right); the overly intense young director (Kymberly Mellen); the cynical veteran (Jeff Steitzer). He draws plenty of inspiration from Noises Off!, but the wonderfully absurd situations—most notably the chaotic centerpiece Dracul [sic], Prince of the Undead production, with its failing props and flubbed sound cues—make it hilarious in its own right.
Yet ultimately, it’s also a deeply affectionate look at what draws so many people to the theatrical life: the chance to create a makeshift family, if only for several weeks at a time. With his trademark sharp comedic timing and an open heart, Charles Morey has let us all know how it’s going to feel to say goodbye. (Scott Renshaw)