“Laughing Stock” – Theatrikos

This review aired on KBAQ August 9, 2010


Flagstaff, AZ

Theater is a time-consuming passion. Most theatergoers haven’t a clue how much effort and skill go into a production. Flagstaff’s Theatrikos mounts a funny “Laughing Stock,” Charles Morey’s comedy that explores an errant and tacky New Hampshire summer stock theater, The Playhouse, which mounts lame productions in a 200-year-old converted barn. The play provides an amusing insider’s view of theater and just how awful summer stock can be.

The company performs a three-play summer season on a limited budget employing largely talentless actors and with an artistic director who ignores constant glitches and actor stupidity. The season includes a new adaptation of “Dracula” by the theater’s producer called “Dracul: Prince of the Undead,” Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” and the farce, “Charley’s Aunt.” “Lear” gets dropped when the theater’s major contributor objects causing a change to “Hamlet.”

The draggy first act takes too long to establish the premise and introduce the characters. We watch “Dracul’s” creation, we meet the quirky and foible-plagued actors, and learn that the “Charley’s Aunt” director, daughter of the benefactor’s best friend, has weird ideas on staging this straightforward piece. And this company has no business staging the Bard’s greatest tragedy.

The second act plays faster and is far funnier as snippets of the inept productions play out. The shenanigans, mayhem, mistakes, and backstage malarkey, add to the incompetent productions creating some riotous comedy scenes.

Staged by Stan Sutherland, the Theatrikos production needs crisper and sharper pacing so that the tedious first act plot creation doesn’t drag. Many early laughs fall flat because of awkward pauses and actors’ hesitancy to run with comedic bits. By the second act, the performers’ comic sense brightens, and, although the pace still needs improving, scenes from the plays are truly farcical and physical comedy improves noticeably creating constant laughter.

Of the 14-person cast, six performers rise best to the witty mischief. Nick Rabe handles Gordon, the artistic director, with a dash of comedic flourish. Scott Kennedy is perky as Jack, a young actor who debates a theatrical career. Josh Savrin’s Tyler is the most idiosyncratic but this character is the best actor and Savrin’s Dracula is hilarious as he lurks about. Emily Rufo is the stalwart backstage person who keeps this motley group on track, Rob Peters fusses as the officious administrator who doesn’t understand theater. Finally, Richard Rummel is a howl as a disgruntled actor.

If you’re in Flagstaff before “Laughing Stock” closes on August 29, you will have a pleasantly funny time at this production. For tickets, call the Theatrikos box office at 928-774-1662 or go online to www.theatrikos.com.

Grade:  B


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