Review: ‘Laughing Stock’ at Laurel Mill Playhouse

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Laughing Stock, a farce, written by Charles Morey, directed by Daniel Johnston, and produced by Maureen Rogers is at Laurel Mill Playhouse, until Sunday, July 15, 2018.

Brandon Seehoffer, Gina Ashton, and Terri Laurino in Laughing Stock. Photo by Daniel Johnston.

Laughing Stock is perfect summer fare. It’s light and terribly funny. It takes place in a New England summer theater with a weird repertory season of Dracula, Hamlet, and Charley’s Aunt. You can only imagine what could go wrong in this company made up of a motley crew of thespians.

Rob Allen plays the director, Gordon Page, and also one of the more talented actors of the stock company. Allen mixes just the right blend of frustrated director, bending to the demands of his benefactors who keep the theater afloat, and the consummate actor committed to his craft. His opening scene with Kristen Demers as Mary Pierre is side-splitting.

Demers as Mary steals most of her scenes with her energy and charm. Will Mekelburg (Tyler Taylor) is her love interest, the handsome young actor who plays Dracula. Mekelburg’s scenes with Demers in this pseudo-version of the vampire tale and his scene with the door are also good for several loud laughs.

Steve Bruun gives a brilliant performance as the bitter, more seasoned actor, Vernon Volkner. Seeing Bruun pretend to be a crocodile as Volkner for a pretentious, improvisational rehearsal for Charley’s Aunt is one scene that I will remember for its wonderful mix of indignity and mischievousness.

Terri Laurino (Richfield Hawksley) for the second time this year takes a role written for a man and makes it fit for a woman. Her Van Helsing in the Dracula story is inane but very funny.

Brandon Seehoffer plays Jack Morris, the young up and coming actor who is finding show business very hard break into. He is hysterical in the Charley’s Aunt rehearsal and the Dracula “performance.”

Joelle Denise is the sharp-tongued ex-wife of Page, Sarah McKay. Denise’s character is one of the few who is multi-dimensional. She does a great job as the taunting ex-wife, group mother, and the warm friend to her ex-husband.

Kristen Demers and Rob Allen in Laughing Stock. Photo courtesy of Laurel Mill Playhouse.

Adding to the mayhem are Devin King as the business manager of the theater, Craig Conlin, and Adam Garrison as Henry Mills, the overwrought set, lighting, sound, and costume designer of the summer playhouse. Both have great comedic timing and add to the wonderful pace of the show.

Kathryn Hamilton is the screwy director for Charley’s Aunt. She makes all the actors play animals of the savannah to “get into” their roles. Hamilton is very snooty and is laughingly pretentious. Gina Ashton plays Daisy Coates and has just the right amount of zaniness to make even Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, uproarious.

There are three interns in the troupe, Braun Oakes, Fiona Milliken, and Karma Schneider played by Lori Bruun, Emily Bruun, and Miranda Snyder respectively. These actors are the Three Stooges of this production. They do wonderful slapstick just trying to remove a ladder and Lori Bruun is priceless when she comes out doing Charley’s Aunt in the middle of the Dracula show.

Kudos go to Johnston and Assistant Director Michael Hartsfield. The blocking and timing work almost every moment. The pace is quick and many of the physically demanding scenes are perfectly choreographed.

The sound design by Chris Sisson also keeps the laughs coming. It’s not easy to purposely screw up sound cues. Hats off also to Patrick Pase as light and sound engineer. The set is quite simple and many people are credited with the design. However, Laughing Stock does not need much of a set as this stock company has little money or space.

Laughing Stock runs until July 15th. If you love a great farce, this one is as wacky as they get and is a laugh a minute, literally.

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with an intermission.

Laughing Stock plays through Sunday, July 15, 2018, at Laurel Mill Playhouse — 508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 617-9906, or purchase them online.