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Timing and delivery is everything

Exit Laughing at Tacoma Little Theatre

From left: Carol Richmond, Sharry O’Hare and Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson star in TLT’s Exit Laughing. Photo courtesy Dennis K Photography

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What's wrong with these people? Why are they laughing so hysterically at stuff that's only slightly funny? Have they never heard a risqué joke, or am I just totally jaded? Those are the thoughts that often go through my head when attending comedic plays that rely on titillation humor.

Not so with the opening night performance of Exit Laughing at Tacoma Little Theatre. I was laughing right along with the rest of the audience whose howls of hilarity became so loud during the final scene of act one that nobody could hear what the actors on stage were saying.

Yes, Exit Laughing by Paul Elliott and ably directed by Rick Hornor is laugh-out-loud funny. In retrospect, the writing is only a little bit funny. It's a predictable fluff piece with jokes that might have come from television ‘70s and ‘80s sitcoms. Mostly these jokes are hilarious because they are told with perfect comic timing and delivery by a trio of grand dames of Tacoma theater: Carol Richmond, Sharry O'Hare and Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson.

Connie (Richmond), Leona (O'Hare) and Millie (Ferguson) have been getting together for a weekly bridge game for 30 years. Now their fourth player, Mary, has died. The three surviving players get together in Connie's house, and Millie brings along Mary; i.e., Mary's ashes in an ugly urn she stole from the funeral home because Mary's relatives have insisted the ashes be buried and the trio of old dames know that's not what Mary wanted. The burial is scheduled for the next day.

A sub-plot involves Connie's grown daughter, Rachel Ann (Margret Parobek), who is mad because her date has stood her up.

In a not surprising twist, a police officer (John Naden) shows up at their door saying a complaint against the three women has been filed, and pandemonium ensues.

The plot is a silly bit of fluff, but the acting is outstanding. Each of the three older women is a stock characters, and the actors manage to capture them as stock characters while making them believable as real people. For the audience it is as if we're seeing women we know, but exaggerated just enough to be ludicrous. Richmond's Connie is proper and uptight but itching to let loose and have some fun. O'Hare's Leona is hard drinking and fun loving. Ferguson's Millie epitomizes the phrase "ignorance is bliss."

The younger actors, Naden and Parobek, hold their own on stage with the seasoned veterans.

As usual, Blake York's set design is outstanding and Jeffery Weaver's props are fitting, even though I really think the urn they repeatedly call ugly is actually quite attractive.

Exit Laughing is a lightweight comedy on par with a good television sitcom, and it will not only leave you laughing, it will have you guffawing for the better part of two hours.

Exit Laughing, 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through May 7, $24 adults, $22 seniors/students/military, $20 12 and younger, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I St., Tacoma, 253.272.2281, tacomalittletheatre.com

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