“Exit Laughing” – like “Golden Girls”meets “Steel Magnolias”

See "Exit Laughing" at Oklahoma City's Carpenter Square Theatre.

by Rob Howard
Associate Editor

Exit Laughing, February’s offering at Oklahoma City’s Carpenter Square Theatre is so funny that the play’s director, Tom Cowley, said, “This is ‘by God’ comedy comedy. When I read the script the first time I laughed all the way through it.”

Like Golden Girls meets Steel Magnolias, the characters are truly “characters.” When the biggest highlight in your life for the past 30 years has been your weekly bridge night out with the “girls,” what do you do when one of your foursome inconveniently dies?

According to Cowley, “One of the girls shows up with the urn containing their friend’s ashes.” She has “borrowed” it from the funeral home. And you won’t stop laughing from then until the end of the play. There is a knock on the door. It is a policeman, and the women panic thinking they are going to be arrested for stealing their friend’s ashes.

But it turns out, he is a stripper, hired by Mary, “who is now dead,” says Cowley, “because Mary didn’t think the others had enough fun in their lives.”

Cowley says his favorite scene is the one with the “policeman”, who gets down to having “not much on. But it is madcap comedy from the start. I’ve done a lot of shows. This is one of the funniest ones.”

The characters are Connie Harland, who finds out on this fateful bridge night that life doesn’t end at 55; Leona, one of Connie’s closest friends, a member of the club for 30 years – she’s a beautician by profession and a caustic lush by preference; and Millie, another of Connie’s close friends who is a long standing member of the club and unbelievably naïve.

The cast of “Exit Laughing” – Laurie Blankenship (Millie), Timothy Welch (Bobby), Lana Henson (Leona), Dona Patocka (Connie) and Hannah Finnegan (Rachel Ann). Photo provided.

Also, Rachel Ann, Connie’s 20-something daughter; and Bobby, the “policeman” stripper, who is a young man of many talents and they all come to “bare” on the ladies’ bridge night, and Rachel’s former boyfriend as well.

Exit Laughingwas written by Paul Elliott, an actor, director and respected television and screenwriter. Writing for the stage has always been Paul’s first love and his plays are produced all around the world. A winner of American Association of Community Theatre’s (AACT) NewPlayFest, Exit Laughing premiered at Springfield’s Little Theatre to sell-out crowds every night.

Audience comments at the opening were of the “I laughed till I cried” variety. Because it won an AACT award, it has been produced over 50 times since it opened in 2013. Cowley, who is a retired Ph.D. chemist, has long had a passion for theatre. He says he has been in at least 200 productions, and has directed nearly 100.

Exit Laughing opens at Carpenter Square Theatre February 17 and runs through March 11. Tickets are $20, and are available online at www.carpentersquare.com or by phone at (405) 232-6500. Carpenter Square is located at 800 West Main, in downtown OKC.

Cowley says, “This is not a play you would want to bring your children to.”

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – February 3, 2017 @ 1:15 p.m.