"Singing to the choir" is one of the easiest criticisms -- but sometimes the choir needs to be entertained, too! And that's exactly where Charles Morey comes in with his backstage comedy Laughing Stock, receiving its local premiere at Little Lake Theatre.
We're at a summer-stock theater in New England, and over the course of the show follow an eventful three-play summer season of Charlie's Aunt, King Lear and a new adaptation of Dracula.
Of course, as happens in plays of this type and in theater itself, everything goes wrong: The plays change, one director turns out to be a fruitcake, and artistic ego winds up in a galloping race with artistic incompetence. It all leads to Laughing Stock's set piece -- the disastrous opening-night performance of Dracula: Prince of the Undead. (That's pronounced "drah-KOOL-lah" by the way.)
It's all pretty silly and harmless, and for anyone who's ever worked in summer stock or a barn theater or a community playhouse, there's an amusing recognition of the pitfalls and pratfalls of putting up a show.
It's also the perfect vehicle for Little Lake to open its 60th season of continuous production. If I recall correctly, only one other theater in Pittsburgh has been around longer -- the Savoyards, at 75 years of age.
I think it's great that Little Lake is still going strong ... stronger, in fact, since Sunny Disney Fitchett inherited the company from her father a few years back. And if everyone who's ever been involved with a show there (as actor, technician or front-of-house staff) goes to see Laughing Stock, the show's run will sell out.
Of course, if you're not a member of the choir, I wonder how this show will hit you. I noticed that in a couple of instances, I was the only one laughing ... mostly jokes about Peer Gynt, that ridiculous Ibsen play I'm sure no one else there had been forced to sit through five different productions of.
Certainly, Morey's script could use a bit of tightening, and the surprisingly sluggish pace of this production doesn't help. I'm in the business, and I found his "theater is family" finale overly sentimental; I can't imagine what civilians thought of it.
Still, given the logic in selecting this play as Little Lake's season-opener: Here's to 60 more seasons. (But, dear God, don't let me still be reviewing then.)
Laughing Stock continues through May 17. Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South (off Route 19), Canonsburg. 724-745-6300 or www.littlelaketheatre.org