Detour Theatre's final show of the year is a feel-good comedy with plenty of laughs, and particular appeal to anyone who's part of a group of old friends.
Paul Elliott's Exit Laughing focuses on a single night in the lives of three middle-aged women, who regularly meet for weekly bridge evenings.
When their fourth player Mary dies, the group ends up ‘borrowing' her ashes from the funeral home for one final, memorable night.
Millie (Sue Sorrell) is the one who swipes the urn containing Mary's remains, and brings it to Connie's (Jane McKenna) house. There, along with Leona (Delwyn Weatherley), they ponder what to with Mary (once the shock subsides), before settling down for one last game of cards.
Thrown into the mix is Connie's daughter Rachel Ann (Bella Hernandez), an uptight young woman who's been stood up by university classmate Bobby (Francis Collier), and is understandably despondent – until he turns up to the evening unexpectedly.
Detour stalwart Jane provides the play's grounded centre, providing a voice of reason when her daughter is cursing all men, or her friends are freaking out over one thing or another, all delivered in a pleasing naturalistic style. As Leona, Delwyn brings a thick Kiwi ‘aksent' to the role of the mild alcoholic – that wine-loving friend everyone has.
The standout performance is from Sue, who plays simple-minded Millie with perfect comic timing. Some of the night's biggest laughs come from her innocent, but way off the mark, observations. It takes a lot to keep a straight face while playing such a character, but Sue does a great job of keeping up the illusion.
Two newcomers to Detour Theatre, Bella and Francis, play their respective roles very convincingly; Bella with vivid facial expressions, and Francis with underlying sensitivity – although it would be a bit of a spoiler to go into too much detail.
Suffice to say, there's a great pool of actors in Tauranga, and Detour Theatre's one of the best places to find new talent.
Director Kim Williamson's set, as always, is immaculately presented. This time we even have a window to peek into Connie's kitchen, and stairs leading to a second storey, creating a sense of space in what is traditionally a cosy theatre-viewing experience.
The scene with the police officer is a highlight, and a credit to both director and the actors involved – though, as above, it would be a bit of a spoiler to say more.
If you like your jokes bold and laugh-out-loud funny, and your plays to be full of surprises, Exit Laughing might be the pre-Christmas celebration you're looking for.
You'll certainly ‘exit laughing' after the show.
The show runs until December 2. For more details, visit the Detour Theatre website.