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By the Sea Productions opens season with 'Exit Laughing'

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A simple backdrop of furniture and frames is enough to portray the comforts of home, setting the stage for the hilarious adventure of three best friends learning to love the latter part of their lives after the loss of a friend puts their own mortality into perspective, in By the Sea Productions' take on Exit Laughing.

This contemporary play, written by Paul Elliot (Mind Games, The Door), is different for the playwright, as he typically is known for extravagant productions. Lisa Woske, who runs marketing and public relations for Cal Poly Arts, steps into the role of director for this show that captures the wholesome fun of stories in the vein of The Golden Girls and Steel Magnolias.

FRIENDSHIP The power of love and the right company gives Connie, Millie, and Leona comfort after losing their best friend. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BY THE SEA PRODUCTIONS
  • Photo Courtesy Of By The Sea Productions
  • FRIENDSHIP The power of love and the right company gives Connie, Millie, and Leona comfort after losing their best friend.

On opening weekend, Feb. 11, audience members were given a peek into the life of Connie (Marilyn Blake), an older woman who's content with the life she's leading, save for a bad marriage and her angst-fueled daughter, Rachel (Nicole Cortese). Once every week Connie and her best friends Leona (Jennifer Blomfield), Millie (Janice Peters), and Mary get together for a girls night out—which translates to drinks and refreshments accompanied by a game of bridge.

By the Sea Productions is housed at the Erickson Parrish Hall at St. Peter's By the Sea Episcopal Church in Morro Bay. The venue offers a small stage, but it doesn't hinder the actors or prevent standout performances.

When we meet the ladies, Connie, Leona, and Millie are mourning the loss of their fourth musketeer, who recently died of cancer. As the three get together, Millie, not the smartest tool in the shed, borrows Mary's "ugly ass" florescent green urn from the funeral home for one last bridge game before she's buried. After Leona freaks out about getting some of Mary's ashes on her, Rachel is tipped to the edge of her anxiety by the stolen urn, and Connie worries about the consequences. The night that follows is nothing like the typical girls night that these ladies are used to. Filled with love, laughter, a surprise gift, and a stripper (Greg DeMartini), by the show's end, these women learn to love their lives and embrace adventure.

The play takes place in present day and it sets the tone for a relatable storyline—encouraging the viewer to reach out for what life has to offer and to pursue happiness.

From the moment 21-year-old Rachel opens the play with a pout about being stood up for a date, the audience isn't given a free moment between laughs. Cortese (previously seen in Guys and Dolls and The Music Man at the SLO Repertory Theatre) as Rachel really sticks to her guns about men until an unlikely guy changes her mind for the better.

Blake and Blomfield steal the show as they bounce off each other and deliver the best punch lines. Both are no stranger to theater. This is Blake's debut performance with By the Sea Productions, but she has been involved with theater on the Central Coast since 1980. Blomfield has performed professionally since 1972 and teaches drama at Mission College Prep High School.

Peters is laugh-out-loud funny as she gives Millie the authentic feelings of a good hearted, innocent friend who doesn't always think things through. She not only has a long list of roles she's played over the years, but she's also directed staged readings for By the Sea Productions.

Director Woske's work is displayed on the stage as the cast dives into a solemn topic with a round of laughs and appreciation for a life filled with friendship. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia is thinking about her close friends at kgarcia@newtimesslo.com.


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