Laurel and Hardy Light Up the Falcon
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were the iconic comedy duo who made it possible for comedians like Jerry Lewis, Dick Van Dyke, Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler to find their niche. Their intense chemistry, comaraderie and timing were impeccable. No one could do a five-minute sketch about putting up a ladder or pasting a billboard with the exact physical skill, dexterity or panache quite like Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. In Tom McGrath's play Laurel and Hardy, we see the funny and not so funny side of both men who brought wealth and fame to the Hal Roach Studio. At the Falcon Theatre until October 2, Laurel and Hardy are truly knocking 'em dead.
The beauty of McGrath's script is that the story unfolds through the comedy sketches that made the pair famous. They don't just present themselves or talk about themselves, but perform as they're talking, and sometimes the sketch stands on its own, kind of like a song moves the plot forward in a musical. Some of the pair's most enjoyable moments include moving a piano on and off stage, driving a truck while selling fish, making a mess all over each other with sticky glue, and my personal favorite, a 'drunk' scene in a restaurant during Prohibition, where the two actors are having such a good time laughing and drinking, it's hard to believe the bartender when he samples the booze and tells them it's actually tea. It could be a scene right out of one of their films.
From Scotland, Stan Laurel, first known as Arthur Jefferson, always wanted to be a boy comedian to the objections of his theatre owner father. He was doing solo acts from a tender age. It is no small wonder that he eventually became the understudy for Charlie Chaplin and was called by many the greatest comedian ever. Oliver Norville Hardy was a Southern boy, who ran away from his mama to join a minstrel show, so he too was clowning from an early age, but always with a sense of dignity and grace, considering his enormous girth. They first teamed for Roach and then RKO, making over a hundred movies from 1921 to 1950. Laurel was married eight times, Hardy, three. Mad about Jean Harlow, it was a sad turn of events for Hardy when she turned her back on him.
Paul C. Vogt plays Hardy using his own easy-going manner to guide Hardy's pomposity from start to finish. There's never a false move. Kevin Blake is astonishing as Stan Laurel. He plays the childlike, cry-baby behavior to the letter, and again, lets his own instincts lead him to a totally natural, unaffected performance. Both men are delightful to watch, and never go over the top. Robert Petrarca is the fine pianist who not only accompanies the duo but is called upon occasionally to don a wig and essay a character like a soda jerk or bartender...or cleverly use just his hands through a hospital screen. Dimitri Toscas keeps his direction tight with razor-sharp pacing. Francois Pierre Couture's set design of a big open stage with dressing room mirrors on both sides, costume racks, screen behind, and the wings clearly visible works exceedingly well theatrically.
Laurel and Hardy is wonderfully glorious nostalgia for comedy fans who want to see where great comedy took shape. There's also a song or two...and there are sad, poignant moments, but they are wisely overshadowed by the great silly, silly bits that made the men true legends and that keep us continually in stitches. Not to be missed, through October 2 only!