I have been a huge fan of Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy since childhood. In fact, at my high school graduation party we watched Laurel and Hardy films. I call them Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy, not only because they referred to each other that way, but also because I feel they deserve the respect that comes with calling someone Mister. Other people might choose other comedians as their favorites – The Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and of course Charlie Chaplin (or maybe I should say Sir Charlie Chaplin). But Laurel and Hardy have such a sweetness and level of hilarity that they were the best in my book. On the occasion of Laurel’s death, Buster Keaton was quoted as saying, “Chaplin wasn’t the funniest, I wasn’t the funniest, this man (Stan Laurel) was the funniest.”
The Falcon Theatre is putting on the West Coast premiere of Laurel and Hardy by Tom McGrath. I went with great trepidation; plays that are biographical are more than difficult and I was thinking, “Why not just stay home and watch some L and H films?” Well, I ended up thoroughly engaged, having laughed a lot and even shed a tear or two. The writing is terrific, funny, touching, insightful, and totally engaging. The two performers, Paul C. Vogt as Oliver Hardy and Kevin Blake as Stan Laurel, are first-rate. They faithfully give a plausible representation of this famous duo bringing their own immense combined senses of humor to bear.
In the play Laurel and Hardy reminisce about their lives, loves and careers in vaudeville, silent movies, and talkies. Through the use of some of their more famous sketches (they move a piano), slapstick, songs and dances, and intimate glimpses of the behind the scenes relationship, they managed to bring the pair back to life in all their wit, charm, and brilliance. The play covers their prolific careers which lasted from 1921 to 1951, winning an Academy Award for The Music Box, a 3-reeler made in 1932. Their memory and laughter linger on.
The appropriate sets and lights were by Francis-Pierre Couture. The marvelous projections were by Steven Klems. Props were by Heather Ho. Robert Ward Petrarca was the pianist and erstwhile actor. The pitch perfect direction was by Dimitri Toscas. You can catch this marvelous play at the Falcon Theatre until Oct. 2.