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REVIEW: Exit Laughing at Richmond Hill Players

Spring has sprung in Geneseo with the Richmond Hill Players 2024 season opener with the cleverly written and delightful comedy, Exit Laughing, by Paul Elliott and directed by RHP veteran and purveyor of all things theatre, Mike Skiles.

Borrowing the synopsis from the program: When the biggest highlight of your life for the past 30 years has been your weekly bridge night out with the “girls,” what do you do when one of your foursome inconveniently dies?  Well, if you’re Connie, Leona, and Millie you “borrow” the ashes from the funeral home for one last card game and the wildest, most exciting night of your lives [that] involves a police raid, a stripper, and a whole new way of looking at all the fun you can have when you’re truly living.”

In addition to the grieving card group is Connie’s college-aged daughter, Rachel, who has just been “stood up” for a date with a new beau and the said new beau, Bobby.

The play takes place in Birmingham, Alabama and takes on a somewhat “Steel Magnolias” vibe. Connie is the now de facto leader of the group, Leona is the flamboyantly stylish hairdresser, Millie is an endearing airhead and it is she who brings the now deceased fourth member of the group, Mary’s, creamains to the gathering and it is Mary who instigates the hilarity and inspiration to the ensuing events.

Skiles hit a trifecta casting the solid Suzanne Rakestraw as Connie, the vivacious Heidi Hamer as Leona, and the tiny and talented Jane Simonsen as Millie. I’ve commented in earlier reviews that Augustana College’s theatre department has bestowed some of the best talent onto the Quad City’s theatre scene. In this case, it is Augie’s history department and gender studies program sharing Simonsen for her Quad City’s acting debut; also, she last trod the boards at her Wisconsin high school in 1989 and she hits this role out of the park with Rakestraw and Hamer rounding the bases hot on her heels.

Designated hitters Elizabeth Melville as Rachel and David Shaffer as Bobby bring in solid performances – this is only Shaffer’s second foray on stage. His opening scene was a bit awkward due to its content but he fell into his groove quite well as the show progressed. I absolutely loved Hamer’s Leona, a hard drinker, but the amount of alcohol her character consumes over the course of the play would have anyone flat on their “tookus.” However, Leona doesn’t display even an iota of impairment and I think a bit of that would have taken Leona’s character to Thespian heaven.

So if you’re looking for a fun spring outing, hop in the car and head on out to Geneseo. You’ll be laughing all through the show, not just when you exit.

Exit Laughing continues at Richmond Hill Players Barn Theatre in Geneseo, Thursday through Saturday, April 18 through 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m.