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When I was a starry-eyed teenager with a few high school plays under my belt, I was sure I was headed for Broadway! I dreamed of stopping on the way to do summer stock at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.
I never made it to Broadway, of course, and I never made it to the Barter Theatre either — until last week.
Friends invited us to visit them at their farmhouse near Galax, Virginia, and suggested that we might enjoy attending the Thursday matinee at the Barter. We thought that was a good idea, especially since it was our 60th wedding anniversary.
It wasn’t just a good idea; it was a wonderful idea! The theater is beautiful and reminded me of the old Ambassador movie theater in Raleigh with its red flocked walls and gilt trim.
It hadn’t mattered to us what was playing, but we were lucky enough to stumble across what I think is the funniest play I’ve ever seen — “Exit Laughing.” The scene is set on the evening of Mary’s funeral when her three best friends gather for their weekly bridge night, even without their familiar fourth, to comfort each other and ponder how best to honor Mary’s memory.
As the playbill describes it: “Then Mary shows up. Not in the way you think, but she’s there in the house with them. And it leads the three women on a wild night full of adventure, stories, making memories, and most importantly, laughter. Together. Because Mary knows that’s how her friends will go on living life; not alone, but with each other … Because, in the words of Dean Karnazes, ‘Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow! What a ride!’”
Two hours of laughter shared with good friends, and Karnazes’ words to dwell on, was a fine way to celebrate 60 years together. Beats Broadway any day.
Jean McCamy is a Wake Forest artist.