Silent Laughter

by  Billy Van Zandt, Jane Milmore

Full Length Play, Comedy  /  8m, 2f

"DELIGHTFUL! An affectionate amusing tribute to the heyday of silent film comedy with romance, high and low jinks and a climactic pie fight."- The New York Times

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    8m, 2f
  • Duration


    120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Accolades


    From Off-Broadway,
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Adult
    • Senior
    • Pre-Teen (Age 11 - 13)
    • Teen (Age 14 - 18)

Additional Info

New York audiences went wild for this gag-filled water sloshing, bed crashing, pie throwing craziness. Performed in black and white with title cards projected over the actors' heads, and a live theatre organ accompanying every doubletake, this comic tour de force stars a dashing hero who overcomes jail, poverty, World War I and a dastardly villain, Lionel Drippinwithit, to win the girl of his dreams. She is the heiress to the Thickwad Screw Factory, a firm that has been "Screwing the American Public since 1861." The biggest pie fight the theatre world has ever seen caps the silent action. More than a tribute to the slapstick antics of Chaplin, Keaton and Arbuckle - this is a reverential recreation of a bygone era.
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"DELIGHTFUL! An affectionate amusing tribute to the heyday of silent film comedy with romance, high and low jinks and a climactic pie fight."- The New York Times

"A tour-de-force! Hilarious! Clever! This is one crowd-pleaser where you needn't feel embarrassed to be part of the crowd. Van Zandt directs the uproarious proceedings with precision and flair. An ensemble of 10, which executes gifted mime, balletic pratfalls, and operatic emotions, all with brio."- The Village Voice

"An adoring salute to the golden age of film and an innovative twist on live theater! You won't hear a single word uttered in Silent Laughter, but the show offers quite a bit to see and hear.Silent Laughter displays a wholly original brand of 'musical theater.' There is considerable sophistication and subtlety in this production." - Associated Press

"An imaginative, respectful, reverential stage recreation of the slapstick antics of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mack Sennett’s Keystone Kops, and the rest. Cleverly devised. The silence may be on stage, but the laughter is in the audience!" - Two River Times

"The best show running Off-Broadway! We were all totally enchanted by Silent Laughter. It's just so clever and adorable. It appeals to everyone, young and old! A dynamite production. The perfect show for people visiting New York. If it isn't a smash hit, there's no theatre god." - Joey Reynolds, WOR Radio

"A marvel of slapstick!" -

"Terrific! Utterly hilarious! A doozie! Sophisticated slapstick! A bunch of sight gags that will make you gag with laughter. A daring project! Something fresh and new to enjoy! Don't miss this if you want some old time laughs! You will be overcome with the throwing of at least 100 cream pies." - David Richardson, WOR Radio

"It’s a big relief to sit back and sample some simple, old-fashioned fun at Silent Laughter... Appealing entertainment for the whole family to enjoy.Silent Laughter is one of the most easygoing diversions to hit town in a while. 90 minutes of mute silliness that features pants ripping, water sloshing, prat falling, bed crashing and, of course, pie throwing. Everyone is certain to enjoy a swell time!" - Star-Ledger

"Lloyd, Keaton and Chaplin must be beaming. Van Zandt and Milmore took a chance with this piece. A chance that has paid off handsomely. We’ll take a pie in the face from these two anytime!" - The Atlanticville

"A winner! The laughter is not silent. It’s loud, frequent, sustained, and legitimate. Great fun!" -

"Unique and original. It’s inspired silent movie madness!" - Asbury Park Press

"Silent Laughter is great family fun!" - Sirius Satellite Radio

"Billy Van Zandt & Jane Milmore have perfected the art of the pie fight, along with pratfalls, pulled punches, and slips on banana peels in their loving tribute to the comedies of silent films. And as the star, Van Zandt sublimely blends the classic clowning of Charlie Chaplin with the modern sensibilities of Bill Irwin." - Theatre.Net

"Silent Laughter is worth making some noise about!" - Topeka Capital-Journal


Friendship, Love, Marriage, War


Performing Groups

  • High School/Secondary
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Senior Theatre
  • Outdoor
  • Large Stage


  • Caution Mild Adult Mild Adult Themes

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $90 per performance



  • Time Period: 1920s
  • Duration: 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Setting: Various locations in and around NYC, circa 1917.
  • Additional Features: Animal spot, Local Celebrity Cameo, Mime, Physical Comedy
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes


  • Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)


8m, 2f
BILLY - The Hero.
RUTH - The Heroine.
BILLY'S PAL - Billy's pal.
BREWSTER THICKWAD - Billy's boss and Future Father.
MAX THE THUG - Billy's Cellmate and Foxhole Buddy.
SARGE - Billy's Nemisis.
And a Cast of Hundreds.
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Cast Attributes

  • Expandable casting
  • Flexible casting
  • Room for Extras
  • Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)

Casting Notes

The show can be performed with a cast of ten, doubling up many roles, or it can be done with a large cast - kids, dogs, whatever you want to add in.


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Billy Van Zandt

Billy Van Zandt - after starring in a series of his own plays (If you've never seen this clown at work, you should be ashamed of yourself - Asbury Park Press), Billy made his feature film debut in Jaws 2. The success of his comedies (written with partner Jane Milmore) brought him to the attention of Bob Newhart, who hi ...

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Jane Milmore

Jane Milmore began her career as an actress. After starring in several national TV commercials, she appeared in the TV shows Anything But Love and Sydney, as well as guest-starring on Bless This House, Newhart, Martin, The Hughley’s, and The Wayans Bros. Jane also ap ...

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Silent Laughter opened Off-Broadway at the Lamb’s Theatre on March 9, 2004. It was directed by Billy Van Zandt and produced by Carolyn Rossi-Copeland.

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