The Wedding Play
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 9, 2008
In a recent nytheatrecast episode, The Wedding Play's director Tim Errickson compared the aesthetic of this new comedy by Brian MacInnis Smallwood to that of American Pie. Now, I'm from the generation that thinks of "American Pie" as a Don McLean song rather than a Paul Weitz/Jason Biggs movie. But I know what he means, and as long as you do—and as long as that sort of thing is your sort of thing—you're likely to have at least as much fun as the actors appear to be having at The Wedding Play.
A flock of engaging, energetic, and talented young indie theater artists have put this romp on stage. Playwright Smallwood, who had a hit last fall with the wonderfully titled Twelfth Night of the Living Dead, is doing another kind of mashup here, beginning and ending this comedy with a Shakespearean-styled prologue and epilogue (in verse) and filling the middle with archetypal characters from sitcoms and a host of coming-of-age/teenage-boy flicks who cope (or, more accurately, fail to cope) with a barrage of over-the-top fish-story wedding day catastrophes. Underlying the whole thing is a sense of despair that gives the play more gravitas than, perhaps, its creators realize.
I don't want to reveal too much about the outrageous and twisty plot. The story unfolds at the bed-and-breakfast run by the Desario family. Daughter Sarah is getting married here today, and the fact that she cannot locate her groom is just the first of a seemingly endless stream of mishaps.
Sarah's sister Clara has invited a young man she has never met to be her date at the wedding (they've been "FaceSpace" friends on the Internet for 11 months). This hapless fellow, Daniel, arrives with his roommate Nick, and it is mostly through their eyes that the madness of the Desario nuptials is revealed.
Clara has an identical twin sister, Zoe, who HATES Daniel but gets the hots for Nick big time. Also involved are a delayed flower delivery girl, the wrong musical quintet, and a stripper. Beyond that, my lips (well, my typing fingers) are sealed.
Smallwood doesn't always concern himself with logic or good taste, but of course that's part and parcel of the genre. The script feels more like what we see on film or TV than what we typically see in the theatre.
The cast includes four actor/musicians (whose contributions include a couple of genuinely witty moments that I will leave for you to discover) plus nine actors. At the center is Lindsay Wolf, who plays identical twins Clara and Zoe as well as another character. Some of the more impressive performers surrounding this whirlwind are Mike Mraz, pleasantly wolfish as Nick; Corey Ann Haydu, alternately grounded and wired as Sarah; and Janet Zarecor as the most mature character in the play (the stripper, naturally).
Errickson's direction occasionally feels too highly pitched in the first act, but he blew me away in Act Two, pulling off with splendid panache the most challenging moment in the play (again, can't say more about what it is). I wondered if Elisha Schaefer's set shouldn't have had more doors (this is a farce, after all); and spatial relationships are sometimes hard to fathom as characters exit up a flight of stairs and then reappear on the main level. The rest of the technical contributions—costumes by Annie Simon, lighting by Shannon Dougherty, sound by Megan Hennigner, and fight choreography by Maggie MacDonald—all seem effective and appropriate to the production.