nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 12, 2009
Perfect Wedding is a perfect farce, and Vital Theatre Company's presentation of its (I think) New York debut is blissfully fun summer theatre. This is the kind of play where the leading man walks back and forth through communicating doors in his hotel suite and gets banged repeatedly in the head as they swing open onto him...and we laugh, and somehow it makes sense. It's the kind of play where, when a bride's mother orders a young woman she's never met before to try on her daughter's wedding gown about an hour before the nuptials are scheduled to take place, we watch with baited breath to see what new catastrophe this obviously bizarre decision will lead to.
And it's the kind of play where, unexpectedly, something sweet and lovely happens, and a celebration of pure romantic love takes hold in the midst of the ordered chaos that characterizes the best farce. Author Robin Hawdon gives us people to care about and root for in Perfect Wedding, and the actors that director Teresa K. Pond has assembled to bring them to life do so with brio and affection.
I won't tell you much about the story because the intricate plot is pretty delicious and should be experienced without foreknowledge. I will tell you the premise: Bill, a hapless, goofy, and entirely nice guy, awakens in a hotel bed on the morning of his wedding. He's in his honeymoon suite—which he's not supposed to be in, not until tonight, after the ceremony—and he's lying next to a woman who, he quickly realizes, isn't wearing any clothes. He doesn't know who she is, or how she got there, or what, if anything, happened last night. He does know that his bride-to-be, Rachel, is due to arrive in this very honeymoon suite any minute, with her mother in tow, for it is here that she will dress and otherwise ready herself for the wedding. What's he gonna do with this strange lady?
Nothing sensible or honest, that's for sure: Perfect Wedding follows the formula of its genre by having Bill start out with a relatively small and simple deception and then letting the lies escalate and propagate until they've effectively taken over. By the hilarious climax of the play, the characters aren't even able to remember anymore which clumsy crazy story they've told to whom.
In addition to Bill, Rachel, Rachel's mother, and the mysterious woman in the bed, the characters include Bill's best man Tom, and a hotel housekeeper with a sense of humor named Julie. All six get grand larger-than-life portrayals here, with Matt Johnson sweet and hangdog as Bill, Fabio Pires calm one minute and explosive the next as the sadly NOT unflappable Tom, Amber Bela Muse elegant and sophisticated as Rachel, and Ghana Leigh pretty hilarious as her mother. Kristi McCarson is warm and human as the young woman Bill discovers in his bed. And, threatening to steal the show anytime she's on stage, Dayna Grayber is a hoot as Julie the Housekeeper, managing to be our level-headed guide into the shenanigans of the story while still dipping her toes into said nonsense anytime anyone asks her to.
Pond's production is paced brilliantly and breathlessly, and makes full use of the numerous doors that dominate Daniel Zs. Jagendorf's appropriate honeymoon suite set. Jeffrey M. Bender's fight choreography is seamless and fun. Cherie Cunningham's costumes are all spot-on (the very attractive wedding gown, we are told, has been donated by Jane Wilson-Marquis' Couture Bridal Collection). A running gag involving a toilet brush is pretty well executed throughout.
I had a blast at Perfect Wedding, and I think you will too. Vital's rendition is effervescent and funny and had me grinning from start to finish. It's the perfect escapist entertainment for this hottest season of the year, and it's so serenely sweet and warm-hearted that it can't help but leave you in a jolly mood.