Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Also see Richard's review of Old Jews Telling Jokes
Not because Leslye Headland's play is such a horrendous car-crash of a tragi-comedyand it isbut because the young actors in it are so bracing and terrific, and I just want to know what they'll all be doing next.
But who needs microchips? That's what Facebook is for.
Director Rachel Tibbetts draws performances of virtually Chekovian realism from them all, in spite of the steady stream of shocking (and funny) sex and drug adventures, and the lying and the cheating, and a whole litany of things that might get totally screwed up the night before a weddingand not just in a standard, Hollywood "buddy" picture sort of way, either. This is a show that truly feels reckless and alive.
It doesn't hurt that the young actors are so good on their own, of course. Ellie Schwetye is devastatingly slinky and blithe and scornful as the glamorous friend, as she and two other girls look for a way to finish a night of partying before a wedding day. And Wendy Renee Greenwood is a heartwarming mess of suicidal tendencies, and multiple chemical dependencies, who really ought not be so wonderful to be around, but isdelightfully, tenderly, and disturbingly enough.
Cara Baressi is excellent as the 'sensible' friend, with a very hard-nosed attitude toward many things in life, including oral sex. Her down-to-earth rules about this particular custom of coupling sparks a forthright debate about using the act (on one's boyfriend or husband) as an important part of a healthy, sustainable and, above all, controlled relationship. It may sound like the playwright just hates her own gender.
In spite of my (sometimes astonished) laughter, it all makes me glad I'm not in my 20s, for a change. But it also makes you remember some of the wilder times and wilder people you've known. I was a little shocked, but I still want to see more from this playwright, and a lot more from these performers.
With all of that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Bachelorette could almost pass for something like Ab Fab: The Early Years. (In my book, that's a compliment, by the way.) There's the viper-girl, and the brash, over-the-top girl in pants that may or may not be too tight for her, and a variety of others who may or may not survive these good times themselves. But it's all played with such a sharp edge that the work stands on its own.
The surprising thing is, it's not just some watered-down American version of "Absolutely Fabulous," some overly polite version of something from the headwaters of rueful genius. It's the down-and-dirty; the things-you'd-never-tell-your-children; the punch in the face that you laugh about years later. I loved it.
Two of the most enjoyable young actors in town come on as the slobs the girls picked up, too late at nightJared Sanz-Agero and Carl Overly, Jr.and one seems to specialize in these awful, drunken encounters, while the other is completely conflicted. Another great set of complications ensues. They overlap, in fact: the ghastly and grisly, right along-side the heartfelt and accidentally romantic. Magic.
And finally, the actual bride from the actual bachelorette party prances in: comprised of one part Joy by Chanel, and one part Clorox, as played by Jamie Fritz. And that's when tragi-comedy turns into the aforementioned car crash, in a five-star hotel room. If you can stand some "elbow-in-the-face" humor, and equally brash sex and drug references please don't miss it.
Through May 17, 2014, at The Chapel at 6238 Alexander, just west of Skinker Blvd. and south of Washington University. For more information visit www.slightlyoff.org or call (314) 827-5760.
Performance Ensemble (in order of appearance)
Photo: Joey Rumpell, RumZoo Photography