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Regional Reviews: Chicago

Profiles Theatre

Also see John's reviews of Enron, Time Stands Still and The Houdini Box

Amanda Powell, Hillary Marren and
Linda Augusta Orr

Even without a feature film version of this play soon to be released (it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month), comparisons of Leslye Headland's Bachelorette to the hit film Bridesmaids are bound to be made. So let's make them. Like Kristin Wiig's Bridesmaids, Bachelorette is a sharply comic satire of women behaving badly around events related to a wedding, but it has much in common with the movie Mean Girls as well. The matrimonial stuff is more of an excuse for this display of female competitiveness among peers and a study of excess among three party girls who have kept their teenage mindsets of jealousy and vindictiveness. Now young adults, they've mixed those juvenile behaviors with presumably easier access to sex, drugs and alcohol—one of many toxic combinations depicted in this play. Headland says Bachelorette is her "gluttony" play among a cycle she's writing to dramatize the seven deadly sins, and there's gluttony in abundance here.

While Bridesmaids showed women can be gross-out artists as well as guys, Bachelorette—funny, and in its second half an honest-to-God farce—goes deeper and darker. The story is set in the bridal suite of New York's Peninsula Hotel (thanks to a beautifully realistic set by Scott Davis) on the night before Becky (Rakisha Pollard) is to be married to a very rich man. Becky, wanting to spend the night with her fiancĂ©, has lent the suite to her Maid of Honor, Regan (Hillary Marren), who invites Katie (Linda Augusta Orr) and Gena (Amanda Powell) to party in the suite with her. Funny thing is, Katie and Gena haven't been invited to the wedding. Though high school classmates, they've never really gotten along with Becky. Even Regan makes fun of Becky and Becky's weight problem behind the bride's back. Their ridicule of Becky's size leads to a problem that has to be made right before Becky gets back to the room in the morning, and it turns into a very effective farce at this point. The complications aren't enough to keep the girls from inviting two guys they met earlier in the evening to come up and enjoy the suite life with them. Jeff (Adam Soule) is the bigger player of the two, looking for a quick sexual liaison, while his buddy Joe (Eric Burgher) is the more sensitive one.

Headland shows no mercy toward the party culture of big city twenty-somethings. Orr's Katie is an airhead retail clerk who can't forget her greatest moment as Prom Queen. Gena is a depressive druggie still mourning a breakup of several years earlier. Powell gives her an appropriately annoying whininess. Marren plays Regan as a bitchy, manipulative queen bee who shows no loyalty to either the bride, her offstage boyfriend or to Katie or Gena. Not surprisingly, she's attracted to Jeff, who Soule shows to be as selfish and effectively manipulative as Regan. We don't see a lot of Becky, who shows up near the end of the play, but Pollard seems to suggest that Becky is not above a little manipulation herself and she adds to the somewhat sketchy character Headland has written. The only fully likable character in the play is Joe, who Burgher plays as a decent, almost grounded sort with more self-awareness than the others.

If none of these characters or situations seem especially original, the thing that makes Bachelorette a worthwhile and extremely entertaining play is Headland's uncompromising view of the characters. She leaves no doubt these girls (and to a lesser degree, the guys) have some tough times ahead if they don't grow up soon. And even those who have seen the films Bridesmaids and either of the two Hangovers will be surprised just where things go when the going gets farcical. Director Darrell W. Cox and his uniformly strong cast understand these characters, and add enough nuance to their broad and recognizable comic characteristics to bring us into the story and make it feel fresh. Cox sets the perfect pace for the piece and commits to a definite point-of-view that allows us to laugh and feel some pity for these young women.

Profiles recently announced the acquisition of another theater space just south of their original storefront—bringing their total number of theaters to three. They're doubtless going to need it, as Bachelorette ought to keep their original space busy for some time.

Bachelorette will play through March 11, 2012, at Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago. Tickets available at or at 773-549-1815.

Photo: Shawn Cagle

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