Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Zoey's Perfect Wedding
TheatreWorks Hartford
Review by Fred Sokol

Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Rachel B. Joyce,
and Hallie Eliza Friedman

Photo by Mike Marques
TheaterWorks Hartford, dark for several nights since a cast member tested COVID positive, resumes its run, through June 5, of Matthew Lopez's Zoey's Perfect Wedding. A gratified audience roared through 90 minutes of audacious slapstick and sometimes absurdist comedy, but in the end, the playwright sets a much higher and insightful bar.

Now receiving its East Coast premiere, the action is located at the Brooklyn Downtown Marriott and Zoey (Rachel B. Joyce) is about to experience an ongoing disaster of a party, the 2008 event theoretically celebrating her marriage to unseen groom Patrick. Missy (Hallie Eliza Friedman) is facilitating (for her cousin Zoey), even if she is not a seasoned planner. The real wedding planner in the crowd is Rachel (Blair Lewin). She is married to Charlie (Daniel José Molina), more than ably embodied for now by actor Stephen Stocking, who comes to this production's rescue as a replacement performer. One would not guess he's had limited rehearsal time because he fits in precisely with the fine ensemble. Also on hand at designated table 27 is Sammy (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka), who has eyes for the nearby bartender. The disc jockey for the not-so-swanky affair is named DJ (Esteban Carmona) and he is summarily fired but makes his way back on stage.

On the surface, Zoey's Perfect Wedding (complete with a few references to Park Slope) appears to be a compilation of gags, mistakes and, during a few sequences, challenges as to who might be able to down shots of Tequila quickest. It isn't much of a spoiler to report that the bride's lovely white dress is not a survivor.

This gifted writer's The Whipping Man, Somewhere, and The Legend of Georgia McBride are perceptive, contemplative, telling works. Where might something so frivolous as Zoey fit in? People haven't been to live productions for a few years and everyone wants to let loose. Most at this mid-week evening performed seemed more than delighted with shenanigans and, more broadly, everything that could possibly go wrong.

During the final portion of the play, though, revelation comes to the fore. Lopez has written a searing satire. The irony, through biting and, finally, poignant moments, is that each of these (perhaps) thirty-something individuals is unfulfilled. The story is very much one of hollow lives. It takes a while to realize that the playwright's banter and dialogue might not be quite so simplistic.

If anyone is the pivotal figure here, it is Rachel. Costumer Harry Nadal has her wearing a tight red dress with cleavage-baring plunging neckline. She is smart, adept and, ultimately, honest. When Charlie attempts to address their marriage, she responds with candor. As the figurative curtain closes the performance, she stares out at the audience.

Director Rob Ruggiero maximizes humor and leaves just enough space for Lopez's penetrating commentary to land. Ruggiero is typically adroit when it comes to tapping into people's emotions and he once again succeeds. Set and lighting designer Brian Sidney Bembridge shifts the locale from the contingent's actual table to the women's powder room and back again to the party.

Stereotypical types of people have gathered to eat, drink, and cavort with Zoey. Suffice to say there's far more to this than initially meets the theatergoer's eye. It's quite possible that more than a few patrons leave TheaterWorks pondering and reflecting what just transpired.

Zoey's Perfect Wedding runs through June 5, 2022, at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St., Hartford CT. For tickets, call 860-527-7838 or visit