Regional Reviews: St. Louis
I Now Pronounce
And if you've never been married, this might be a good reminder of all the catastrophes you've been trying to avoid, including terrible toasts at the reception and appallingly elaborate dances by non-professional dancers. Artistic Director Edward Coffield directs the production at the New Jewish Theatre, veering deftly between riotous comedy, moments of wistful sadness, and even the bitterest animosity (between the bride and groom, of course).
And it's a young (to very young) cast, at least after the older rabbi with a cough and a sudden ache in his left arm drops dead under the chuppah in scene one. Craig Neuman plays that gentle old soulbut he'll somehow make everything right again, near the end, with the help of some very persistent bridesmaids. They're played by the (physically and emotionally) Streepian Frankie Ferrari, who is increasingly "sadder but wiser," and by Delaney Piggins, transcendently magical by the end.
The bride herself doesn't appear till 35 minutes inshe's been hiding in the bathroom crying, since the paramedics took the body away. Jessica Kaddish is outrageously funny, by turns vicious and heartwarming, over the various shortcomings of her equally young and inexperienced groom. He's played by the wittily anguished and raggedly miserable Graham Emmons. We meet him earlier, drinking in the parking lot with his groomsmen: nefarious douche bag Dave (Will Bonfiglio, an actor who's actually one of the nicest guys in the world, off-stage); and nebbishy Seth (Ryan Lawson-Maeske), who makes a very unfortunate discovery about his own marriage during the course of the play. They drink and wait as the wedding has hurtled off into limbo. And not the fun, dancy kind of limbo, though there is a memorable dance scene later on, and a gasp-inducing little speech in response to that, from Dave.
I was in romantic comedies at the same venue, the Jewish Community Center, forty years ago, but they were nothing compared to this. I Now Pronounce roars along at eighty miles an hour, ripping through romcom situations three at a time. Audiences have become much more adroit and demanding since then: we're all Brooks Atkinson now. And this show meets us at that high level of humor and sophistication here in 2019.
There are three adorable moppets as flower girls, stage veteran (and Girl Scout) Lydia Mae Foss; Abby Goldstein, who sums up all the horror in lighthearted song; and Millie Eidelman, who is (like her compatriots) focused, funny and intelligent. I Now Pronounce entrusts them with several different scenes which they carry off perfectly, and in this show their characters have a one-of-a-kind coming of age.
But it should probably all be rated PG-13, despite the presence of the delightful little actresses. There's no intermission, which is normal for an 80-minute show. But maybe there should be one, before the bows at the end, which go on for approximately 18 minutes.
Otherwise it's an excellent, ambitious comedy.
I Now Pronounce, through June 2, 2019, at New Jewish Theatre, St. Louis Jewish Community Center, #2 Millstone Drive, St. Louis MO. For more information visit www.newjewishtheatre.org.
The Cast (in speaking order):
* Denotes member, Actors Equity Association