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Bachelorette
by Leslye Headland
Directed by Rachel Tibbetts
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
May 9, 2014

Ellie Schwetye, Wendy Renee Greenwood, Cara Barresi Photo by Joey Rumpell Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Ellie Schwetye, Wendy Renee Greenwood, Cara Barresi
Photo by Joey Rumpell
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Bachelorette is the latest entry in Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble’s “Season of the Monster”.  Rather than the more straightforward interpretation of “monster”, as represented in SATE’s last production of the popular ghost story The Woman In Black, this latest production explores the monstrous side of ordinary people, taking the highly stressful but usually happy occasion of a wedding  as an opportunity to delve into some of the very darkest aspects of its characters’ lives and relationships.  It’s a short, extremely intense drama that showcases some of its characters at their worst, as well as the impressive cast of actors at their very best.

When it comes to wedding preparation, you may have heard of the “Bridezilla”, or over-controlling bride.  This play, instead, focuses on more of a “Bridesmaidzilla” and many crazy and petty goings-on on the eve of a wedding.  Becky (Jamie Fritz) is the bride, but she actually doesn’t show up until late in the play, although we hear a lot about her from icy Maid of Honor Regan (Ellie Schwetye) and her friends Gena (Cara Beresi) and Katie (Wendy Renee Greenwood), who Regan has invited to a bachelorette gathering in Becky’s hotel room without Becky’s knowledge. Much debauchery, gossip and bitching ensues, as the friends (or, more accurately, frenemies) indulge in copious amounts of drugs and alcohol while revealing their true thoughts about Becky, her wedding, and each other. In the midst of this, Regan indulges in a belligerent flirtation with Jeff (Jared Sanz-Ager), whom she has just met that night, while Jeff’s friend Joe (Carl Overly, Jr.) develops a bond with the initially perky party-girl Katie, who reveals an increasingly depressed and self-destructive side as the evening’s events progress.

The casting for this show is about as close to perfect as I can imagine. All the players are ideally cast in their roles, with Schwetye and Greenwood the particular standouts.  Schwetye plays cool, controlling Regan with just the right amount of humanity and a huge dose of icy resolve, precision-aimed cruelty and a brutal self-focus.  Greenwood portrays the fragile Katie with a convincing blend of perkiness, vulnerability and edge-of-a-cliff instability, singing her heart out on the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry, Baby” in one memorable scene. As Joe, the perpetually stoned friend of Jeff’s who forms a quick connection with Katie, Overly is a strong, dependable presence. His scenes with Greenwood, as they both reveal some of their darkest personal secrets, are devastatingly truthful. Sanz-Agero, as the smug Jeff, does a good job especially in his scenes with Schwetye as the two act out their antagonistic attraction. Barresi, as the alternately aggressive and protective Gena, and Fritz as the much-maligned and seemingly clueless Becky also give strong performances.  It’s a very strong cast that brings an air of gritty authenticity to the raw and sometimes brutal proceedings of the play.

The scenic design is by Schwetye and director Rachel Tibbetts, and it works just right. Set up in the Chapel arts venue so that the audience is on the stage and the “stage” is the floor of the space, this arrangement suggests the high-class hotel room setting with just a little bit of furniture and an area rug complementing the existing bar area very well. There’s also great use of music and excellent atmospheric lighting by Bess Moynihan.  This is a dark play in its subject matter, and the overall look is appropriately stark.

This is a show about adults acting like petulant children, and it’s definitely for an adult audience with its language and themes. It’s a well-written character study that explores some of the more unsavory aspects of human nature, showing just how monstrous and cruel people can be, even toward those they claim are their friends. Although it’s not a happy show, there are flickers of compassion and humanity that bring the more brutal aspects of some of the characters into sharper focus by the contrast. It’s a sharp, incisive and undeniably provocative  experience, and another profoundly memorable success for SATE.

Wendy Renee Greenwood, Carl Overly, Jr. Photo by Joey Rumpell Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Wendy Renee Greenwood, Carl Overly, Jr.
Photo by Joey Rumpell
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

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