Sunday, December 6, 2015

Red Door: "Always a Bridesmaid"

The Red Door Theatre in Union Springs is presenting a laugh-out-loud comedy: Always a Bridesmaid, another in a series written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten [their The Hallelujah Girls and Mama Won't Fly have been performed at the Red Door]. -- Despite the season, the Red Door is not showing a Christmas-themed show; and it pays off.

Director Kim Mason has a knack for comedy and a history of getting the most out of her actors, and the ensemble here is a veteran cast of six women who are clearly having a good time together on stage as they portray an eclectic bevy of "friends for life" who had promised years ago to be bridesmaids in one another's weddings -- no matter what!

It is that "no matter what" that holds the slightness of the plot together. Kari [Sarah Smith] is today's bride who narrates a series of scenes depicting the assorted weddings (and near misses) that have lead up to her own; she gets progressively more intoxicated as she addresses the attendees at her wedding reception, where her mother Libby Ruth [Elizabeth Roughton], the perfect optimistic one, and the other "friends for life" are her bridesmaids too: Monette [Leigh Moorer], the often married one, Charlie [Janet Wilkerson], the reluctant one, and Deedra [Eve Harmon], the worldly sophisticated one. -- They are joined in each scene by Sedalia [Jordan Allen Campbell], the no-nonsense manager of the "historic Laurelton Oaks" venue where all the weddings take place over seven years.

Ray Thornton designed an architecturally and naturalistically finished set for this production that shows the sitting room of an upscale wedding venue in stark contrast to the often garish bridesmaids costumes the cast wear [let imaginations run wild, there will still be many surprises in store]. -- There is no costume designer credit in the program, but the costume choices most certainly need to be applauded.

The ensemble performances are top-notch, with each one defining her individual quirks while generously sharing the stage with the prima donnas here.

The standards are high all around, yet there are individual moments of outright hilarity: Ms. Smith's descent into drunkenness is welcomed each time she appears; Ms. Roughton's unflappable naivete garners spontaneous laughter; Ms. Harmon grows into a spirited combatant who says she'll marry "the last man standing" in her wedding day's slugfest between her fiance and ex-husband; and Ms. Campbell is able to turn on a dime from a charming self-possessed professional hostess into an axe-wielding harridan when the bridesmaids get out of control.

Kudos to Ms. Moorer who accepts her character Monette's nonchalance about her frequent and sometimes frivolous trips to the altar with a comfort so natural that she is credible from start to finish, her smug demeanor never at risk under any circumstances.

Ms. Wilkerson has established herself as one of the Red Door's most reliable comic actors whose mere entrance onto the stage warrants appreciative laughter, followed by physical silliness and dead-pan delivery of clever dialogue. The genius of her performance here is that no matter how outrageous, Ms. Wilkerson is grounded in an inventive and truthful commitment to her character.

Ms. Mason keeps the action moving at a solid pace for just under two hours including intermission, and audiences leave in a jovial mood from watching these talented actors.