Love and Marriage

A man wakes up with a beautiful stranger just hours before his wedding, leading to a funny, if too-familiar plot

Bridegroom Bill wakes up in a hotel room the morning after his stag party. There's ringing in his ears, but the tintinnabulation has nothing to do with wedding bells. It's a colossal hangover, and that's the least of his worries. Next to him in bed is a beautiful, naked woman. But this is not his bride-to-be. In fact, Bill has no idea who she is. He needs to sort things out fast, though, because his wedding is only hours away; his best man is knocking on his door; and not far behind is his future wife. Make that future ex-wife, if he doesn't get rid of the girl.

Easier said than done, for Bill is the hapless central character in a sex farce. Robin Hawdon's Perfect Wedding uses all the standard gimmicks--lies compounding faster than interest on a bank account, characters who impersonate other characters being mistaken for still other characters--but Hawdon deploys those gimmicks with enough flair that you forget this isn't your first time down this particular aisle.

Perfect Wedding is the latest attraction at Wilde Playhouse, and it's appropriately light summer fare to go with the venue's cheese platters and salads.

The confusion spreads from Bill (Jonathan Hicks) to everyone around him when he enlists his dubious best man, Tom (Ari Lerner), to help cover up his presumed premarital infidelity. Bill has the mystery girl, Judy (Christina Fruciano), pretend she's a hotel maid, but things get complicated when an actual maid, Julie (Amber Taylor), shows up. So Julie is persuaded to pretend to be Tom's new girlfriend, whom nobody has yet met.

By the time Bill's intended, Rachel (Monica Warhola Lewis), arrives, the situation has gotten as sticky as the icing on a wedding cake.

In this Wilde Playhouse production, directors John McRostie and Vanessa Ford take the simplest possible approach, not introducing any character tics or tomfoolery that aren't absolutely demanded by the script. Lerner's Tom, for example, might be a bit funnier if he were a good-natured dummy forced to improvise, rather than merely a confused regular guy. All the acting is able, although some of it seems a bit calculated--neither entirely spontaneous, nor, at the other extreme, irrepressibly hammy. Still, the emphasis is on making a good case for playwright Hawdon's generally well-turned words, not distracting us with slapstick.

As Bill, Hicks has the right comic instincts, although they don't seem to be truly instinctive until well into the play. Similarly, the boyish Lerner takes a while for his character to start coming naturally to him. At least that's how it seemed on opening night; both may well be acting with more fluidity and ease now that they have a few performances behind them.

Judy, the mystery woman, is the sort of thankless straight role that usually slows down a farce, but Fruciano is a sweet, stabilizing influence who gives this show its heart. Lewis brings just a touch of shrewishness to the role of bride Rachel, which helps support some later developments in the play. And Taylor is an earthy, no-nonsense maid, the sort of stern bystander who can't help gawking at a nasty accident.

Ina Shviack takes a nice, flamboyant little turn as Rachel's mother, and Kenton Jones does well in his single scene as a frustrated hotel manager, although his French accent could stand to be even more silly and Inspector Clouseau-like.

The uncredited set design is the most substantial yet in Wilde's short history, a good, solid evocation of a hotel suite not cluttered by much extraneous furniture, and including four doors ripe for slamming--a must in any farce.

Perfect Wedding isn't perfect, and there's no wedding in it. (I haven't spoiled anything; after all, the action takes place in a hotel suite, not a church.) Despite not being everything it advertises, the play nevertheless manages to be quite entertaining. Rather like marriage, come to think of it.

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