Never the Bridesmaid
Silly and pointless rom-com
|Polarity Ensemble Theatre presents|
|Never the Bridesmaid|
Review by Lauren Whalen
I enjoy a good romantic comedy. It’s like escapist candy, or Starbucks: you know what you’re getting. Girl meets boy, complications ensue, girl gets boy. Throw in a wacky misunderstanding, quirky friends and a pop soundtrack for extra fun. Never the Bridesmaid is not a good romantic comedy. At best, Polarity Ensemble Theatre’s latest offering is passably pleasant; at worst, it’s an insult to women and their relationships.
Maria (Lindsey Pearlman) and Anthony (Nick Lake) are thirtysomething twins who fear falling in love. Maria’s once-widowed and twice-divorced, Anthony was dumped by his fiancée four years ago and since then has buried himself in graduate work (studying romantic poetry, no less). It doesn’t help that their parents (Daria Harper and Steve Pringle) have set extremely high standards with their picture-perfect marriage. Will Maria work through her past for old friend turned potential lover Brian (Brian Plocharczyk)? Will Anthony pursue his long-time crush, Maria’s career-driven pal Kathleen (Kristin Danko)? Will quirky friend Therese (Catherine Hermes) ever have a functional relationship? You can probably guess the answers.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with plot predictability – often the genre has dictates, and there’s a lot of comfort in consistency. But there are certain expectations. In the case of romantic comedy, the audience expects: a likable heroine, visibly developing relationships, dialogue that’s both funny and relatable. Some romantic comedy films pass with flying colors (e.g., “When Harry Met Sally”), others (“Something Borrowed”) fall flat. Though a play, Never a Bridesmaid, is still in the latter category.
Never the Bridesmaid’s script reads like it was written by a man who has watched one too many Katherine Heigl movies. In fact, one wonders whether playwright Bill Jepsen has actually spent time with women. When Maria and Kathleen rush to comfort Therese as she squeals about her broken engagement, I wrote in my notes “I’m so glad this isn’t my life.” Really, it isn’t any woman’s life. I can’t speak for my entire gender, but every whiny and neurotic line, every cute meeting and every pseudo-empowerment felt completely false. Never the Bridesmaid would win a gold medal in pandering.
With such sad source material, the cast never stood a chance. Only Harper shows any believable emotion toward the show’s merciful end. Pringle has some sweet moments as a doddering old dad, and Hermes displays good comic timing (though her character does not exist in real life – it’s like Jepsen combined Six from “Blossom” and Kimmy Gibbler from “Full House” to form one brightly dressed, dimwitted cliché). Danko and Lake do their best (and Lake is certainly easy on the eyes), but never have believable chemistry. And while I loved Plocharczyk in Stage Left’s Farragut North last season, he’s little more than a plot device here. The biggest problem is Pearlman, who mugs constantly and does a poor job of acting intoxicated. She’s not adorably resilient, she’s shrill and unpleasant. Just like Katherine Heigl in, well, most of her movies.
Jepsen’s no stranger to acclaim: his previous work, Cadillac, was nominated for five Jeff Awards and set attendance records that Chicago Dramatists has yet to break. Perhaps his next play will be better than Never the Bridesmaid, a sorry sophomore showing. Please, Mr. Jepsen, for the sake of all women, do not attempt romantic comedy. Ever again.
Never the Bridesmaid continues through April 7th at Josephinum Academy, 1500 N.Bell (map), with performances Fridays/Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 2:30pm. Tickets are $10-$19, and are available online at BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at PETheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, includes an intermission)
Kristin Danko (Kathleen), Steve Pringle (Elmer), Daria Harper (Doris), Nick Lake (Anthony), Catherine Hermes (Therese), Lindsey Pearlman (Maria), Brian Plocharczyk (Brian), Margo Chervony (understudy)
behind the scenes
Richard Shavzin (director), Richard Engling (artistic director, photos), Charles C. Palia, Jr. (set design), Benjamin L. White (lighting), Andrew Dallas (sound design), Brenda Winstead (costumes), Vivian Knouse (props design), Dustin Pettegrew (tech director), Jamie Crothers (stage manager), Rosie Newton (asst. director), Andrea DeLonis (asst. stage manager), Katie Sikora Photography (photos)