"Always a Bridesmaid," now playing at Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, is like a romantic comedy flick, only better because it's as though you're there.|
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm kind of a sucker for romantic comedies -- especially when engagements and weddings are involved. I watched "Bride Wars" probably once a week for months after I was engaged, and "Bridesmaids" probably twice as often after I was married. The latter of the two I know nearly by heart.
If it were legal to film "Always a Bridesmaid" as it unfolded on stage, I would have, so I could watch it again and again. It's that good.
The tale takes place in an upstairs sitting room at the historic Laurelton Oaks, a premier location for snazzy weddings. (I sort of imagined it as "The Plaza," for all of you "Bride Wars" fans.) The audience is offered the chance to watch one dramatic crisis and heartfelt moment after the next as though you're on a ladder and watching through a window.
Essentially, the show follows four longtime Southern friends Libby Ruth, Monette, Charlie and Deedra as they navigate the preparation of a handful of weddings, for better or for worse. More often than not, it's hilarious.
I'll admit, I was "that girl" in the crowd more than a few times who laughed louder than the rest. And I'm not ashamed -- it was a stitch.
Though the show was penned as a comedy, it is those women on stage who really bring the laughs.
Rachelle Walljasper is adorable as Libby Ruth, a hopeless romantic with a blossoming marriage who simply wants her friends and her daughter, Kari (Cara Chumbley), to find the happiness that she has. If I didn't recognize Ms. Walljasper from other productions, I'd think she was Libby Ruth in real life.
Miranda Jane nails Monette Gentry, a flashy, sassy gal who lives for 5-inch heels and may or may not jump too quickly into relationships. (The third time's the charm, right? Or is it the fourth?)
Tamarin K. Lawler is hilarious as Charlie Collins, a tree-hugging tomboy who knows what she wants and, through the course of the show, is OK with it. You feel for her as you watch her get there, but her melt down is a scream.
Lora Adams simply rocks as Deedra, the headstrong gal of the group. Ms. Adams plays the character solidly, and is amazing to watch, especially the morning after a bachelorette party and in the scenes leading up to an off-stage fight.
Together, they help each other through it all. They lean on each other when they are left behind, and they support each other when it's their turn to do the leaving. No matter how bad their love lives get, they always have each other. You can't help but reflect on some of your own relationships during the show, the friends you've kept, the friends you've drifted from, and the friends you could always return to.
The roughly two-hour-long show is split into two acts of two scenes each. The set cleverly illustrates the changing of the seasons by the type of flowers in the decorative vases.
Everything is punctuated by an increasingly drunken speech by Libby Ruth's daughter, Kari. I'm no actor, but I'd venture to say that memorizing lines and then delivering them in a dead-on Southern accent can't be a walk in the park. Now, imagine remembering your lines, in a Southern accent, while acting convincingly drunk.
But Ms. Chumbley does it, and she makes it look easy. Get me on stage in front of even a half-dozen people and I'd be lucky to remember my name.
And then of course there's Sedalia (Janet Ellen Brucken), who runs Laurelton Oaks. Ms. Brucken and her variety of flashy dresses and coordinating eye shadow is great, and remains a nice constant throughout the show as the women's situations change and the years pass by.
Regardless of your current relationship status or your track record, "Always a Bridesmaid" will hit you. And if nothing else, it will make you laugh. I certainly did.
IF YOU GO
What: "Always a Bridesmaid"
When: 1:30 and 7:45 p.m. Wednesday; 7:45 Friday and Saturday; 5:45 p.m. Sundays
Where: Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, 1828 3rd Ave., Rock Island.
Tickets: $49.12 (evening dinner-and-show) and $43.37 (plated-lunch matinees), 309-786-7733, ext. 2, circa21.com.
Geneseo, IL Details
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