Hopewell’s Off-Broadstreet Theater is welcoming the new year with “Always a Bridesmaid,” a comedy that had its premiere some 21 months ago in Grapevine, Texas. The work of three playwrights, one woman, Jessie Jones, and two men, Nicholas Hope and James Wooten, the play has had a striking success. But that seems to be the case with all 12 of the three playwrights’ joint efforts, including “Dearly Beloved,” “’Til Beth Do Us Part,” and “Mama Won’t Fly.”
“Always a Bridesmaid” focuses on four friends who when still in high school swore to serve as bridesmaids at each other’s weddings. During the course of the play, which covers some seven years, there are four scenes and four weddings. All take place in Virginia at a roomy historic mansion that can be rented for just that purpose. Each is prefaced by a soliloquy by a young bride (not one of the four friends) whose connection remains a mystery until the last scene.
Some of the characters are good at weddings and not so good at marriages, and some new marriages involve messy details. Perhaps future theatergoers should be warned that it isn’t easy to keep track of who is seeing whom or where relationships are going. But the details of the relationships do not really matter, and spirits do seem to remain high both on the stage and in the audience.
The first of the brides is Monette, who is embarking on her third marriage. Susan Fowler, last seen as Gwen Harris in OBT”s “The Costume Ball,” fills the role nicely. Next comes Charlie, the tomboy of the group, and though she has no problem interacting with men, she finds the idea of marriage a little scary. She is played by Christy Milliken, an elementary school music teacher and a drum and bugle corps director. The third wedding belongs to the smart one of the group, Deedra (performed by 15 OBT-production veteran Alison Quairoli). And the fourth wedding would have belonged to Libby, but she’s the only one who’s managed to stay married the entire time. Libby is played by Giz Coughlin, who has been involved in local theater for more than 20 years, working both on stage and backstage, but somehow missed OBT until this production.
Presiding over the weddings, not a simple matter, is Sedalia Ellicott, played by OBT performer, improv instructor, and commercial talent Gerry Martin. And, finally, the mysterious Kari, who delivers the increasingly tipsy soliloquies that precede each scene, is played by Angelica Staikos, a newcomer to OBT and a musical theater major at Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts.
The costumes, designed by Ann Raymond, are a treat. Since not all the performers are model-thin, Raymond’s designs are even more amusing, especially if one expects bridesmaids’ dresses to match. I would expect most members of the audience to get a kick out of Raymond’s solutions.
As I am sure is obvious, we’re not talking about an evening at the theater that will send the audience home deep in thought. But for those who want some light entertainment, here is a chance to take in a carefully conceived, thoughtfully produced evening of just that.
Always a Bridesmaid, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Through Saturday, February 14, with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. Dessert is served one hour before curtain. $27 to $31.50. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.