Closing the season on a light-hearted note, Off-Broadstreet Theatre is presenting a Ray Cooney and John Chapman farce, “There Goes the Bride.” Ending the season with Cooney seems to be a successful strategy: two years ago Cooney’s “Run for Your Wife” was the final production of the season, and a play Cooney wrote with one of his sons will end the upcoming season. It should perhaps be pointed out that ending the season for the Off-Broadstreet Theater is not quite as dramatic an event as it is for some other theaters: “There Goes the Bride” runs through Saturday, August 29; next season starts on Friday, September 18, with “A Nice Family Gathering,” a play “about a man who loved his wife so much he almost told her.”
“There Goes the Bride” is set in London at the home of a bride on her wedding day, and takes place just about in real time. Judy Westerby, the bride, and her mother, Ursula Westerby, are ready to go to the church, and the cars that will take them are waiting, but the father, Timothy Westerby, an advertising executive, is late getting home. And when he does get home, he is so preoccupied by a campaign idea that has just struck him — using 1920s flappers to advertise women’s underwear — that he finds it hard to turn his mind to the wedding. The audience can easily understand how he has already managed to mess up many details of the wedding, like forgetting to reserve a hotel room for the groom’s parents (they’re coming from Australia) or order the flowers. Also delaying the action is the bride’s grandfather, who is having trouble with a tight collar button, and the bride’s grandmother, who is having trouble with a tight corset.
In the excitement, as people come and go, the father hits his head on a door and loses consciousness. When he comes to, he imagines that the flapper from his advertising campaign, Polly Perkins, is real. Of course the existence of a character that only he and the audience can see opens up all sorts of comic possibilities. Timothy and Polly also indulge in some skillful 1920s dancing.
The bride keeps retreating to her room in tears, the car drivers keep asking when their passengers are going to appear, and even the minister calls from the church. The groom’s father, just arrived from Australia, appears at the door in the second act, trying to figure out what’s going on. His attempts to introduce some logic to the situation are, of course, thwarted by the frantic attempts of the bride’s family to hide the fact that the groom is apparently marrying into a family with a madman at the helm. Since this is a farce, it of course has a happy ending, but just how it plays out will be kept secret here.
“There Goes the Bride” brings back to the stage several Off- Broadstreet veterans. Doug Kline, who plays the grandfather of the bride, is making his 22nd appearance at the theater; Curtis Kaine, the father of the groom, his 15th; Tom Stevenson, Westerby’s old friend and business partner, his 11th. Also a veteran, though not a two-digit one, is Marilyn Mangone Stoddard, who plays the bride’s mother. And in a truly unusual twist, the bride is played by Stoddard’s actual daughter, Nicole Stoddard. The two women look enough alike to add a visual treat to the play. Barry Abramowitz, the father of the bride, has appeared at OBT in the last two seasons, and Tappany Hochman, the character who exists only in the father’s mind, was the food critic who had no functioning taste buds in OBT’s previous production, “Soup du Jour.” A newcomer to OBT is Virginia Barrie, who plays the bride’s grandmother.
Robert Thick is responsible for direction and design. As OBT regulars have come to expect, the direction is logical so that even in a farce as zany as this, the audience can follow quite easily. The set, the London home of the parents of the bride, is functional and attractive. It is symmetrically set up, with all the necessary furniture but not so crowded that the characters are constrained in their movement. And of course a farce requires doors — and there are plenty here.
The costumes, designed by Ann Raymond, find the men in standard upscale wedding garb — morning coats and cravats — but the details in the women’s costumes often tell you a great deal about the characters. Be sure to keep an eye out for the hat the grandmother is wearing to the wedding (having a mental image of the Queen Mother in your head won’t hurt).
“There Goes the Bride," Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Through Saturday, August 29. Comedy farce by Ray Cooney. Doors open for dessert an hour before curtain $27.50 to $29.50. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.