by Lynn on January 11, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

The Wedding Party

 At the Streetcar Crow’s Nest, Toronto, Ont,

Written by Kristen Thomson

Directed by Chris Abraham

Set by Julie Fox

Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Video Designed by Zack Russell

Costumes by Ming Wong

Cast: Jason Cadieux

Virgilia Griffith

Trish Linström

Moya O’Connell

Tom Rooney

Jane Spidell

Kirsten Thomson’s loopy, poignant play about a wedding party from hell. This remount with one new actor is as accomplished and beautifully realized as the first time it was done here a year ago.

 The Story. Sherry and Jack Jr.  are getting married and not one seems to be happy about it.  Jack Sr., the snobbish father of the groom looks down on Maddy, the hard-drinking mother of the bride. Margaret is Jack’s second wife, a fragile soul who wants everything to work out. Jack is a twin who is estranged from his brother Tony, who is invited to the wedding. As Jack roars into full father-of-the-groom mode we see why Tony would be estranged from his brother. Edna, the grandmother of the bride seems to define the word ‘inappropriate.’ Every guest is a problem. And the bride and groom are nowhere to be seen.

 The Production.  An elegant sign announces that this is the venue for the wedding of Sherry and Jack. Julie Fox’s design is simple and spare. Characters stream in, either as waiters, members of the wedding party, uninvited guests etc.

It is directed with a keen sense of humour by Chris Abraham who also keeps a gentle but firm hand on the organized chaos that is this wedding party yet makes it unfold seamlessly.  As the production progresses and gets more and more frenzied, the humour is ramped up.

The cast of six plays multiple parts, often switching gender and in one case, species.  Jane Spidell plays Maddy, the troubled, insecure mother of the bride and Pilot the beloved, frisky dog of the parents of the groom. Pilot is a dog that never met a command he wanted to obey and why should he, he is so adored he has a place at the table with his own plate. Spidell also plays a server with an impish attitude.

As an actor exits as one character, he/she returns seconds later dressed as another character. For instance Spidell leaves as Pilot (dressed in a black tux for dogs, black plush nose and black hat) and then returns moments later as a silent, flirty waitress in black pants and white shirt, with a sly smile and a side-ways glance as she serves drinks.

Thomson deals with these many and various situations in her writing with razor sharp humour and perception that is at once loopy, smart, and sophisticated. And when you least expect it she inserts moments of breathtaking emotion.

For example, Jack and Margaret are going through a rough patch in their marriage. Jack is wonderfully played by the confident, slick, Tom Rooney; Margaret is played by the equally accomplished Moya O’Connell. Margaret knows that Jack’s eye is wandering and lets him know it. Moya O’Connell has such a look of hurt on her face it hits you like a brick.

Tom Rooney also plays Jack’s twin brother Tony. Tony, self-effacing, not pushy,  has always been second best to the more brash and confident Jack. Particular kudos to Tom Rooney who is so subtle in his body language as to clearly differentiate between both brothers. Jack swaggers with confidence and Tony is more retiring and accepting of a lesser place to a certain extent. And yes, there are scenes in which it does seem as if both brothers are on stage at the same time. These scenes almost seem like slight of hand, but with the gifted Tom Rooney and the equally gifted Chris Abraham directing, this impossible feat is pulled off with aplomb. There is also a clever bit of business with a video screen capturing both brothers in a split screen configuration, so kudos to Zack Russell, the video designer.

And just to play on this impossibility of having twins on stage acted by the same actor, Kristen Thomson adds a bit of impishness to her writing. Jack ‘comes on’ to Alice, the ‘best man’ in the wedding party—a good friend of Jack Jr. with her own secret—again played with smiling skittishness by Moya O’Connell. Alice is worried that Jack’s wife Margaret will interrupt them. Jack says he doubts that—and it sinks in to the audience that that is true, because Moya O’Connell plays both Alice and Margaret.

Rooney also plays Janice, Maddy’s sullen, unhappy willowy daughter—Rooney plays Janice in a slim red, almost strapless gown. The rest of the cast is dandy.

Jason Cadieux plays: Murray, the loud, boisterous brother of Maddy, Frank, the sleazy henchman for Jack and Edna, Maddy’s aged, irreverent mother with wandering hands if she is introduced to a handsome man.

Trish Lindström plays Tiger, an awkward young man with sagging pants, a stiff walk and sweet sadness. Lindström also plays Jack and Tony’s father, who uses a ‘scooter’ to navigate around the set. He’s so soft-spoken you almost miss his sharp barbs. He’s the proverbial dirty old man on wheels.

Virgilia Griffith plays Trina the harried wedding planner who is put upon by both sides of the wedding party. She also plays Pippa the precocious, squeaky-voiced child of Jack and Margaret. And she plays the flamboyant Spanish lover of Janice (complicated, eh?) Griffith plays all of these disparate characters with confidence.

Kristen Thomson uses a reference to the circus at the beginning and end of the play. A young boy and a girl are selected to participate in a magic trick, in which they will disappear, organized by a flashy magician. The girl is asked if she would like to join the circus. She says she would. The trick is performed and the kids are thanked and leave the stage. Then the wedding party begins. At the end of the wedding section the production returns to that circus scene. The point of these two book-ended scenes seems elusive. If this is meant to connect to Maddy who had been involved in the circus, I think the point could have been made more strongly. If that’s not the point then I’m at a loss. I was confused by the reference last year when I first saw the show, and while I was keenly attentive again this year, I’m still at a loss as to why they would ‘go back to the beginning,’

Comment. We have all been at these weddings from hell, with these recognizable characters: the drunk who speaks the truth, the hostility of the families of the bride and groom and also within each family, the kind folks who try to smooth things out, the letches who come on to anything that moves and the watchful, quiet servers who have seen it all. Chris Abraham directs this with such care he makes us all watch and look harder at every character, whether they have lines or not.

Kristen Thomson holds up the mirror to reflect the loopiness of life and its heartache all during this one supposedly happy event of The Wedding Party.

 A Crow’s Nest and Talk is Free Theatre Production

 Opened: Jan. 5, 2018.

Closes: Jan. 27, 2018.

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minues.

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