“Been to one of these weddings?” laughed a woman in the audience during the intermission of Stag and Doe at Upper Canada Playhouse. “I had one of these weddings!”
Playwright Mark Crawford’s bright new comedy, running at UCP until July 5, certainly has, as director Donnie Bowes put it, “a finger on the pulse of the small town.” His play clearly strikes chords with members of the audience as it follows a calamitous (and riotous) day and night in the lives of two very different bridal parties. According to Bowes the show seems to be drawing many new, young play-goers to the theatre. They seem to find the characters on stage both familiar…and very real.
Rob and Mandy, Bonnie and Brad, all planning to be married, under normal circumstances would never cross wedding paths.
Rob (Parris Greaves) and Mandy (Jody Osmond) have 250 guests invited to their ‘perfect’ day: French cuisine planned for a dinner served sit-down: a beautifully appointed wedding tent erected in her family’s large back yard for the ceremony and dance.
Bonnie (Julia Lederer) and Brad (Zach Counsil), on the other hand, have maxed out their credit cards on liquor, invitations, food and a mortgage down payment. And Bonnie is finally forced to reveal to Brad that she may have also “overspent a little” on her wedding dress. ($6,000!” Brad shrieks. “My truck didn’t cost $6,000!”) As a result, as far as Bonnie is concerned, their Stag and Doe at the town’s only hall this night will be her best chance to try and recoup some of their expenses.
But circumstances in these couples’ small town will not be normal.
A ferocious wind storm has ripped through the community in the night, with unexpected results.
A distraught Mandy arrives at the hall, in wedding day rollers, wailing “My wedding tent is gone. My decorations are ruined. There are port-a-potties all over the field!” She, backed by fiance Rob, demands that Brad and Bonnie vacate the venue, imperiously proclaiming that “a wedding trumps a stag and doe!” However, ‘Mandy-zilla’ has reckoned without bride-to-be Bonnie. Bonnie has no intention of backing down on her Stag and Doe. Not with all those credit cards to pay. Not when she has hoped for the same “special day everyone else gets to have.” As both wedding parties proceed to wrestle for “hall supremacy,” audiences are treated to an absolutely hilarious glimpse into the realities of “battling brides.” Literally.
Apparently on the fringe of these wedding confrontations, yet forming, I think, the true heart of Crawford’s play, are bridesmaid Dee (Colleen Sutton) and caterer Jay (Perry Mucci). It’s not that the others’ wedding chaos doesn’t affect them: it does. Dee has a hurtful history with Rob, and Jay, a sometimes lonely single father, has had to cope with the arrest of his entire waiting staff and the impounding his wedding cake by the police. Yet Dee and Jay seem to serve, in this play, as the voices of good-natured humour, of compromise and of sanity in the midst of threats, fisticuffs and bridal wheeling and dealing. It was easy to grow fond of Dee and Jay. It was easy to hope that something might come of their meeting, even under trying circumstances.
There is a lot to love about Stag and Doe and its cast of memorable, decidedly colourful characters. Crawford’s play is a very affectionate look at the nature of weddings and marriage, and the true purpose of both in this day and age. And, in the end, perhaps even his two bickering bridal couples discover more about themselves in an outrageous 24 hours than they may have learned in years of dating.
A word about Sean Free’s set for this production. It’s splendid. From the Loyal Order of the Moose (or is it Elk?) plaque on the kitchen wall, to the unclaimed pot luck pans stacked on the shelves, from the always empty paper towel rolls on the counter to the needle point flowers done by someone’s maiden aunt 50 years ago, Free’s set evokes a nostalgic, wonderful sense of those community halls that still seem to exist in every small town.
Director Donnie Bowes’ production of Stag and Doe is fast paced, beautifully acted by a strong cast, and brimming with laughter. For tickets contact Upper Canada Playhouse at 613-543-3713.