MORRISBURG – P.B., the Coleman family’s youngest daughter quotes an old proverb when she realizes that her sister’s wedding day has finally descended into complete chaos.
“Man makes plans, and God laughs.”
Actually, in the case of One Slight Hitch, the new comedy on stage at Upper Canada Playhouse until August 27, the Lord may actually be hysterical.
There’s certainly no question that several members of the Coleman family are.
It is 1981. Ronald Reagan is enthroned in America, and Coleman daughter, P.B. staunch Republican that she is, is comfortable with rules and order. “We need ordinariness, black and white, not grey,” she informs the audience as she sets the stage for the “day everything changed. The day of my sister’s wedding.”
Playwright Lewis Black builds his comedy around what happens when order and carefully laid plans, the perfection that the Reagan years promised, go off the rails.
One Slight Hitch is essentially an 80s sitcom overlaid with the door slamming elements of farce.
Delia Coleman is determined that her daughter Courtney’s wedding must be absolutely perfect, from the shrimp boats on ice in the buffet, to the spectacular flower arrangements. (“That’s all people do at weddings, sit around and take notes,” she declares.)
The groom must also be perfect. Harper, with his college degree, his healthy trust fund and his carefully cultivated Yuppie style, is just the ideal man Delia wants for her daughter Courtney.
Delia’s husband Doc understands this. “Your mother,” he tells P.B., “has had only one dream, to plan a wedding like she never had…Judging from the bills rolling in, Courtney’s wedding will be perfect.” And Doc will be right there to help see it is.
Courtney, the bride, once dreamed of being a writer, and for three years lived a Bohemian lifestyle. Now as she plans an ordered and predictable future, where being contented is better than being passionate, she seems to have ‘settled.’
Why, she even jogs.
Middle daughter Melanie has also accepted the new ‘normal’. There was a time when she could have left Ohio, taken a chance, risked it all. But she never did.
P.B., Walkman clutched in her hand, is young, wide-eyed and capable of taking on the world. After all, she’s a Republican!
In Black’s world, however, this is a family due for a bit of a shake-up. And when better, for comic complications, than the Coleman wedding day?
As the last hours tick down, enter a force of nature, Hurricane Katrina in a crumpled t-shirt and florid boxer shorts: Ryan, Courtney’s never-employed, marriage-shy, ex-boyfriend.
While he does not actually have a scarlet “L” tattooed into the centre of his forehead, Ryan is the absolute antithesis of the Reaganesque program of “getting back on track.”
In short order, and (to be fair) not always intentionally, Ryan creates wedding day chaos.
The Coleman’s perfect wedding collapses into the perfect storm.
When Delia finally shrieks, “This is why we need gun control. If I had a gun right now, I’d use it,” the audience is well caught up in the events and hugely entertained.What really makes this play work is the cast. The characters the actors create make the sitcom approach of the plot entertaining and original.
Allan Cooke as Ryan is priceless. He manages to be both utterly sincere and completely useless, generally at the same time. He can’t help “being a dreamer, and an underachiever and lactose intolerant.”
Really, he can’t.
Brianne Tucker’s Melanie is brittle, retreating behind alcohol because life isn’t all she hoped. Yet she loves her sisters, and adores her parents. She will rise to the occasion.
Courtney, the bride, is sweet and, some might mistakenly think, fragile. However, Doc and Delia did not raise a shrinking violet, and Taylor Trowbridge’s Courtney makes that quite clear on this most momentous day in her life.
P.B. is the lens through which we see the Colemans. Alison MacKay plays her as a bundle of energy, who finds life an adventure, and, even years later, is happy to remember this day in the 1980s as a comfortable “blur.”
Ryan Jacobs actually succeeds in getting the audience to care for his character, groom Harper, who is just too controlled, too immaculately ‘turned out’, and plain too perfect to be quite real.
Doc and Delia, played by Garfield Andrews and Kathleen Egan Veinotte, are the heart of the play. Black paints these two with real affection.
Delia, at even her most desperate moments of wedding hysteria and Doc, even coping with Bug Bombs and Harper’s parents as well as Ryan, are still deeply in love with one other.
That is their strength.
The Colemans are having a wedding in Lewis Black’s comedy, One Slight Hitch, running at the Playhouse until August 27.
And the right couple will definitely be getting hitched.