The Wedding Party: Say “I don’t”

The Arts Club and Prairie Theatre Exchange are presenting The Wedding Party at the BMO Theatre Centre.

Luisa Jojic and Todd Thomson: these two are both very good.
(Photo by David Cooper)

It’s enough to put you off going to the theatre.

There’s some good acting in The Wedding Party, but the script is so stupid.

In The Wedding Party, playwright Kristen Thomson imagines a wedding reception going wrong. Sherry Boychuk, who comes from a humble family, is marrying Jack Sealey-Skeete, who comes from money. We never actually see the bride and groom, but we do see their families duking it out. Jack’s dad, Jack Sr., is convinced that Sherry is trash — with big boobs (because there’s nothing like a few good boob jokes, right?) — and, when Sherry’s mom Maddy overhears Jack Sr.’s opinion, she decides to get revenge.

A whole lot of this is fueled by alcohol and the supposed hilarity of watching people get drunk. Maddy gets more and more loaded and, as if we’re meant to see this as the mark of an irrepressible woman, much is made of how nobody can stop her from knocking it back. Murray, Jack Sr.’s lawyer, is a recovering alcoholic. In the closing moment of Act 1, Murray starts drinking again. To be clear: this is a comedy and the Act 1 capper is an alcoholic taking a drink. Fuck that. Seriously. Fuck that.

There’s an undeniable vivacity in Thomson’s writing: she just keeps spitting out characters and conventions. Jack Sr. has a twin brother named Tony, a ballet dancer who’s fallen on hard times. (You’ve got to give Thomson credit for her quirkiness.) Actor Todd Thomson, the playwright’s brother, plays both Jack Sr. and Tony. He also plays Maddy’s daughter Janice, a feminist academic. The six actors in this ensemble play over 20 characters, so they’re quick-changing and cross-dressing all over the place. There are pleasures in that — and I’ll get to those in a minute — but, overall, the wackiness doesn’t work. Because it’s out of control.

The script is unfocused. Characters and situations are introduced, then wander off into the theatrical fog. Early on, we meet Maddy’s brother, Frank, for instance, and it looks like he’s going to be a significant figure. But, as things turn out, he has nothing to do. There’s no reason for him to be there. In the best scene in the play, Maddy flirts with Tony, the ballet-dancer twin, and it looks like that relationship might go somewhere. But it doesn’t. Instead, at the end of the play, we’re left with two pairs of people dancing: Janice and her lover, whom we’ve barely met; and Maddy and Jack Jr.’s mother Margaret, who have hardly exchanged two words.

In the middle of Act 2, when things should be getting madcap, they hit the skids. Partly that’s because, under Ann Hodges’s direction, the pace goes slack. But it’s also because Thomson has written an extended scene in which the characters are all reading texts on their phones. It’s like watching painfully deliberate theatrical suicide.

But I did say I’d get to the pleasures. Playing the twin brothers, Tony and Jack Sr., Todd Thomson is fantastic. I was particularly smitten by Tony. As written, Tony is a nerd and Thomson takes full advantage of that, making Tony’s awkwardness unaccountably charming. It’s a characterization Tom Hanks would be proud of.

Luisa Jojic also fully commits to the material and she has some lovely moments, including a passage in which Margaret repeatedly careens to the brink of tears then stops herself when talking about her deceased first husband. Jojic handles this so skilfully that it deserves — and receives — full-throated laughter.

I also appreciated Jane Spidell’s work as Maddy. The character doesn’t have anything funny to do. But Spidell brings a salt-of-the-earth drive to her portrait that I recognize from women I’ve met.

I’ve also got to mention Christine Reimer’s costume choices. The black-and-blush dress that a character named Alice wears is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Still, what does the evening add up to? A hole in your wallet and two and a half hours of wasted life.

Instructively, the Arts Club has presented two farces in a row: The Wedding Party and Noises Off. Both have talented casts. One of them has a well-built script.

THE WEDDING PARTY By Kristen Thomson. Directed by Ann Hodges. An Arts Club Theatre Production in partnership with Prairie Theatre Exchange. At the BMO Theatre Centre on Wednesday, March 4. Continues until March 22. Tickets.

 

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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

Comments

  1. Kelli Fox says:

    too late, I just bought my tickets, but next time I see you maybe we’ll compare notes … fyi, it’s Jane Spidell.

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