Set in an upscale hotel, with transitional scenes at a karaoke club offset from the main stage, "Bachelorette" introduces three attendees of bride-to-be Becky's bachelorette party, Regan, Gena and Katie. After a quick karaoke open, the three stumble drunkenly into the bride's room, in which Regan, as maid of honor, is also staying. The tension mounts immediately, as Gena and Katie are not invited to the wedding, and Regan takes pains to advise them that Becky shouldn't know they are in the suite. The rest of the play chronicles the threesome's night, through copious bottles of champagne, wedding gown mishaps, and serious flirtations with infidelity, insecurity and death.
Regan, played with an obsessive edge and visible desperation by Ellie Schwetye, clearly presumes that she is "in charge" of the situation. She is by turns part of Gena and Katie's hard partying kinship and stiffly prudish, aghast at the night's developments without once taking responsibility for her actions. Regan is not a sympathetic character; she's rather a cold-hearted bitch in many ways. But Schwetye finds a connection with the character's insecurities that, while not enough to redeem the character, elicits unexpectedly effective sympathy.
Gena is the loyal and steadfast rock of the three, though unacknowledged as such. She takes care of everyone and every problem without question, occasionally emitting a resigned sigh, but always jumping in to clean up after her friends. Cara Barresi's characterization is a mix of tough girl bravado and a soldier's unquestioning sense of duty. Her distrust of Jeff, a bar pick-up with a nonetheless genuine interest in Katie reveals Gena's maternal instincts, as she moves quickly to ensure her friend is safe.
As perpetual party girl and former prom queen Katie, Wendy Renee Greenwood is soulful and raw, a distrustful, emotionally battered young woman struggling to overcome the lure of oblivion, certain that the best of her life has already passed her by. Greenwood turns in a powerful, unsettling performance as a young woman drowning her self-doubt in alcohol and a romanticized view of death. She easily vacillates between wild enthusiasm, deep depression, and glimmers of hope in an evocative performance.
The three actresses are nicely supported by Jeff and Joe, two stoners the girls picked up along the way, and Becky, the much maligned bride who may just be the most emotionally stable, well-adjusted and self-assured character in the show.
After the cruel descriptions and derisive comments made about Becky in the early scenes, Jamie Fritz's characterization is refreshingly bouyant and perceptive. It is clear Becky has experienced pain, rejection, and humiliation from the other bachelorettes, but her response reveals insight and empathy rather than retribution. In the closing scene, Fritz and Schwetye make formidable opponents, revealing grit and determined resolve, though both are focused on Schwetye's needs.
Jared Sanz-Agero is touchingly kind and warm as Jeff. Sanz-Agero plays his vulnerability well, and doesn't oversell his interest; he and Greenwood have a realistic, delicately fleeting, connection. His friend Joe, played with a smarmy yet charming swagger by Carl Overly, Jr., is aggressive, a touch frat boy, a touch salesman, and a touch predator. He balances that with intelligence and a frankly straightforward demeanor. Sanz-Agero and Overly accentuate each character's likeable qualities without quite redeeming either of them.
The set is an orange and cream interpretation of a high-end suite, and designers Ellie Schwetye and Rachel Tibbetts use of bold color and geometric patterns accented by modern furnishings adds that generic touch of assumed sophistication present in many hotel rooms. The costumes not only represent the tone and setting of the show, though a bit stereotypical, they were also accurate representations of the modern feminine archetypes represented by each character.
The production lingers with me, making me glad that I'm no longer in my twenties while drawing me into kinship with the next generation of young women. Slightly Askew Theater Ensemble's "Bachelorette" runs through May 17, 2014. For tickets or more information visit www.slightlyoff.org.