‘I Now Pronounce’ adds a new twist to the ‘will they or won’t they’ wedding comedy trope
- Written by Tina Farmer
Director Edward Coffield closes out his first season as artistic director of the New Jewish Theatre with a high-spirited comedy that takes place during a wedding. To be honest, comedies about weddings are a dime-a-dozen; most of them are funny and quite entertaining. Fortunately, “I Now Pronounce” is decidedly in that category and provides plenty of laughs along with a few genuinely awkward moments and requisite heartwarming revelations. In a comically realistic story arc that occasionally lags but never falters, it’s the supporting cast – the bridesmaids, groomsmen and flower girls – who get things done on this twisted ride to “I Do.”
The prologue, delivered in a halting monologue by the Rabbi, sets up the unusual circumstances that send the wedding into a swirling state of doubt and confusion. Though the audience knows the premise, the bridesmaids, trying to console the bride, and the groomsmen, who gamely offer to provide whatever the groom needs, remind us from a variety of perspectives and with often comic details and distractions.
Frankie Ferrari is rock solid as Eva, the more sober bridesmaid and the one everyone turns to when they don’t know what to do. Ferrari shows charm and comic chops in a winning performance. Her scenes with the soon-to-be divorced groomsman Seth, played with timidity, doubt and a little whining by the amiable Ryan Lawson-Maeske are genuine and hilarious. Though the two are a bit of a humorous physical cliché, they add warmth and convincing chemistry to the laughs.
Delaney Piggins and Will Bonfiglio play Michelle and Dave, the other bridesmaid and groomsman, respectively, and have the unenviable task of portraying unflattering, heavily stereotyped characters. Both actors are gifted comedians and largely overcome their constraints – Piggins' drunken stumbling and rambling stories are generally endearing and, though Bonfiglio’s douchery is discomfiting in 2019, the glib, cavalier interpretation is spot on, with a dry, sarcastic delivery.
Flower girls Millie Edelman, Abby Goldstein and Lydia Mae Foss are overdramatic in the adorably honest way only kids can be, while Jessica Kaddish and Graham Emmons are attractive and believably in love. I do wish we saw more of the couple’s shared moments of indecision, cold feet and making up as the two have good chemistry and are more believable characters when together. Finally Craig Neuman is committed, though not believably old and frail, as the Rabbi. His bit of unconsciously changing the groom’s name is delivered with perfect timing and an oblivious tone that quickly has the audience laughing.
The theater space is successfully turned into a reception hall with minimal, but smartly applied scenic design by David Blake and costume design by Michelle Siler that reflects modern bridal trends, such as the use of color matching, rather than wearing matching, bridesmaid dresses. Lighting designer Tony Anselmo creates good ambience while sound designer Amanda Werre kicks up the wedding reception jams. Werre mixes old classics and newer pop favorites with the skill of a seasoned reception DJ, eliciting a burst of laughter by including Baby Shark during the curtain call. The curtain call is a lot of fun in this show, but it does go on a bit too long without inviting the audience to join in. Additionally, I wish the actors could find that same energy throughout the show. There are a few moments when instead of taking a breath and forging on, the comedy sighs and considers giving up.
While bitingly funny and, at times, touchingly realistic, “I Now Pronounce,” by playwright Tasha Gordon-Solomon, is a bit puzzling and I felt strangely unsatisfied by the ending, though I was feeling teary-eyed and happy at the same time. I am honestly not sure if the resolution, charming as it is, is believable based on the previous 80 minutes of comic uncertainty. This conundrum is largely overcome by the focus on the bridal party, but a lack of connection between the event and the following crisis lingers and I am not sure if the problem lies in the script or interpretation.
Despite a few bumps here and there, the play rolls along merrily, rippling with laughter and laughably realistic situations. “I Now Pronounce” may not be the best wedding and reception you’ve ever attended. But, for a stage wedding, the play is a laugh out loud romp that touches on situations likely familiar to the audience through life experience or countless romantic comedies. The good-natured show, which continues through June 2 at the New Jewish Theatre, is a sure bet for a fun, well acted evening of comedy.