For some, a wedding is a romantic and formal event, full of the pomp and circumstance befitting a couple’s lifelong pledge to each other. And then there’s The Perfect Wedding, which is anything but … unless you’re looking for plenty of laughs.
In the Elmira Theatre Company production of Robin Hawdon’s play, the pending nuptials of Bill and Rachel are fodder for a fast-paced stream of banter and slapstick.
The story opens with the much-put-upon Bill waking from the previous night’s stag party to find himself in the honeymoon suite with an aching head, a naked woman in his bed and no recollection of how she got there. One thing he is certain of, however, is that it’s definitely not his bride-to-be, who’s due to arrive at the hotel momentarily. Hearing a knock on the door, Bill shuffles the girl (Judy) into the bathroom to get dressed, telling her to say she’s the chambermaid if anybody asks.
The new arrival is Tom, the best man, who’s quickly brought in to the cover-up, instructed to claim the now-out-of-sight Judy as his girlfriend. There’s a problem, however, in that the real girlfriend is due at any time. In keeping with the farce, which spirals out of control with each new cover-up, Tom ends up mistaking the real hotel maid (Julie) as the girl in question, presenting her as his girlfriend.
“A perfect wedding? It’s kind of imperfect – that’s the gag,” laughs director John Snowdon, who’s putting the final touches on the play, which opens Sept. 15.
“You start with one thing and it snowballs from there. Every step they take, they have to cover up something else –the whole thing is a schmozzle.”
That’s truly the case when the bride arrives to get changed for the wedding, now just two hours away.
Rachel (played by Shannon McCannal) is accompanied by her wedding-crazed mother, Daphne (Liz Poulton), and both women must be kept in the dark about the comedy of errors that’s unfolding around them.
In a serial case of mistaken identity that has even Bill (Mike Rotchford) and Tom (Ken Noaks) confused, both Judy (Jill Peterson) and Julie (Cathy Fahey) are variously chambermaids or girlfriends, depending on the situation.
“Everything must be hidden and kept from the others,” Snowdon explained. “It’s a case of one mistaken identity after another – that’s how farces progress.”
And farce The Perfect Wedding is, in all the manic glory of its British roots: think Fawlty Towers, given the hotel setting. In that vein, the show is all about timing: fast dialogue, quick switches, knowing looks and controlled chaos. It’s a situation that demands much of his actors, said Snowdon, noting the fun is mindless, but the audience does have to pay some attention to keep up with the pace.
For anyone who’s ever been involved in a wedding party, there’s plenty to recognize in this farcical look at the whole ordeal. Some more than others may sympathize with the groom-to-be, recognizing that the kindly and frazzled Bill is being railroaded into the wedding in the first place. That’s exemplified in one of Snowdon’s favourite scenes from the play, wherein the mother-in-law appears far more concerned about the showcase wedding plans than in the couple themselves.
“When they discover that Bill, the groom, is falling apart, the mother says to the bride, ‘is there anybody else you could marry, dear?’”
As for the ultimate fate of Bill, Rachel and the rest, well, suffice it to say there’s love in the air – it is a wedding, after all.
The Elmira Theatre Company production of The Perfect Wedding runs Sept. 15-18 and Sept. 23-24 at 76 Howard Ave. Show times are 8 p.m., except Sunday (2:30 p.m.). Tickets are $18, available at the Centre in the Square box office in Kitchener by calling 578-1570 or 1-800-265-8977, online at www.centre-square.com.