“Bridesmaid” deserves great reception at Tibbits
There are some shows that will always be popular not because they are great art but because they’re warm, funny and make the audience feel good. They’ll also be popular with producing companies because they’re a single set and have strong roles for middle-aged women.
Always a Bridesmaid fills all of those requirements, which is why this month it is playing in two different theaters and earlier this year played at the Dio. This weekend it opened at Tibbits Opera House with its cast of six strong women.
Four of these women were dateless at their senior prom in high school. And on that fateful night, they promised they would all be in each other’s weddings. Now it’s decades later and one of the friends is getting married for the third time. Each of the four scenes in the play features a different wedding with a monologue from a traditional young bride in between each scene.
It’s a formula that playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten have turned into a brand—a formula involving the friendships of Southern women, friendships that survive all sorts of chaos and outlandish situations.
The opening wedding belongs to Monette Gentry, played by Gloria Logan. She’s the tart of the group, the one who loves her five-inch heels, makeup and outfits with cleavage. She’s given her friends 24 hours of notice that she’s getting married. Charlie Collins (Debbie Culver) arrives with a bad cold and dressed far more casually than Monette likes. Logan and Culver are together for the second time this season, having both appeared in Tibbits’ Alone Together Again this past summer. The chemistry they showed in that production is present again in this one and they show great comic timing without ever turning their characters into caricatures.
Part of the fun of this show is in guessing whose wedding will be next and under what circumstances, so I won’t give away anymore of the scenes. Always a Bridesmaid is fun in part because of all the curves it throws and the many wild situations the playwrights come up with.
Libby Ruth is the matron of the group and Donna Adams Schulte creates a motherly and caring figure who is convinced she can fix any problem thrown her way. Schulte often plays the straight man to the other three bridesmaids/brides. She provides them with reactions while being the glue that holds them together.
Deedra Wingate rounds out the quartet of friends, played by Suzanne Marie Stewart. She’s described as being hard-nosed and of an impatient temperament, but Stewart doesn’t really show that side of the judge. She does, though, portray elegance and strength in each of her scenes, even when she is hungover.
Sedalia Ellicott (Diane Long) is the owner of the hall where all the weddings take place and she shows up frequently to herd the women into place and to make sure everything is going according to plan. Long amuses with her treatment of weddings as business and is especially funny when she is determined to see a reluctant bride make it to the altar whether she wants to or not.
Lindsey Dakota is the only non-middle aged woman in the cast and she is delightful as she delivers a series of monologues as a new bride Kari Ames-Bissette. She delivers the only post-wedding scenes. Thanks to the champagne she’s toasting with, she gets increasingly more chatty and inappropriate as the bridal speech goes on.
The four women who have pledged to walk down the aisle with each other make up an ensemble in which there are no leads. Each dwells in the spotlight for a different reason at a different time, and not necessarily as a bride. Instead, they all live their lives with each other, sharing each other’s joys and crises. They support one another and fight each other’s battles.
Director Charles Burr gives these women plenty of space to interact, bringing them close at key moments and then spreading them out and filling the stage at other times. It moves apace, allowing the comic moments to shine and the warm ones to percolate.
After the show, a group of women in the audience hugged each other, expressing their affection for one another. It’s that kind of show—it makes you appreciate the lifelong friendships you have and value all the things you go through together. It’s a show filled with women and for women, though the guys can enjoy it too.
Running time: 7 p.m. to 9:21 with one intermission