Photo courtesy: Susie Sprinkel Hudson
Written by Daniella Litvak
It’s not summer until you’ve eaten a barbecue, gone to the beach, or attended a wedding. Luckily, “Always A Bridesmaid” by American Coast Theatre Company invites you to four weddings. During their high school prom, we meet Libby Ruth (Susan K. Berkompas), Deedra (Maria Cominis), Charlie (Vanda Eggington), and Monette (Deborah Marley), who are four best friends making a pact to be bridesmaids at each other’s weddings. Time passes, and now they have to make good on their promise –over and over again.
The plot is just an excuse to get four friends together in a room and let them engage in snark-to-snark combat while wearing ridiculous bridesmaid dresses before the impending nuptials occur. The downside of this repetitiveness is that the few times “Always A Bridesmaid” tries to discuss something seriously, it feels shoehorned in. The instance that sticks out is Libby Ruth’s fear that her daughter won’t find love. While the first scene is necessary to establish characters, tone, and a normal atmosphere to heighten the contrast with later wackiness, the scene could be trimmed down a fair bit to make the story tighter. The upside is the show stuffs itself with great one-liners and banter, which makes for a fun viewing experience.
This four-woman ensemble could come off as vicious shrews in the wrong hands. Yet Berkompas, Cominis, Eggington, and Marley –despite the over-the-top Southern accents – are warm and vivacious. They constantly insult each other, but it’s affectionate, not spiteful. It helps that they play well off one another and come across as women who have been friends since they were kids. In particular, Eggington’s physical comedic antics and misfortunes are played very well.
Amanda Zarr is wonderful as Sedalia, the tyrannical event coordinator at the historical Laurelton Oaks manor, where all four weddings take place. She may not be successful at stopping the craziness Libby Ruth, Deedra, Charlie, and Monette attract, but she does get plenty of opportunities to deflate our heroines.
I can see why she is zealously overprotective of her domain. The stage is believable as a historical manor where you could have a big, fancy wedding. The set details are excellent: photographs on the wall, makeup on the antique vanity, and elegantly arranged food trays. The production team did a good job making small changes –different flowers, different pillows, and different food –between scenes to show the different seasons of the year.
As pretty as the set is, the costumes are the scene-stealers. The show does more with the idea of bridesmaids’ dresses being awful to wear than just putting the characters in ugly dresses. It approached the topic from multiple angles, which added a lot of variety to the types of jokes presented to the audience and made what was happening onstage five times funnier.
RSVP “yes” to Always A Bridesmaid and gleefully laugh at the antics weddings produce without worrying about being asked to be part of the wedding party.