Temple Theatre’s production of Always a Bridesmaid, written by the prolific and widely known trio of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, is populated by a group familiar to fans of their work, six very strong Southern women who are both determined and marvelously flawed as well as wonderfully funny, loyal, and loving. Four of them have been friends since seventh grade and, at some point, have promised each other to be bridesmaids at each of their weddings.
Of course, their expectations at the time of the promise was that they would easily fulfill the promises by participating in four ceremonies. Now, decades later, there have been more trips to the altar than anyone expected; and we are about to witness Monette’s latest.
The fifth strong woman runs the Historic Laurelton Oaks, a wedding venue in Virginia that the four have become regulars at, and the sixth is the daughter of the only one who has been in a satisfying marriage all this time. She introduces each of the four scenes as she tipples her champagne just before her own first (and hopefully only) fling at marriage.
Temple Theatre guest director Jerry Sipp guides his cast through a hectic and surprise-laden plot of the foibles of long-term relationships, where loving friends know each other a tad too well and a tad not well enough. He has chosen a cast with a variety of sizes and shapes, each one bringing her own individual style, abilities, and qualities to her part.
The magnificent set is very bridal: pink columnated doors, blue lighting on white furniture, a raised sideboard area, flowers and “perfect” art work. Designer Tab May is to be applauded for this tastefully elegant parlor.
Temple Theatre artistic director Peggy Taphorn’s costumes are a delight, from Monette’s too-tight-in-the-derriere pre-wedding outfit, Charlie’s overalls and Birkenstocks, Libby Ruth’s can-can outfit, Deedre’s draped fabric formal, and Kari’s virgin-white gown, to Sedalia’s golden satin ensemble — not to mention Monette’s Marie Antoinette robe à la française. There are at least 24 costumes in all.
The show opens with Kari, goddaughter to the other three bridesmaids, played by Alyssa Elkins, providing a nice tipsy commentary on what will be coming. Kari’s mother, Libby Ruth, is played by energetic Shirley Proctor, who bounces charmingly through her Panglossian role and sings off-key with gusto.
Monette is portrayed with outrageous Southern charm by Robyne Parrish. Monette is sensual and funny, with a vanity that Parrish somehow keeps under control.
Trish Hamilton creates a loner who is quirky and lovable, and her acted inability to walk in heels displays a talent all of its own. Her Charlie would easily be more comfortable back in her Birkenstocks, and her ungainly meanderings as a French maid is hysterical.
Deedra, the DC judge who drove down to the affair, is given a gravitas by Lisa Burton; and yet when reality hits her and she descends from her benchly demeanor, we get to see through her professional facade.
Debra Gillingham plays Sedalia, the owner/operator of the Historic Laurelton Oaks, who has never, over many years, had a failed wedding in her establishment. Gillingham is pert, professional, utterly capable, and slyly funny in the role.
Always a Bridesmaid is a nice Spring laugh-fest entertainment, with a pleasant, sincere nod to the value of friendship.
SECOND OPINION: March 23rd Sanford, NC Sanford Herald preview by Shawn Taylor: http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/temple-comedy-turns-friendship-into-laughs/article_4ba256c4-f088-11e5-90db-774cc7b1856b.html. (Note: You must subscribe to read this article).
Temple Theatre presents ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID at 2 p.m. March 31, 2 and 8 p.m. April 1, 8 p.m. April 2, 2 8 p.m. April 3, 2 p.m. April 7, 2 and 8 p.m. April 8, 8 p.m. April 9, and 2 p.m. April 10 at 120 Carthage St., Sanford, North Carolina 27330.
TICKETS: $21 Thursday and $25 Friday-Sunday ($14 students and $21 Lee County teachers/educators and active-duty military personnel), except $21 per person for groups of 10 or more.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-774-4155, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.templeshows.com/ticketinfo/grouppackagesandsales.php.
2015-16 MAIN STAGE SEASON: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/fullseason15-16.php.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.templeshows.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TheTempleTheatre, and https://twitter.com/TempleTheatreNC, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Theatre_%28Sanford,_North_Carolina%29.
Always a Bridesmaid (2013 comedy that premiered at the Runway Theatre in Grapevine, TX): http://www.joneshopewooten.com/always.htm (official web page) and http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=4729 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.).
The Script: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.