T.U.T.A.'s The Wedding, or “How Not To Throw A Party”
By Julienne Bilker in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 27, 2010 10:20PM
production photo from The Wedding via chopintheatre.com
On our way into Chopin's basement theatre to see T.U.T.A.'s (The Utopian Theatre Asylum) production of Bertolt Brecht's The Wedding, a patron in front of us joked with the box office manager about whose side to sit on - the bride or groom's. The manager’s response: “It’s all a hot mess.” She wasn’t kidding. And we mean that in the nicest way possible. Director Zeljko Djukic has orchestrated an alternating succession of coalescence and deterioration with exact timing, resulting in a highly entertaining 80 minutes.
The show opens with the wedding party and guests seated at a long table at the bride and groom’s apartment, facing the audience and lit in a way that implies “funeral” more than “marriage celebration.” The cast proceeds to sing a Kurt Weill-esque tune with lyrics adapted from the Brecht poem Of Poor B.B.:
We have sat an easy generation. In - we think - indestructible houses. Thus we built Manhattan’s tall boxes And thin antennae to entertain the seas.
Of those cities will remain the wind that passed through them
The house makes glad the eater: he clears it out.
We know we’re only temporary tenants
And after us comes: nothing worth talking about.
All of this sets a deliciously eerie tone we wish we’d seen from The Addams Family.
Though it seems like the show might veer off into the land of the macabre, a strange farce emerges in which shoddily-constructed furniture functions like slamming doors. Part of the premise is that the groom loves to make his own furniture - all of it is blond, unfinished wood reminiscent of our college Ikea collection, and seemingly of the same quality. Awkward exchanges and flaring tensions are accented throughout by tables losing their legs and chairs collapsing at just the right moment. We’d almost venture to say the whole thing feels more Noises Off than Brechtian, if Brecht hadn’t come first. Noting the modernity of The Wedding isn’t exactly an original observation, but it’s pretty amazing that the script is over 90 years old.
There are a few points that don’t hold up - it is a secret (which everyone knows, of course) that the bride is already pregnant, but the scandal just doesn’t have the same impact as it undoubtedly did when The Wedding was written (1919). And honestly, we couldn’t tell that she was supposed to be pregnant until it was revealed in dialogue - the bit might have come off funnier if it were more obvious. There is also a sense of superficiality about the production that kept us from really connecting with it. To be fair, the characters are supposed to be “self-important guests” living “pretentious” lives - they are shallow people with petty complaints, meant to represent just about any member of the bourgeoisie (in fact, they don’t even have names, just “The Bride,” “The Bride’s Sister,” etc). However, there are moments when comedy seemingly trumps reality, which made it difficult for us to really feel anything for them. Maybe that’s the point. Or maybe we missed something - for sure, some subtlety was lost on us as we had a rough time seeing some of the action due to the Chopin’s architecture (if you go, sit in one of the side sections). Regardless, we found ourselves enjoying the fun without sensing any driving force behind it.
All of that being said, The Wedding is a well-choreographed comedy, and the cast handles slapstick and subtle humor with equal dexterity. There were a few standout performances for us - Laurie Larson (The Bridegroom’s Mother) has the least amount of lines but the most hilarious expressions, or lack thereof. Kirk Anderson (The Bride’s Father) is a brilliant drunken rambler, and Andy Hager (The Bridegroom’s Friend), is perfectly lecherous. Jesse Terrill’s original music, performed by the cast, is invaluable as a unifying factor.
There are some fantastic barbs - among our favorites, from the groom to his bride: “You look old when you cry” (perhaps we were in a bit of a nasty mood that day) - as well as plenty of moments of pure silliness. The production’s success is clearly the result of a highly collaborative effort between the ensemble, designers and director. And we do mean it when we say the production is successful - there are several sold-out performances in its short run, so if it sounds like your deal, grab your tickets now.
The Wedding, through February 14. T.U.T.A. at Chopin Theatre Studio, 1543 W. Division