In search of a light hassle-free evening with your special someone? Or maybe you’re looking for a fun ladies’ night out? Saccharin southern farce meets feel-good dinner theater with Always a Bridesmaid playing through July 1 at the Newport Playhouse.
Individually these are two of the most promising words in the English language. They each hold so much potential. However, together they can spell a bizarre affair. Have no fears, though, this is absolutely not the case at the Newport Playhouse. They have dinner theater down to a science, a perfectly choreographed and relaxed science. To get the most from your evening, make arrangements for the works — dinner, the show, and drinks at the post show cabaret.
There is an Old World formality to the evening that is reminiscent of Manhattans, a haze of smoke and loud laughter. The seating is family style and pre-assigned. You’ll want to leave plenty of time for the bountiful and well-executed buffet. (Side Note: The plates are platter size, which is awesome for everyone. Big eaters don’t have to pile their food high, the indecisive have room for a little bit of everything and dieters get the visual gratification of lots of empty white space around their small portions — such a good choice.)
It’s the details they’ve done right that stand out and make it worth crossing the bridge. For example, your waiter will take your drink order before the show so when you come out later and return to your table for the cabaret, your drink is waiting for you. Also, members of the wait staff perform in the post show cabaret, which is super fun.
Also having a fun time are the cast and crew of Always a Bridesmaid (written by Jones, Hope, Wooten and directed by Olivia M. Sahlin). Sure, the play’s theme of friendship is a bit heavy-handed; it hits you over the head and smacks you about the face. But this production does a good job of focusing on the stronger truths in the script. The warm cast elevates one theme remarkably well — true friendship takes work. And while you can complain and get yourself into all kinds of trouble, what matters most is showing up. That’s when the real fun happens.
Always a Bridesmaid shares the story of four high school friends who promise to be in each other’s weddings no matter the obstacles. Starting more than 30 years after their promise, the audience enjoys four chaotic and heartwarming afternoons with the friends as they prepare for each big day. The addition of an acidic events manager and monologues from a tipsy bride punctuate the plot.
What I enjoy most about this production was watching genuine joy shared between the cast members throughout the performance. Watching people enjoy themselves is enjoyable in and of itself. No better example can be found than in Cindy Killavey as Libby Ruth. She was just delightful. Ms. Killavey did an excellent job of portraying the light and playful side of the character as successfully as the steady nurturing side. She also smoothed over a few dropped lines and technical snafus with aplomb.
Unfortunately, a built-in pitfall to Always a Bridesmaid is the accent. Speaking with a dialect or accent is just tough and the transition from northeast to southern is brutal. Pacing can be the key to success or a production’s downfall. If the actors speak quickly, the southern inflection muffles the words. The accents here were helpful in setting a tone, but sometimes overshadowed the actual dialogue and muddied punch lines.
In spite of that, Annette LaBonte’s portrayal of Sedalia, the unhinged and merciless events manager, was joyously wicked. And Amy W. Thompson as Charlie, her nemesis, was an absolute cut up. The entire ensemble genuinely seemed to be enjoying each other and the story.
Additional details worth a nod include some technical successes. Specifically, the music choices for the scene changes were excellent. A mashup of Lady Gaga hits performed on the violin set a perfectly irreverent tone. Equally simple and elegant choices were made in the lighting.
It is worth noting that there is no intermission, so plan accordingly with a pre-show restroom visit. There is also an abundance of parking. Those rolls of quarters can be left at home. No feeding the meters at the Newport Playhouse — it’s an easy night of fun.
Always a Bridesmaid will run at Newport Playhouse in Newport, RI, through July 1st. Performances run Friday & Saturday evening, Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday matinees. For tickets or more information call 401-848-7529 or visit their website at newportplayhouse.com