Fun for a Night, Hell for a Life: Luna’s Toxically Humorous BACHELORETTE

We’ve all met someone like her: the beautiful ex–prom queen with a cutting wit, overconfidence, and the forgivable tendency to say something hopelessly stupid and insensitive. In Leslye Headland’s BACHELORETTE, now in a hilarious Luna Theater Company production at the Adrienne Skybox, that person is Katie (Kate Brennan).

Katie is an alcoholic, a coke fiend, and unashamedly promiscuous. She was the life-of-the-party in high school, when she became friends with Regan (Julia Frey), who’s invited her and Gena (Amanda Damron) to crash a five-star hotel hangout the night before the wedding of their old friend. Ten years after high school, however, and Katie’s reckless indulgence seems immature and tragic.

Brennan’s comic timing is impeccable in a convincing portrayal of an oblivious party girl whose will to have fun and “drink until [she] can’t lift the bottle to [her] mouth” became addiction years ago. It’s hard to act intoxicated well, but Brennan puts in a performance worthy of Richard E. Grant in Withnail and I.

Headland has said BACHELORETTE is about “reconciling who you thought you were gonna be when you grew up and who you become.” Katie is just one of a pack of flawed and engagingly unlikable characters in this short six-person play, all struggling to reconcile themselves to their current situations.

The girls are all upset that Becky (Sarah Schol) is the first of their old group to get married. (“She’s fat!” repeats Katie.) But Princeton-grad Regan is most angered by it, trapped in an unhappy long-term relationship with a soon-to-be doctor unwilling to take the marriage plunge. Gena is likewise bothered by relationship trouble, unable to get over the tragedy of her last romance, years ago.

They are joined by smarmy ad guy Jeff (Bob Stineman) and his pothead friend Joe (Jeremy Gable). They run amok in the hotel room which Becky rented for her maid of honor, Regan: drinking champagne left in the bathtub by the wealthy fiancé, scattering cocaine across the floor and table, ripping the extra-large wedding dress, and trying desperately to ease their first-world, growing-old worries with drugs and sex.

BACHELORETTE is at its best with Katie storming across the stage in a hedonistic whirlwind or exchanging cutting dialog with Regan. Director Gregory Scott Campbell keeps the pace quick and the interactions close. The humor is fast coming and toxic; I found myself laughing when I wasn’t sure I was a good person for doing so.

But reluctant to just let a rose be a rose, Headland gives each character a tragic back story to justify his or her shortcomings as humans. The heightened intensity works in a touching scene between Katie and Joe (Gable shines in his subtle reactions and succeeds when given the spotlight). Elsewhere, and especially without Brennan’s onstage presence, the over-explication drags.

BACHELORETTE had an acclaimed off-Broadway run and a movie version starring Kirsten Dunst was buzzed about at Sundance this month. Although it is unlikely to match the intensity or realistic immediacy of the stage version (see it in the theater!), I would venture to guess that the film version ends more satisfyingly. Onstage the denouement with Regan and Becky is post-climactic anti-climax. Still, it was nice to see that the much-discussed Becky, when she finally appears, deserves little of the sympathy we’ve built up for her through the play. Growing old and playing-adult spares no one, and neither does Headland.

by Leslye Headland
Directed by Gregory Scott Campbell 
Luna Theater Company
Skybox @ The Adrienne 
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA

Published by Stage Magazine.

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