Leslye Headland's dark comedy returns to New York.
The toxicity of four high school friendships comes to an exploding head in Leslye Headland's pitch-black 2010 comedy Bachelorette, receiving a first-rate new revival presented by Carly J. Bauer at Walkerspace. While Hannah T. Wolff's staging misses a few beats, overall, this production festers with as much dark intensity as the blistering original at Second Stage Uptown.
Regan (Darcy Wright), Katie (Kelsey Moore), and Gena (Erika Santosuosso) have been thick as thieves since they were high school mean girls together, and their booze- and drug-filled partying hasn't diminished as they head into their early 30s. Tonight, they're wrecking the swanky Manhattan hotel room rented by Becky (Emily Ota), their old frenemy who is getting married the next day. Even though it's clear they don't actually like each other — Becky's nickname among them is "Pigface" — Regan is still Becky's maid of honor, though she resents that role more than anything.
The only thing missing from this night of drugs and alcohol is sex, so Regan recruits two men she just met — Jeff (James Hesse) and Joe (Scott Friend) — into their evening of debauchery in the hopes of getting some action. Over the course of one wild night, Becky's wedding dress will get destroyed; a possible overdose might take place; and the lives of these acquaintances will be irrevocably altered.
One of the dangers of creating a large-scale ensemble work such as this is the potential for one or more of the characters to fall by the wayside. But Headland's smartly crafted script gives each person her or his due — even Becky, who only shows up for the briefest of moments. Similarly, Headland's brutally funny, wickedly heartbreaking dialogue helps define each character's personality with great skill.
This production is unafraid to explore the darkness in Bachelorette, discovering even more of it than what was thought possible. Unlike Headland's 2012 film adaptation, which has a rather upbeat conclusion, the play ends on sour notes for nearly everyone onstage. Wolff revels in this bleakness, letting it inform her staging. The acid-laced barbs the women sling at one another become even more pathetically funny when their unique brands of self-hatred are at the forefront. While there are a few missed opportunities — Lucca Damilano's set resembles a hotel lobby more than a fancy suite, for instance, and the catalytic moment of the wedding dress ripping needs far greater emphasis — overall, Wolff and her cast deeply comprehend what Headland envisioned when she put pen to paper.
As the three central pals, Wright, Moore, and Santosuosso prove that it really is good to be bad. The trio delivers fearless performances that find the humor and pitifulness of the situation (Moore is particularly superb, and thoroughly real, as the self-loathing Katie). Ota makes a major impression in her one scene, instantly shattering the notions we'd gathered about Becky over the course of the play. The menfolk, Hesse and Friend, find the right blends of smarm and understanding.
By its conclusion, Bachelorette has destroyed the lives of six different people with the simple but powerful realization that they aren't kids anymore. Sometimes taking the plunge into adulthood doesn't always end in happily ever after.