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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: there are no red roses in this Bachelorette

There are no red roses at the end of this Bachelorette. In fact, you’d be hard pressed not to vote all of the women in Leslye Headland’s comedy out of the mansion by its end. And the men don’t fare much better.

To call Headland’s story of the foursome celebrating their friend’s wedding a comedy, is a vast overstatement. Black comedy doesn’t quite fit either. In this booze and drug-fueled 90 minutes, it is more sad than funny.

Part of the playwright’s seven deadly sins cycle, Bachelorette tackles gluttony, but not just of the excessive eating kind (although that literal definition still plays a part in this morality play).  Gathered in what is supposed to be a swanky Manhattan hotel room on the night before a wedding, three mean girls are having a bachelorette party. Champagne, cocaine, pot and all manner of pills are on the menu, but the one thing that is not on this evening’s menu is the bride. For Gena, Katie and Regan it is just another excuse to get wasted. Out for another night of debauchery, the binge drinking and pill popping eventually leaves one of them passed out and lifeless in the bathroom, and all three reconfirming their love/hate relationship.

There are few redeeming qualities to any of these young women. Each out for number one, Headland makes it near impossible to feel any connection beyond a collective revulsion. Even the introduction of two men doesn’t help, although Joe is the closest thing to a conscience in the room. When the bride eventually does make an appearance, she does nothing to raise the virtues.

Even as Headland breaks little new ground, the unrelenting viciousness is, if nothing else, embraced as wholly as this young cast embraces the wickedness and excess of their characters.

Leading the charge is Starlise Waschuk as the faded prom queen, Katie. There is a vulnerability to Waschuk’s performance that almost pushes through the excess, but like all of Headland’s characters, there is little redemption. Perhaps it says more about this writer than the script, but as Katie spirals there is little sympathy.  Then again, Headland gives us little to sympathize with any of her characters.

Kelsey Larg fights and sometimes wins against the biggest stereotype of the night, the stuck-up Regan, and Kristina Hampton flits in-and-out of the evening with the tough job of trying to inject some strange element of friendship to these unlikable friends.

Steffanie Davis gives perhaps the most chilling performance of the night as bride, Becky. As she arrives late into the night of depravity, she is as stone-cold as the rest, but without benefit of the excuse from the booze and drugs.

As the two men who find themselves in the midst of the women’s gluttony, Jeremy Burtenshaw and Thomas Noonan have little to do than be mere distractions for the women. Noonan plays the stoner, Joe, with a sweet sensitivity, while Burtenshaw plays well to his character’s selfish motives.

Set inside a five-star hotel a stone’s throw from Central Park, the attempt at that illusion is near impossible inside the gritty Havana Theatre. What could be considered a secondary character in Headland’s play, the attempts to dress it up were superficial at best, and ultimately failed to transport us into a world of excess.

As deadly sins go, gluttony is probably low on the list for most. It is probably for good reason Headland has yet to tackle the deadliest of them all.

Bachelorette by Leslye Headland. Directed by Ben Bilodeau. A Ben Bilodeau Productions presentation on stage at the Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until October 22. Visit for tickets and information.

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