Kristen Thomson’s hilarious, well-honed The Wedding Party addresses every disastrous incident that a bride and groom could not wish for, and Ann Hodges’s skillful direction keeps an outstanding cast and crew on track with pace, precision and more than a pinch of pathos.
The adage to never act with children or animals applies particularly in this case when a pair of versatile adults play the children, and the animal, a big black spaniel, is inhabited by consummate comedienne Jane Spidell.
All Spidell uses to morph from the mother of the bride into the devoted pet of the groom’s father, is a mask and two furry, floppy ears. She’s hysterically funny. Christine Reimer’s clever costuming helps, although a few sequins might have rendered Spidell’s black pantsuit a tad more in keeping with her over-the-top personality as the bride’s mother.
Spidell is not alone as exceptional – an apt oxymoron, especially concerning actor Todd Thomson. He plays both the wealthy, boorish father of the groom and his much milder identical twin brother who turns up in a tracksuit and running shoes because his luggage got lost in transit. Thomson’s performance is screamingly funny at times and powerfully moving at others. His one-person double act is a stand-alone party piece, worthy of an Oscar.
Thomson, who is the younger brother of the playwright, also excels as Janice, the more cerebral sister of the bride. At one point, Janice is joined by her grandmother, played by Cory Wojcik, among a fistful of other beautifully observed characters.
“With those legs, you could be a Rocket one day soon,” says the grandmother. “Fortunately, I have a brain capable of critical thought so I won’t have to,” retorts Janice. These two men playing women together create a moment of sheer joy that is both poignant and witty.
Lightning costume and character changes pepper the show with the accomplished cast taking on multiple roles so convincingly that they carry the audience along with them, particularly in the second act. The playwright’s multi-tasking concept adds to the mayhem that is almost inevitable when emotions run high, expectations run even higher, and booze flows increasingly freely.
Brian Perchaluk’s minimalist but convincing set is an asset to the action. When two characters, played by the same actor, have to be on stage simultaneously, Hugh Conacher’s video projections fill in the gaps, with side-splitting results.
Brilliantly conceived and executed, The Wedding Party is a cure for the blues and a pick-me-up at the end of any challenging day.
The Wedding Party by Kristen Thomson. Directed by Ann Hodges. An Arts Club Theatre Company presentation in partnership with Prairie Theatre Exchange. On stage at the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre (162 W 1st Ave, Vancouver) until March 22. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and information.