The quips keep coming in “Always a Bridesmaid,” the latest Good Company Players offering from the playwriting machine of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten.
Typical gag: One woman character jokes that she “had” two men at once. The punchline: One was cooking, the other cleaning.
After hearing that joke, a woman in the audience sitting in front of me leaned over and told her party: “I just sent that in a birthday card.”
Which pretty much sums up “Bridesmaid,” continuing at the 2nd Space Theatre through April 19. The humor is the kind you’d expect from a well-meaning but anemic TV sitcom. Aimed squarely at 50-year-old-plus women, the play boasts a few good laugh lines, but mostly it’s a recycle of warmed-up Southern witticisms, inoffensive one-liners and gags about clueless husbands and retaining water.
Jones, Hope and Wooten offer the story of four women who pledged decades ago in high school that they’d be bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. Because of divorce (and one longtime holdout), the tradition continues even as they hit their big 5-0 birthdays.
This is the fourth title by the playwrights seen by 2nd Space audiences since 2010, which suggests it’s a commercial success for Good Company. (There’s nothing wrong with that: Someone has to pay the bills.) But “Bridesmaid” is weaker than “Dearly Beloved,” “The Dixie Swim Club” and “The Red Velvet Cake War.” Each of those comedies, while not remarkable, had more spark and sass than this tired offering.
I’ve joked and griped in past reviews of the playwrights’ work about the perils of writing by committee, but that sentiment still suggests that there are people involved in the writing process. “Bridesmaid,” on the other hand, seems more like the product of computer software: Simply enter six stock characterizations, figure out a gimmick (in this case, each of four scenes involves a sitting room used by the bride and her party just before a wedding), set the folksy cliche/metaphor/insult frequency to maximum, and let it roll.
The playwrights return with some of their familiar structural weaknesses, such as having too much of the “action” taking place off stage as various characters describe it in fits and starts. The play lacks a storyline that builds into any sort of emotional or comic climax. Beyond their quirky traits, there’s little to these characters beyond what’s on the surface.
Having said all that, director Elizabeth Fiester and her cast deliver a competent production considering the material. Jacquie Broach, Cindy Freeland, Wendy Crabtree, Ethel Birrell and Teresa Gipson — playing the four friends plus a venue coordinator — manage to find a sweet camaraderie, and their comic timing is often deft. (Standouts are Freeland and Crabtree.) And Christy Hathaway, who plays a new bride throughout, is endearing.
Technical credits are strong, especially Brandi Martin’s lights and Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s wacky bridesmaid-dress creations.
I’m not in the target audience for this play, so I know it’ll be easy to write me off as a Mr. Fussypants. But I appreciate a good getting-older zinger as much as anyone on the AARP radar screen. It’s one thing to pound out those quips and another to weave them into a successful comedy.