It’s not often that the author of a play generates as much or more interest than the play itself, but when that author is best known as a standup comic, and the play is his solo effort, I guess it is natural.
It also might have some bearing on the sell-out crowds attending the South Bend Civic Theatre production of “One Slight Hitch.”
The playwright is Lewis Black, the perennially panicked perpetrator of rants against the disintegration of the world with emphasis on the U.S. government.
If the hope that one of these is incorporated in the plot of “One Slight Hitch,” first know that it was written several decades ago (before solo comedy won out) and could have been one of the deciding factors in Black’s turning to outrage.
It is a two-act comedy/farce complete with many slamming doors and characters in underwear.
First about the doors.
The show is in the Barbara K. Warner Studio Theatre which means that all four sides of the playing area are/can be open. The set in any farce worth its hysteria must contain at least three or four solidly-built, frequently-slammable doors. Not easy to design or build with little to hold on to.
Fortunately, SBCT has a talented artist as set designer/builder/painter for this production. Jeff Barrick’s multiple doors, while rather bland in hue, are solid enough to withstand numerous vigorous slams without even a slight tremor and obviously are a salute to theatrical engineering.
Set in a family home in a suburb of Cincinnati, the décor also bears out one character’s comment that “Ohio is the valium of the Midwest.”
The family in question is made up of a dad, “Doc” Coleman (Brad Mazick), and mom, Delia (Marybeth Saunders), and daughters PB (Karla Levy), a teenager most frequently connected to her Walkman; Melanie (Christine Schrader), a nurse and alcoholic-in –training; and Courtney (Kimberlee Giles), a successful writer and the bride-to-be.
As the action begins Doc and Delia are counting down her “to-do” list for Courtney’s wedding to wealthy psychology student Harper (Tyler Miller), a list which is driving Delia to distraction as the nuptials are to be held at home in a matter of hours.
Into the increasing maelstrom of pre-wedding activities comes Ryan (Bill Svelmoe), a recovering hippie and would-be writer as well as Courtney’s former boyfriend of 2 ½ years from NYC.
Ryan knows nothing about the wedding. He is hitchhiking across the country and just stopped in to say hello. His reaction to the news that Delia, who left him only a few months ago after making it clear that she never wanted to marry, is about to tie the knot adds to the total confusion. Especially since his primary post-shower costume is a bath towel.
Everyone has his/her opinion on just which man should be the bridegroom and there is a final curtain (or blackout) wedding, but getting there takes much too long.
Possibly this is because the characters are solidly one-dimensional and the script cannot decide whether it wants to be a full-out farce or a comedic message play (see Delia’s Act 2 shift from screamer to caring mother).
Audience seniors will enjoy the familiar ‘80s music shared by good natured PB whose “bottom of the family totem pole” status is obvious even before Delia issues the first of an unending list of her pre-wedding chores .
By the time Courtney makes up her mind, it’s difficult to really care.
The pace is set by director Richard Baxter with costumes by Tania Balve. Tried to remember if they were “period perfect” for the ‘80s but only wound up wondering why Courtney wore the wedding gown.
You might figure it out for yourself if there are any tickets left. The show reportedly is a sellout.
“ONE SLIGHT HITCH” plays through Sunday in the South Bend Civic Warner Studio Theatre. For information and reservations, call (574) 234-1112.