While college students might know how to party, rarely do they get to be wedding guests. “A Perfect Wedding,” which runs until April 22 in Leeds Theatre, appeals to college-aged theater-goers in both theme and zaniness.
“Plays don’t come out of nowhere. They come out of tradition,” said John Emigh, professor of theater, speech and dance who came out of a three-year retirement to direct the play. “There are a lot of things in the play that comes from knowledge of other theater in other parts of the world and other times of history.”
“A Perfect Wedding” draws most directly from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
But Emigh said what is different from simply directing an updated Shakespeare play is that Charles Mee is a living playwright. Mee formerly taught at Brown and encourages directors and casts to remake his work by incorporating their own ideas.
The action of the play revolves around the impending wedding of Meridee Sedgwick (Alejandra Rivera-Flavia ’13) and Amadou (Uday Shriram ’15). Craziness ensues when their families – an openly defined term in the play that includes Meridee’s divorced parents’ respective lovers – come together.
The sparse set manages to capture the essence of “Midsummer’s” woods. The show, while not exactly a musical, incorporates music much like its Shakespearean predecessors. It takes a while for the songs to feel fully integrated, especially as the musicality increases in the second act, but by the finale – a wedding scene – the play has naturally transformed into a series of song-and-dance numbers. In addition to precise acting, laudable dancing and a few other physical conflicts that audience members will have to see for themselves, the multi-talented cast also plays their own music, both instrumental and vocal.
But unlike “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the only fairies in “A Perfect Wedding” are the “radical faeries” – a group of wedding planners. While the characters blame their behavior on the disorienting woods, it is not magic but their pre-existing desires that cause them to act on their impulses. Literally lost in the woods of their lust, the characters have to face their own values and beliefs about love and commitment.
“There are as many kinds of love as human hearts,” says “faery” Isaac (Patrick Madden ’14), perfectly summing up the play’s embrace of all kinds of love.
The play’s conflict can sometimes be hard to follow, but the philosophizing of the characters mixed with the zaniness of the plot manages to move the play along at an enjoyable pace. The ensemble cast, though large, is incredibly engaging on a personal level – as audience members find out through direct interactions with the actors.
“It’s about likeable people,” Emigh said. “That’s unusual. There’s normally some villains, some people being made fun of.”
Emigh drew some of his influences from Asian theater, which is apparent in the play’s Bollywood dance number but also in choices such as keeping the stagehands onstage.
“It’s not saying Shakespeare is more important than Bollywood or that soap opera is less profound than experimental theater,” said Katrin Dettmer GS, the show’s dramaturg.
The second act mellows out into a more steady rhythm, showing how humans relate on a more somber but equally humorous level. “A Perfect Wedding” shows audience members that the feelings of first love and loss from death are surprisingly similar.
“I think the best part of it is that it shows that everybody can be equally ridiculous, and, even in diversity, there’s this underlying funny, human thing,” Rivera-Flavia said. “It’s a love story about love stories.”
“A Perfect Wedding” is irreverent about every culture and belief, but in a loving way. If comedy is tragedy plus time, “A Perfect Wedding” is a Shakespearean soap opera in hyperdrive. By far the best show of this semester, “A Perfect Wedding” had audience members clapping along by the final song and on the verge of dancing – and hysterics.
This show may be the perfect prelude to Spring Weekend. Students can spend their night jamming to Sinatra-style crooning and Lady Gaga at what has to be the finest “wedding” ever held in Leeds Theatre.