A Perfect Wedding
by Charles L. Mee

Dates 23 November - 10 December 2006 (Previews 23 & 24 November ) 8pm Tuesday to Saturday; Matinees 3pm Saturday & Sunday Venue Studio 58, Langara College, 100 West 49th Avenue

Reviewer Jane Penistan

The Canadian Premiere at Studio 58 of Charles L. Mee’s A Perfect Wedding is an exuberant production. The pace is rapid, the ensemble work excellent, the sets artistic while the music runs the gamut from Bach to Bollywood. You may well gasp. This is a breathless romp of a satire on today’s view of wedding ceremonies, among other things in life.

The play opens with an 18th century painting backdrop, accompanied by Bach. It is Meridee’s wedding day and she, her parents and siblings, with assorted friends are in the throes of preparing for the arrival of the bridegroom and guests. Meridee (Trisha Cundy) her sister Tessa (Emmelia Gordon) and brother Jonathan (Michael Eisner) are discussing the pros and cons of weddings and marriages.

Meridee is holding her wedding dress and veil. She is wonderstruck by the fact that she is actually getting married, and is blissfully happy. Her siblings are more dubious. Jonathan considers the whole procedure outmoded and unnecessary while Tessa does not like the idea of having to curb her freedom to do as she pleases to accommodate someone else’s preferences.

Maria (Alicia Novak), and Frank (Raphael Kepinski) are the bride’s parents. Somewhat unconventionally, both Francois, (John Doucet) and Edmund (Minh Ly), their respective lovers, are also treated and behave as part of the family.
The entry of the bridegroom’s parents and the awkward meeting of the adults give rise to tension.

Djamila (Melissa Oei) and Vikram (Chris Cochrane) are accompanied by their two sons, Amadou, the bridegroom (Hamza Adam) and his brother Willy (Peter Harris). Peter expresses the same attitudes to wedding ceremonies as Jonathan, and the two boys are at once in amity. In a conversation about customs the parents are indiscrete and offend each other’s sensibilities, while a tactless remark upsets the intended son in law, who exits dramatically to walk in the woods.

New arrivals are four enthusiastic wedding planners, who offer Meridee an assortment of fantastic themes for her wedding reception. They are a voluble lot, each an unforgettable individual, mannered, opinionated and affected. Isaac, (Jon Lachlan Stewart), Dieter (Jason Andrews), Julian (Kyle Jespersen) and Heiner (Ashley Liu) enjoy their effect on the other characters as much as they revel in their own particular, well defined, well timed, eccentric caricature. Their scenes highlight an already sparkling production.

Sebastian Kroon comes in as the tentative Father Thane, not the officiating priest, but a friend of the family, a guest who finds Julian alone. There is immediate rapport.The missing bridegroom joins the wedding planners, the two families and a disillusioned Meridee, and the act ends in a hilarious mudslinging battle.

Act 2 opens with a solemn funeral procession and a gravedigger’s homily. Gloom descends on the frivolous wedding party at the discovery that the occupant of the coffin is Frank’s mother, who was to have officiated at the marriage ceremony. This is a sober and contemplative episode, and the deeper meaning of all that the human condition endures is discussed.

Gradually the mood lightens, the music becomes less sombre and goodwill replaces the earlier, edgy, unfriendliness of the two families. As the food and wine are still untouched, the company is assembled a wedding or weddings will take place. But here again the playwright has further surprises when he demonstrates the old adage that love conquers all. The show's finale is a riotous company Bollywood song and dance led by Isaac and Dieter. As the jubilant company disperses, James is left lonely in the gathering dark.

© 2006 Jane Penistan