Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: 'Bachelorette'

Raunchy and real, "Bachelorette" does well in Luna Theatre Company's production at the Adrienne. Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro reviews.

Review: 'Bachelorette'

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Amanda Damron (left) and Julia Frey try to support Kate Brennan in Luna Theatre Company's "Bachelorette." Photo by Aaron J. Oster.

By Howard Shapiro

The in-your-face play Bachelorette has one major element in common with the hit movie Bridesmaids — it’s about nasty gals who include a bride and her maid of honor on the eve of the wedding.

But Bachelorette, which opened Saturday night in a production by Luna Theater Company that purrs along in a super-dark funniness, has tons more drugs, booze, pills, sex, petty jealousies, gross dialogue and general excess — in other words, an altogether edgier script than the movie.

Better, too, because the arc of Bachelorette is shellacked with a desperation that seems genuine, if you allow yourself to see past the skankiness of its characters. During its 75 minutes, set in a high-end hotel room across from Central Park, I began to empathize with the four so-called girlfriends, who include the bride, as well as the two guys (one of them a transparent creep) who end up with them.

Another similarity between Bachelorette and Bridesmaids is that Bachelorette is also now a movie -- it premiered last week at Utah’s Sundance Film Festival. Its young Los Angeles-based playwright, Leslye Headland, who has a way with raunch, wrote the screenplay and also directed; Will Ferrell is the producer.

The play, whose raw-and-real young characters grow on you, had a sold-out, extended run Off Broadway in 2010. The script captures, then locks in, a sort of hip, dissolute restlessness — being young, catty, wasted and gnarled in the entanglements of friendship.

Bachelorette is not a story as much as a situation: Regan (Julia Frey) is a last-minute choice as Becky’s maid of honor, and has a room in the hotel where the wedding’s taking place. Two other friends have not been invited to the wedding — Katie (Kate Brennan) and Gena (Amanda Damron), who are exceptional abusers of all substances, and queens of havoc.

Regan feels bad for these shunned pals, and invites them to the hotel room to party with her for the evening. She’s already been carousing earlier with two guys (Jeremy Gable and Bob Stineman), total strangers she’s also invited to the room. Becky (Sarah Schol), the bride and the reason for all of this, is also the outsider; the three other women can’t decide whether to hate her more for her considerable weight or for her status as the first among them to be married — and to a rich guy.

What happens in the hotel room is everything you’d expect during a night of inhaled, imbibed and ingested extremes. (Plus maybe some stuff you wouldn’t.) Cheers to the entire cast for developing actual characters during this all-out bender, and especially to Kate Brennan, who must play her entire role through the thickest haze, but even so comes across with piercing clarity.

Luna’s producing artistic director Gregory Scott Campbell designed the hotel-room set and also staged this Bachelorette to make the play’s moments of serious discourse (the best stuff) stand out in a comedy — a comedy with almost nobody standing unaided at the end.

Contact staff writer Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727,, or #philastage on Twitter.


Bachelorette: Present by Luna Theater Company at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St., through Feb. 18. Tickets: $18-$28. Information:

About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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