BWW Reviews: Crown City Theatre Brings Back A Thoroughly Well Revised BIG GAY NORTH HOLLYWOOD WEDDING
Two Grooms/Big Gay North Hollywood Wedding Redux/by William A. Reilly and Ben Rovner/directed by William A. Reilly /Crown City Theatre/indefinitely
It's always nice to revisit a show and see a 100% improvement. Such is the case with the rewritten spoof A Big Gay North Hollywood Wedding at Crown City Theatre, which opened May 15 for an extended run, at least throughout the summer. The first time around - 2009 - I noticed a lot of missed opportunities for big laughs. With an exceedingly strong cast and a really sturdy ending which puts the whole issue of being gay centerstage in a totally positive way, this new version hits the top.
Act I is the wedding ceremony in St. Matthew's church. There's mayhem everywhere: no flowers for the altar, Sarah Logan (Jodi Harrison) drunk as a skunk, bursting in and out, dropping bottles of pills up and down the aisle and unable to read a biblical passage, and Kyle Lewis (Henry Alberto), Josh's old boyfriend, just cannot hold his peace and cries out for attention. And it's a mixed marriage to boot, so there's a canopy to put up for Joshua Mordiecai Weinberg! "L"'s song "You Are That Man" is very, very funny particularly with L's (BP Major) surprise costume pieces hidden underneath his formal jacket. Oh did I mention that the other groom Brent is late for the wedding? And that Aunt Rose has to stop the ceremony to reenter the church after going to the ladies' room? Or that Sarah uses the vigil candle on the altar to light......as I said, there's lots of comedic mayhem afloat to ensure a dysfunctional wedding ceremony, at best...
Act II is in the theatre, setup like an American legion hall for the reception. This act is much tighter dramatically than when first produced in 2009, with personal storms brewing feverishly all around the room. Characters like Simone (Kimberly Alexander), Aunt Rose (Evelyn Celic), and Stan Logan (Bob Dean), Brent's father, all have highly explosive moments and there are more outbursts from Kyle and Sarah that really keep the party veering out of control. Jeff Lewis (Mario Dalto) does a great little strip number; in the middle of it, he is stopped abruptly by a bigoted father who really turns the tables on the whole affair. The actions that follow from Joshua, Brent and all really add momentum. The writing is certainly crisper, cleaner and totally focused, right on track, making the entire gay marriage issue crucial and absorbing.
The acting from everyone is just super with kudos first of all to Evan Strand as Joshua and Phillip Pruitt as Brent digging deeply into their characters' motivations and feelings. Rob August as 'straight' marine Bobby Logan, Brent's older brother, has a fine congratulatory speech in the spotlight, as he accepts his brother for who he is. Harrison is delicious as drunken Sarah as is Celic, delightfully loud and overbearing as Rose. Praise as well to Erin Coker, Kurt Hansen, Maria Melnikova, Sarah French, Irwin Moskowitz, and Kevin Held for their invaluable contributions.
Under Bill Reilly's even direction, the pacing is great and the staging, just super, making excellent use of both spaces. I always remember being bored at weddings; if only my cousins had had a change of heart or someone had refused to 'forever hold his peace', things might have perked up and made the whole affair quirky and memorable. Well, there's plenty of this kind of stuff here, to keep everyone riveted.
Evan Strand is also responsible for the nicely executed choreography, and Keiko Moreno's set design of the reception hall with pretty place settings for the tables provides the perfect ambiance. Timothy Fielding's photography rocks especially the portrait of the two grooms hanging on the wall. (can be seen in the photo below)
Don't miss this revamped version of A Big Gay Wedding! It's a fun, fun, fun, thoroughly enjoyable environmental piece, and thanks, Bill Reilly and Ben Rovner for going full out to strengthen the show with some terrific rewrites that truly work. True love takes many forms...and how uplifting to actually hear it spoken loud and clear, putting gay marriage vows on a much deserved plateau of equality.