Review: ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING at TheaterWorks Hartford

The East Coast Premiere now on stage through June 5th

By: May. 25, 2022

Review: ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING at TheaterWorks Hartford

TheaterWorks Hartford is the proud host of the East Coast premiere of Zoey's Perfect Wedding by Tony-winner Matthew López, the first Latiné playwright to win the Tony Award for best play. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero (The Legend of Georgia McBride), Zoey's Perfect Wedding is a hilarious play about love and relationships with a deeper message about the pressures we endure from society's expectations. Set at the most disastrous wedding reception of all time, the title is assuredly ironic, featuring drunken speeches, an incompetent wedding planner who makes everything worse, and hi-jinx galore.

A wedding is the perfect place to explore this multifaceted concept and the director's note best explains, "Zoey's Perfect Wedding has all the ingredients of a great comedy... At its center, the play is really about how we manage expectations -- both of ourselves and of each other. It's about the difference between what society tells us will make us happy, versus what actually will."

As a first time visitor of TheaterWorks Hartford, I had no idea what to expect. The building's brick exterior is unassuming, so I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in to find a modern, inviting, and spacious lobby. I heard loud pop music blaring in the distance ("Get the Party Started" by P!nk, to be exact) and followed the sound down the stairs to the theater doors. When the usher greeted me, a worrisome thought intruded and I panicked. "Is this an interactive show?" I cautiously inquired, "Are we like... part of the play... like, audience participation?" The usher laughed and assured me no, so I breathed a sigh of relief. I entered the space and soon after, realized that the musical element was just one part of the production's innovative set and sound design, which makes the audience feel as though they are really at The Downtown Brooklyn Marriott. It's effective and remarkable!

The creative team is clearly a winner: Brian Sidney Bembridge (set and lighting design), Harry Nadal (costume design), Melanie Chen Cole (sound design), and Nicole Wiegert (production stage manager), have hit the nail on the head. As a wedding vendor, I have literally participated in over 500 weddings, and can verify that the set and costumes are absolutely perfect. No detail has been overlooked: From the gold Chivari chairs, fuchsia uplighting, typical hotel ballroom carpeting, crystal wall sconces, sweetheart strapless bridal gown, and 2008 trendy hair bump, this team has it spot on. I was particularly impressed by the sound design, crafting scene changes by altering the volume and clarity from blaring to muffled music, as though you've stepped just outside a party. Of course, I thoroughly appreciated the carefully curated playlist of 1980s-2008 pop and dance hits.

The opening scene had the audience laughing in the first 90 seconds. The setting is Thanksgiving weekend, 2008, at the Downtown Brooklyn Marriott, where Zoey's college friends have just discovered they are seated at the worst table at the wedding reception. We are greeted, first, by DJ the DJ, played by Esteban Carmona (TV: HBO's The Deuce), whose smooth quips quickly reeled us in. Next, we meet the relatable trio, who prove themselves to be quite the party animals: Charlie and Rachel, a married couple, played by Daniel José Molina (Broadway: Fish in the Dark) and Blair Lewin (NYU Graduate, Off-Broadway: Providence at 59E59) and their longtime friend, Sammy, played by Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (Broadway: A Little Night Music). Their shenanigans start off strong with triple shots of tequila and a subsequently drunken toast that had the audience cringing and laughing in equal measure. The DJ and trio were especially well-cast and complemented one another well. Molina's character was sweet and expressive, contrasting Lewin's brassy and bold demeanor. Herdlicka, in particular, had such strong comedic timing and charisma that he reminded me of Tony-award winner David Hyde Pearce.

Next we meet Missy, the naive and ill-equipped wedding-planning cousin, played by local Hallie Eliza Friedman, who is finishing her BFA in Acting at The Hartt School, and my alma mater. Friedman holds her own with her fellow cast mates, who are seasoned equity professionals. Finally, we meet the bride and play's namesake, Zoey, played by Rachel B. Joyce (Best Actress in a Comedy at the New York Television Festival and Indie Series Awards). Joyce played up the irritating traits of a stereotypical bridezilla and had the crowd in stitches when she later appeared covered in chocolate cake.

The show kept the audience laughing throughout, but still delivered its deeper message. The show is 90-minutes with no intermission, though I did wish that there was one just to stretch my legs.

If you've ever been a bride, groom, or a wedding guest, you need to see this show. If you're a wedding vendor, you especially need to drop everything and see this right now. The play had the audience laughing from start to finish. I belly-laughed hard and my jaw definitely dropped more than a few times at some of the more vulgar one-liners, so definitely leave the flower girls and ring bearers at home.

As I exited the theater, I texted my friends that they'd missed out. This show was uproaringly funny and an uplifting getaway. Don't be a party pooper. Go see Zoey's Perfect Wedding.

Performances of ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING will take place April 30 - June 5, 2022, at TheaterWorks Hartford's beloved home, located at 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT. The performance schedule is Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2:30pm and 8pm, and Sundays 2:30pm with no 2:30pm performance on May 15 and May 21.

In-person tickets are priced at $25-$65. On demand streaming tickets, priced at $20, are available March 7-20. All tickets can be purchased online at at the link below or by calling 860.527.7838.

Review: ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING at TheaterWorks Hartford

Review: ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING at TheaterWorks Hartford

Review: ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING at TheaterWorks Hartford Review: ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING at TheaterWorks Hartford

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