Lewis Black, best known for his hilarious stand up comedy and in your face editorials on "The Daily Show" has brought his new wedding day farce for it's west coast premiere to ACT.  And while there were a few good laughs including the opening moment of the show which nearly brought the house down, the show just loses it's way and goes downhill from there as it gets stuck in a morass of cliché, predictability, underdeveloped characters and stiff performances.

Set in the 80's we meet the Coleman's, Doc and Delia (R. Hamilton Wright and Marianne Owen), as they get ready to host the wedding of their free spirited daughter Courtney (Kimberly Sustad) to the Ken-Dollish Harper (John Ulman).  But of course all does not go well as Courtney's ex-boyfriend Ryan (Shawn Telford) shows up unannounced and the 80's sitcom chaos ensues.  And there is part of the problem. 

It all feels like everything we've seen done before and better.  The jokes are pretty overdone and add to that the fact that they don't flow along with the story (what little there is of it).  The dialogue seems like a string of non-sequiturs in order to set up the next punch line all culminating to an ending that I called at the top of the show for characters I didn't care about.  And speaking of the characters, we have no idea who any of them are.  There's the flustered Mother and Father, the harried bride, the goofy ex, the uptight groom, the vampish older sister (Kirsten Potter) and wise cracking younger one (Katherine Grant-Suttie).  And that's all we ever get from any of them, as we have no sense of why they are those archetypes.  They just seem like stock caricatures culled from a how to write a family comedy book.  But they lack any kind of depth or backstory.

Now some of this could have been overcome by the performances but unfortunately it felt as if director Joe Grifasi rehearsed all of them in a vacuum as no one really ever connected with anyone else on the stage.  Each of them had their funny moments and delivered their punch lines but they weren't listening to each other as they did it.  But they did get those lines out there and bashed over our heads as all of the dialogue felt forced and stilted.  So we got the line but didn't care about who said it since the other characters didn't care about each other, which is the kiss of death for a play about a family.

But like I said, there are some laughs.  Wright manages some brilliant physical comedy as he proceeds to get drunker and drunker especially a bit he has with a glass of booze and a cigarette.  And he and Owen are the only two that occasionally manage to connect.  But beyond that, there's just not a whole lot to care about in this show.  And I have to point out two glaring performances that bugged me all night long.  Grant-Suttie as the smart alec 16 year old comes across more as a 7 year old as she skips and bops around the house.  And Telford as the dimwitted wandering ex seems stuck in a one-note character that didn't need to be strictly an idiot. 

All in all it just seemed a mess that went nowhere from a group of talented people (Black and Grifasi included) whom I know can do better.  Farce only works when you have engaging characters faced with an insurmountable problem that they solve in a clever way.  Without that it just amounts to a bad episode of "Three's Company".  Here we had disconnected people faced with the lone issue of an ex-boyfriend who they could just forcefully ask to leave, and that's not funny, just frustrating.

"One Slight Hitch" performs at ACT through July 8th.  For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at

Photo credit: Chris Bennion

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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