Review: AT THE WEDDING at Studio Theatre

On stage through April 21

By: Mar. 18, 2024
Review: AT THE WEDDING at Studio Theatre
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“The only thing worse than the end of the world is surviving it,” laments Carlo, relishing in flirtatious self-pity at her ex’s wedding. For Carlo, the world has already ended—her former partner Eva is marrying a desperately boring man in a desperately boring ceremony—and now she is stuck in the survival part.

Perhaps luckily, audiences for Byrna Turner’s At the Wedding don’t experience the titular celebration as full guests. The 75-minute tragicomedy keeps us on the periphery of the wedding, just like Carlo—who did not actually RSVP, and so is stuck at the kids’ table when the play begins. As the night goes on, we catch glimpses of her and other guests in moments of champagne-fueled vulnerability on the outskirts of the “aggressively heterosexual” ceremony (as Carlo describes it, with disdain).

Review: AT THE WEDDING at Studio Theatre
Dina Thomas and Yesenia Iglesias in At the Wedding (Photo credit: Margot Schulman)

Studio Theatre’s production showcases the tackiness of the wedding industrial complex with an aesthetic pulled straight from a millennial Pinterest board. The set (design by Luciana Stecconi) is anchored by an extended rectangular archway of flowers in front of barn doors, which part to reveal an obnoxiously pink flower wall, and later, an enormous gift table. Throughout the festivities, we are treated to mason jar lights, cheesy photo booth props, a disco ball, and yes, even succulents as table decorations. 

And Carlo can’t take any of it. Played with frantic sadness by Dina Thomas, she bounces from one strained exchange to the next with no relief but the next cocktail. First, there’s Carlo’s casual nemesis Carly (Emily Kester), who spars with her in a leisurely California lilt. Later, we meet the mother of the bride, Maria (Holly Twyford), who expresses sincere affection for Carlo and is by a mile the most fun drinker on stage. We get a few short scenes with Eva herself (Yesenia Iglesias), who provides some insight into Carlo’s history of suffering and survival, but not much of a view into her own motivations.

Review: AT THE WEDDING at Studio Theatre
Dina Thomas and Jamie Smithson in At the Wedding (Photo credit: Margot Schulman)

In these mostly one-on-one conversations, the most compelling dynamics emerge between Carlo and wedding guests Eli and Leigh. Eli (Jamie Smithson) is an English teacher who likens Carlo to the title character in Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner.” He explains that the mariner “can’t recognize miracles from monsters” and shoots an auspicious albatross out of the sky, which he then must wear around his neck as punishment. (The poem’s mariner isn’t only shouldering a symbolic burden like Carlo—he is also compelled to corner wedding guests to share his tale of woe.)  

Carlo’s albatross of heartbreak hangs heaviest in her interactions with Leigh (Cameron Silliman), the groom’s sibling who is intent on not going home alone. While Carlo and Leigh quip about cannibalism and the apocalypse, their conversation is darkest when we see Carlo unable to risk intimacy and get outside of her own head. Leigh’s character is a fun plot device, but not in the way you’d initially expect. They ultimately serve as a way to show the irony of Carlo railing against heterosexual norms while stuck in her own rigid expectations of what love should look like.

Review: AT THE WEDDING at Studio Theatre
Cameron Silliman and Dina Thomas in At the Wedding (Photo credit: Margot Schulman)

The series of vignettes in At the Wedding are awkwardly charming, but even in the hands of Studio Theatre’s excellent cast, they don’t quite cohere. There’s a strong thematic throughline of living through suffering, but the continual flips between self-consciously corny jokes and tipsy philosophizing are over-the-top: even Carlo remarks, “Weddings are a minefield for earnest contemplation. I should have crashed a funeral instead.” With meticulous direction by Tom Story, the quiet moments and shifts between reflections often felt the most authentic. The wedding playlist-filled transitions between encounters were skillfully performed by a rotating group of cast members, with harried server and inter-scene-stealer Victor (Jonathan Atkinson) earning the most laughs. 

At the Wedding is a comedy with tragedy sprinkled in like celebratory confetti that proves difficult to clean up once dispersed. It tries to squeeze in a lot of different ideas, tones, and resonances into barely over an hour. Not all of it lands, but there are seriously funny moments mixed in with the ones that fall flat–and in a story about messy resilience, the unevenness sometimes works. In the script’s epigraph, playwright Bryna Turner fittingly quotes a line from Coleridge’s “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner” that captures the mess of Carlo’s survival: “And a thousand thousand slimy things Lived on; and so did I.”

Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission

At the Wedding directed by Tom Story is at Studio Theatre’s Milton Theatre (1501 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005) through April 21. The production contains simulated vaping, herbal tobacco, and haze, and it also includes simulated intoxication and references to a past suicide attempt (more environment and content warnings here). Tickets can be purchased at, and Studio Theatre’s health and safety advice can be found here.


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