If You Ask Me

“Zoey’s Perfect Wedding”

TheaterWorks Hartford

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

This “Wedding” Far From Perfect

Like being stuck at an endless wedding reception where you don’t know many people, the DJ plays bad music and the rubber chicken is served late and cold, “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” is not an event to savor. The comedy by Matthew López is currently onstage at TheaterWorks in Hartford and, well, you’ve been warned.

Mr. López drew praise and a Tony Award for his most recent play, “The Inheritance”.  It presumably has some merit even though I read as many mixed reviews as positive and its Broadway run was relatively brief.  I am more familiar with López’s work at Connecticut theatres where he has been embraced by both Hartford Stage and TheaterWorks over the last few years  Those plays, “Reverberation”, “Somewhere” and “The Legend of Georgia McBride”, were almost all as mediocre as “Zoey” which leads me to seriously question as to why this writer keeps getting produced so much?

Set in the Downtown Brooklyn Marriott hotel, “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” covers one long evening (90 minutes, no intermission) as friends of the bride drink, bitch and moan about their lives.  There’s a married couple, Charlie (Daniel José Molina) with Rachel (Blaire Lewin) who is none too pleased that Zoey failed to select her as maid of honor.  Their gay friend, Sammy (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka), is in a committed relationship but clearly has a wandering eye.  As the trio dis the tackiness of the wedding and complain about their table position at the far outer edges, we learn about their turbulent relationships, fears and disappointments.  When Rachel quickly gets rip-roaring drunk with Sammy, she takes the mic and gives one of the very worst wedding toasts ever. Things quickly fall apart. As does the play.

What’s most annoying about “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” are characters who resist empathy and include a smart-ass DJ (Esteban Carmona), a perky maid of honor (Hallie Eliza Friedman) and the miserable bride herself (Rachel B. Joyce).

Late in the evening, López seems to be trying to say something profound about marriage and relationships, but at this point in the game it has just been relentless arguments and insult jokes that fall flat.

It’s hard to pinpoint if the acting is really without distinction or are the actors just the unlucky victims of bad writing?  Only Mr. Molina seems authentic here with a low key performance anchored in pain. Lewin’s long, drunken monologue is funny and squirm-inducing, but otherwise her role is all over the map as is her sobriety which seems to come and go. Both Herdlicka and Carmona have clarity and volume issues throughout the play, Joyce is all grimaces and big faces a trait shared, unfortunately, by Friedman.

There is little evidence here of director Rob Ruggiero’s customary polish or pacing, but one bright spot is scenic and lighting designer Brian Sidney Bembridge’s spot-on recreation of a Marriott wedding hall.  The lighting fixtures, alone, are beyond perfect.  But you don’t leave humming the sets, as they say, and, all told, this is not a wedding to celebrate.

“Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through June 5th. For further information, call the box office at: 860-527-7838 or visit: www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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