The Maids Of Honor

By Joan Casademont
Directed by Brian Vanden Broucke
Urban Island Theatre Group
American Theatre of Actors-Sargent Theatre
Equity Showcase (closed)
Review by Arlene McKanic

The Bowlin sisters in Joan Casademont's Maids of Honor want to sparkle. Annie's t-shirt is touched modestly with rhinestones, and even her fuzzy bedroom slippers are dusted with glitter. No one sparkles more than Monica, the family star, who has her own TV talk show and is on the brink of marriage to Chuck, a hotshot Wall Street zillionaire. Monica glitters all over, from her diamond bangles to the headlight she wears on her ring finger. She spends much of the play in a gorgeous ice-white satin wedding gown dripping with beads and pearls and rhinestones. Youngest sister Izzy can't quite seem to shine on her own, though; throughout the play she hardly wears anything flashier than ripped jeans or shorts, and the first sight of her is when she enters the Bowlin kitchen clumsily wearing her sister's magnificent wedding dress. A secretary at a local newspaper -- it's Izzy, not surprisingly -- co-discovers a nasty secret about Chuck that propels the action of the play and shakes up the sisters' relationships with each other, makes them face their fraught relations with men (traceable to a raging drunk of a father), and figure out whether settling down really means settling.

The action takes place wholly within the Bowlins' tacky, large kitchen, designed with understated brilliance by Tom Hallbauer. The old fridge, crowded kitchen shelves, grim kitchen chairs, artificial flowers, and tasteless paintings say everything about the girls' working-class origins. Vanden Broucke's direction was dynamic without being frantic, and along with Casademont's insight, switchblade humor and snappy dialog kept the play from being a sitcom or TV dramedy. Charles Cameron bathed the set in a steady, jaundiced kitchen light, and the incidental music was gloppy -- Diana and Lionel singing "Endless Love," the Carpenters! The performances, especially by the sisters, were arresting. Lisa Vioni was wonderful as the maternal and worried Annie, while Quinn Cassavale made Izzy likable anyway; only late in the play did the realization come that she's really not a nice person, and by then it doesn't matter. Her not-niceness is a function, after all, of lifelong spiritual damage. Martina Vidmar was funny as the girls' trashy friend Pat, all cheap Florence Henderson wig and cynicism. Robert Burns was nicely dorky as the wedding's caterer and Annie's old suitor, who still carries a torch for her. Michael Linstroth played Joel, the well-scrubbed cub reporter who, with Izzy, breaks the story of Monica's fiancee with a Jimmy Olsonish energy and innocence. Jake Daehler gave Roger, Monica's distraught ex, an energy that was more neurotic. The character also has a lovely, screwy sense of honor; when he finds Monica's diary after she's moved out on him he triple wraps it in duct tape to keep himself from reading it. The guys Casademont presents on stage, in other words, are inadequate but good-hearted, and one subplot is the Bowlin sisters' journey to discover this. But Carmen Lamar was brilliant as Monica. Her statuesque beauty (she spent a lot of time in the slinkiest of red dresses, too), waspish tongue, intelligence, drive, and sometimes "hard" exterior hid a vulnerable, hypervigilant little girl still frightened of her father's violence, though he's been dead all these years. Her slow discovery that she doesn't have to be so armored after all was a joy.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Arlene McKanic