Wedding bells ring, but too quietly

The Last Wedding

By Joan McHale
Directed by Dan Metelitz
Kingfisher Entertainment
Musical Theatre Works
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Judd Hollander

The Last Wedding is a powerful, realistic piece that plays on universal fears: loss of mental capacity, watching a parent slowly deteriorate, and the helplessness to do anything about it. Unfortunately, the play's message is lost among an excess of plot, uneven direction, and one too many actors.

Joe Viviani was Paddy, a 70ish Irishman of the old school. He is jovial, active, with great memories for the past, but it quickly becomes apparent that he is suffering from some form of mental degeneration (which one is never explained) and is slowly becoming trapped in his own memories. Just a word or action is enough to send him mentally reeling back over the years. Paddy's new wife Kate (their marriage is the ``Wedding'' of the title), son, and daughter-in-law are helpless to do anything but watch. (In the show's cleverest twist, Kate, who at first seems to be in deep denial about her husband's condition, may actually be suffering from the same type of illness herself.)

However, this story is marred by an uneven script. It provides many tantalizing glimpses into Paddy's past and his experiences living in New York during an era long gone, but several important points, such as his relationship with Kate, who has obviously loved him for a long time, and the story behind his deceased first wife, are never explored.

Another problem is the character of Gertie (Cam Kornman), a 60ish eccentric woman, who has been hired to watch over the couple. (How a woman who is one step removed from a caricature of a bag lady would be chosen for the job is a bit of a mystery.) Her purpose is strictly comic relief, but her type of broad humor continually distracted from the story on stage. Although Gertie's age was never established, she moved and acted like someone in her 30s, which gave the clear impression of watching an actress playing a part and never lent her character credibility in any way. Especially when she was playing against two actors who are the age of the characters they played, and acted it.

Joe Viviani, as Paddy, gave a riveting performance. His portrayal of a man slowly losing his mental facilities was both powerful and heartbreaking. Iva Withers as Kate, the most layered character in the piece, perfectly underplayed her role in relationship to Paddy and came across all the more believable for it. Chris Fischer and Susan Knott as the son and daughter in-law were very good in their roles, showing the helplessness and rage engendered by such a situation. Todd Anthony-Jackson was fine as a neighbor. Dan Metelitz's direction was excellent in the dramatic moments, but fell apart in the comic ones, as does the script, with an ending that ties up everything too neatly and seems tacked on at the last moment.

The Last Wedding has a powerful story to tell and told it well, in spite of the weaknesses of the production. (Costumes, Yoko Honda; set, Jim Hammond; lights, Richard Latta; sound design, Reed Robins.)

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Judd Hollander

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