The Wedding Party is “big, sprawling, funny,” now playing on stage at Crowsnest Streetcar.
Thursday evening saw two theatre firsts in Toronto: the world premiere of Kirsten Thomson’s The Wedding Party, a Crow’s Theatre and Talk is Free Theatre production, and the official opening of Crowsnest Streetcar, the new permanent home of Crow’s Theatre. Both are lovely.
Crowsnest Streetcar is a beautiful space. Big windows and good lighting make it feel quite open even when it’s crowded, and it was crowded. The bar is at the far end of the lobby which means that there won’t be a clump of people to wade through as soon as you go in the door.
The seats in the Guloien Theatre are comfortable (yay!) and the rows are just far enough apart that I didn’t have to stand up when someone wanted to go past me to their seat. It’s a little thing but the little things make a big difference.
The Wedding Party is a big, sprawling, funny play with a cast of hundreds played by six actors. Okay, maybe not hundreds, but it felt like hundreds. And the fastest costume changes I’ve ever witnessed. Very impressive.
Playwright Thomson has written the wedding reception from hell and it’s all due to the happy couple’s families. None of it would be funny – at least not for years – if it was your wedding, but because it isn’t, it’s very funny.
The families don’t really know or like each other. The groom’s family is very wealthy and are paying “hundreds of thousands” for the wedding and feel that the bride’s family isn’t “one of us.” The bride’s family is working class and proud of it. They have no filters, they just say what they think.
The reception is a minefield of overheard conversations, misunderstandings, family secrets, and mistaken identity. It’s all played for laughs. There are some emotional moments but everything moves so quickly that they tended to be over before I really noticed them.
Some of the humour reminded me of the 1930’s screwball comedies like Bringing up Baby; some of it made me think of The Importance of Being Earnest. It was sophisticated, madcap, and ridiculous. There were even some pratfalls. As a comedy it pretty much covers all the bases.
The entire cast was fabulous, playing multiple roles, switching genders, and in one case switching species. I wish I had a chart so I could remember who played whom.
Some highlights for me included Thomson as the groom’s father’s dog telling him off late in the evening, Tom Rooney playing the father of the groom and his twin brother in one of the best twin scenes I have ever seen, Moya O’Connell as the groom’s step-mother admitting to eating cake, Jason Cadieux as the bride’s grandmother casually running her hand up the groom’s father’s leg, Trish Lindstrom as the groom’s socially inept 18 year old cousin telling his uncle what a huge impact the art in his office had on him 10 years earlier, and Virgilia Griffith as the put-upon wedding planner finally getting to tell everyone how she really feels about them.
Chris Abraham did a masterful job directing. Sometimes the stage looked like controlled chaos. If the timing had been even a tiny bit off many of the scenes wouldn’t have worked.
If you’re planning a wedding you could get some great ideas from Julie Fox’s set. It was gorgeous. Those tables! The chandelier! Maybe that was part of Kimberly Purtell’s lighting design. Zack Russell’s video design included a big screen in the corner complete with tacky Kiss Camera graphics. Sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne had the perfect mix of wedding music at a perfect volume.
The Wedding Party has all the ingredients for a perfect comedy. But it’s too long. I didn’t time it and I can’t find any information about the running time, but my friend Jan and I and the couple in the elevator would have enjoyed it more if it had been shorter.
I’d still recommend it. It’s a very funny play, the acting is terrific, the set is gorgeous, and so is the theatre.
- The Wedding Party is playing until February 11th at Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw Ave)
- Shows run Monday through Saturday at 8 pm and Saturday at 2 pm
- Tickets range from $20.00 to $40.00
- Tickets are available online, and at the box office
Photo of Virgilia Griffith, Kristen Thomson, Jason Cadieux, Tom Rooney by Guntar Kravis