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Wedding Story intimate and touching
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Wedding Story intimate and touching
Wedding Story intimate and touching by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

A Wedding Story
Seattle Public Theater
Through June 7


Fresh French bread is great when it has a slightly crisp, chewy crust, and delicate, soft insides. There's that satisfaction of grabbing a hunk of it and pulling with your teeth. Such is the feeling that often accompanies shows done by Seattle Public Theatre recently. Their latest bread offering is A Wedding Story by Bryony Lavery, directed by Artistic Director Shana Bestock, with five accomplished actors: Pam Nolte, John Wray, Chiara Motley, Amber Wolfe, and Tim Gouran.

The story is an intimate one, focused on just one family, using the metaphor of weddings to bring out all those long-remembered incidents, hidden conflicts, and stresses of committing oneself to another. But Lavery includes a vivid decline as a vigorous, intelligent, accomplished woman succumbing to Alzheimer's. Family commitments to dementia patients strain at the very edge of the ability to hang in there. How much more difficult is it to stay committed to someone who doesn't even know who you are?

Lavery breaks a lot of theatrical conventions. He has the characters talk to the audience, envisions fantasy environments (recreating moments from the movie Casablanca), and places scenes together in a somewhat chaotic manner. Therefore, it's not an easy play to present, for the theater or for the audience. She manages some real humor, and some gruesome humor. Robin and Sally, the son and daughter of the declining woman, Evelyn, brainstorm about creatively murdering their mother with ice bullets, as they use humor to dispel frustration and angst over watching her decline. And Lavery doesn't flinch from the breaking point, having the husband, Peter, hit his wife in frustration over her unconscious antics.

Pam Nolte does A+, outstanding work as the brilliant but ill doctor. She can't fail to break your heart. For some in the audience, her story seemed to resonate with those who might have already experienced that family tragedy. Lavery has Evelyn give us statistics about Alzheimer's lack of treatment, science's lack of understanding of the mechanisms, and the horrifying reality that millions of us will have it in the coming years. In this area, the play is a very important wake-up call.

A subplot, welcome for its lack of cliché, is that Sally is a Lesbian, and relatively unconflicted at that. But she's a butch who has a rather "male" attitude toward sex; she wants it, but doesn't want to get "involved." She meets Grace at a wedding and bangs her in the bathroom. Grace wants a relationship and eventually demands to be taken seriously enough to marry. Unfortunately for this production, Motley and Wolfe have little chemistry together, and are not comfortable playing Lesbians, though they certainly try hard enough.

A script weakness is that the son is brought in halfway through, and we are not given a strong sense of his connection or despair, as a lot of what he offers is Hollywood script treatment of real-life events. He apparently lives and works in L.A. and brings a lot of alienation to the role. The family connection between Sally and Robin works well, as does Robin's horror of having to deal with his mother's diaper-changing, which is one of those gruesomely funny scenes.

The set design by Richard Schaefer seems more like a "good on paper" idea. He covers a wall, floor to ceiling, with wedding dresses and materials. It's a white wall of fabric and gauze. However, after a while, it seems distracting and limits the actors on stage. A series of stair levels is all the actors get to work on. When the actors use the wall for entrances and exits, it gets in the way.

Any detractions mentioned don't diminish the chewy freshness of the production (if you will) and the tasty challenge the play presents. For more information, go to www.seattlepublictheater.org or call 206-524-1300.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.
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