Zoey's Perfect Wedding Review: The Great Bride Disaster

There’s not enough food, the DJ plays Styx instead of Beyoncé, and a line for the cash bar feels like a humanitarian crisis. The big da...


There’s not enough food, the DJ plays Styx instead of Beyoncé, and a line for the cash bar feels like a humanitarian crisis. The big day of the bride in “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding“, broadcast via TheaterWorks Hartford, is predictably a total disaster. (Would we have been invited otherwise?)

If the collision of forever bliss with great disappointment is your problem, buckle up. Although this unfortunate holiday is probably familiar.

It’s 2008, Barack Obama has just been elected president, the economy is in the toilet, and Zoey’s college friends have been banished to a far table in a drab ballroom at the Downtown Brooklyn Marriott. Zoey, played by Rachel B. Joyce, is the last of their school friends to get married, and that’s not how they thought she would come out. For affluent, educated 30-somethings in New York, a playwright’s favorite set Matthew Lopezthe front desk of a chain hotel is as cheesy as it gets.

Not only was Rachel (Blair Lewin) not asked to be a bridesmaid, but warding off a calamity like this is her job — really. (She’s an in-demand wedding planner.) Sammy (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka), an impeccably dressed sports agent in a three-piece plaid suit, takes a bottle of booze to the bar to soothe his offended senses. (“Hey, sweetie! Do you have Cuervo?” he coos to an unseen male waiter.) And Rachel’s husband, Charlie (Daniel José Molina), is moved to hear how Sammy has more sex than them (unlike tequila which flows like water, the couple is on the rocks).

Every cliché about bad marriages probably happens during Zoey’s first hour. A cringe-inducing speech from a drunken guest sharing too much of his personal troubles? Check. (Rachel really should know better.) A bride who screams and sobs and retreats to the bathroom? (Don’t forget that bottle of Cuervo.) It’s only when it seems like nothing more could go wrong that the play deepens its exploration of relationships, which doesn’t exactly reveal new territory: friendships decline, marriages fall apart and romance rarely feels like a fairy tale.

Unlike its two parts”The legacy“, an ambitious epic for which López won a Tony Award in 2021 for best play, “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” is ready to go and on the nose, like a trifle you could pull off the dessert table during a dinner party. ‘a less calamitous feature than this.’The 90-minute comedy, which premiered in Denver in 2018, predates the playwright’s saga about Late 20th Century Gay Manhattanitesand demonstrates his sustained interest in the dynamics of connection amid the boundaries of convention.

No union could ever be perfect – and what does even perfect mean? – but López still defers to the value of conformity. Sammy’s open relationship becomes a point of rage for Rachel, who is into monogamy, and an opportunity for Sammy to explain how gay men relate to each other differently than straight guys (with a sex tutorial anal). It could be provocative if the lesson wasn’t so basic and if Sammy didn’t finally give in to share the emotional needs that are fueling the fiasco.

The production, directed by Rob Ruggiero, is playful and neat. Dizzyingly printed carpet and bland sconces on textured walls are a fitting assault on the eyes (the decor and lighting design are by Brian Sidney Bembridge). And the ensemble’s performances are uniformly strong, committed to the sitcom’s setup, and incredibly tender as the details of their characters are more fully revealed.

“Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” treats the early years with a certain nostalgia, a Myspace, post-George W. Bush era of social optimism as Generation X came of age – and acknowledged the potential disappointments of marriage and material success. The retro quality of the room’s perspective can seem almost gloomy, rather than enriched in hindsight. Abandoning the ideals of youth can leave you with one hell of a hangover.

Zoey’s Perfect Wedding
Through June 5 at TheaterWorks Hartford, Connecticut and streaming online; twhartford.org. Duration: 1h30.

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