'Bachelorette Surprises With a Dose of Darkness

The lights go up on a scene that seems typical enough: Two high-school friends now in their late twenties, wearing heels and tight dresses, stumble onstage into the penthouse suite of a hotel. The opening scenes of the play chronicle an amped-up night out that later degenerates into a dark comedy as three old friends reunite the night before a mutual friend’s wedding. The Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Company’s production of “Bachelorette,” which runs April 24 to May 5 in Farkas Hall, features evocative performances by a polished cast that tell a story far deeper than that of a mere bachelorette party.

“Bachelorette,” written by Leslye Headland, has a script full of comedic dexterity, which the cast executes particularly well in the first half of the show when the tone is significantly lighter. The first scene opens with revelry as the two girls, Katie (Hannah Ades ’18) and Gena (Yasmeen E. Audi ’15), are joined by a third friend, Regan (Elise M. Baranouski ’16). The suite they occupy belongs to the absent bride-to-be, Becky (Rachel C. Talamo ’18); Regan is her maid of honor and has invited Katie and Gena, who were not invited to the wedding. The conversation between the three women takes a turn into acute jealousy and malicious gossip. The script’s comedy is both funnier and darker than that found in the extensive “bridesmaids” chick-flick genre, though it deals with the same material. In time, the play adds depth to the pettiness, and all three women navigate the threshold between jealousy and humor with believable chemistry.

Intermittently consuming copious amounts of narcotic substances, the girls reveal loaded moments from their pasts. All have hidden agendas that propel them towards the jealousy shown on stage, and each actor accomplishes a blending of comedy and the darker underlayer of their character fairly seamlessly. In the second scene, Regan’s acquaintances Jeff (Sam A. Hagen ’18) and Joe (Kennedy F. Q. Edmonds ’17), join her and Katie upstairs. The emotional complexity of the play builds in a conversation between Katie and Joe, while the sexually tense dynamic between Regan and Jeff adds a different dimension. All four actors successfully convey the unvoiced currents of this scene to bring the play into a realm beyond that of its largely comedic opening.

The production elements of the show work cohesively to enhance its impact. The set design is minimalist—the only nonessential element is a large bouquet of roses—but nevertheless delicately artistic. The staging, while not particularly innovative, utilizes the layout of the set effectively in order to enhance the dynamics among the characters. In particular, the lighting is fundamental in intensifying the impression of key moments in the dialogue, which coincide with tension-packed beats of silence.

The cast features stellar performances all around. Baranouski is compellingly dislikeable in her role as the cold-hearted manipulator, while Ades skillfully conveys her character’s increasing emotional instability, making her role more complex than that of a funny drunk girl.  Hagen plays the part of a scheming smooth talker to the hilt, while Edmonds increases the relevance and perceived stakes of the play when his character reveals stories from his past to Katie. The performances of Audi and Talamo, particularly in the climactic scene, also feature polished yet raw emotions ranging from tenderness to anger.

The theme of female friendships fueled by jealousy and bitterness is familiar turf for plays and literary work, but this production takes both the comedic and darker aspects of these themes and pushes them into extremely evocative territory. Ultimately, the result is a show that is a thrilling emotional roller coaster for the audience, accomplishing both comedic levity and emotional depth with remarkable ease.

 

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