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Theater Tue Mar 27 2012

A Catered Affair Reminds Us to Keep it Simple @ Stage 773

CateredAffair.jpeg

(L to R) Jerry O' Boyle, Craig Spidle and Rebecca Finnegan; Photo by Brandon Dahlquist

It makes perfect sense that three decades after his "love makes a family" play, Torch Song Trilogy, that writer Harvey Fierstein would kindly remind us that a) marriage is forever, and b) a wedding is a black hole sucking in money, spitting out familial anxiety and resentment, and c) love can, will and does conquer all - at least it does in Fierstein's A Catered Affair.

All Janey (Kelly Davis Winston) and Ralph (Jim Deselm) want for their young lives is to be quickly (and cheaply) married and a free California honeymoon courtesy of recently married friends heading west and in need of Janey and Ralph to help them haul their stuff. The young ones have a perfect plan for beginning their lives together - until their respective parents find out about the engagement and feel compelled to make their marriage a wedding celebration, family reception of course. For Aggie (Rebecca Finnegan), Janey's mother, to plan a wedding could not come at a better time as the neighbors' gossip will focus on the family celebration, and away from the family's grief in losing their only son on the battlefield, the son that both Aggie and husband Tom (Craig Spidle) had all their hopes and dreams pinned upon, to the benign neglect of Janey.

Aggie perks up at the idea of planning a wedding, and no matter how much the future newlyweds protest not wanting an expensive wedding, but going on with their original plan, it becomes apparent that Aggie needs a wedding, not only to redirect her grief in losing her son, but to validate having spent years into what she has silently surmised to be her own shotgun wedding. Husband Tom enthusiastically agrees with his Janey and Ralph - he'd much rather spend his life savings on a taxi medallion, become his own boss after decades of slaving away for Aggie's father and then some other anonymous boss. But oh, to plan a wedding, to have something, anything, to look forward to; and when Ralph's well-heeled parents (Anne Sheridan Smith, Larry Baldacci) throw in a pile of money, and Aggie's "confirmed bachelor" brother Winston (Jerry O'Boyle) insisting on quarterbacking the reception plans, Tom sees the life savings and his dream take flight, right out of their tenement window. "It's the only way to do things", according to Uncle Winston. A wedding is for the family; bride and groom be damned.

The plans get bigger and bigger; the bride and groom's needs and wishes become lost in the shuffle of dress fittings, cake tastings and guest numbers. As Janey, Ralph and Tom drip into indecipherable heaps of wedded blues - singing and screaming loud, but Aggie and Winston can't hear - the church bells call out and event planning gives them a purpose to belong. Aggie pushes and prods Janey to repeat her "mistake" - a shotgun marriage, with a bundle of debt in place of a bundle of joy.

Janey and Ralph finally succumb to family demands until Janey's best friend Alice makes it plain that she simply cannot afford to participate in the amended nuptials. Janey's now-pricey wedding is a further reminder to recently married Alice of her own financial travails. The risk of losing her friend, compound with eavesdropping on hearing Tom having to turn down his life's dreams forces Janey to call the whole wedding off - and call the original plan of marital bliss, back on.

Aggie and Uncle Winston's disappointment takes the form of grief, as if Janey and Ralph's wedding would make up for years of regret and emotional isolation. Both must confront and take responsibility for their self-made disappointments and realities, and move into the future, and that's what all beginning, catered or not, are all about.

Under the direction of Nick Bowling and Doug Peck, the Porchlight ensemble cast hit all of the right notes and carry out the right movements to make the production almost flawless. The audience feels the anticipation, the small heartbreaking regrets (especially in Rebecca Finnegan's Aggie, who turns the initially unsympathetic character into a requiem of unimaginable loss and regret; one can only share her desperately quiet ache). The remaining cast members sing and recite their places in harmonic convergence, alone or ensemble, Fierstein's message comes shining through - love makes a family, listening strengthens the ties that bind, and sacrifice for family's sake should never languish in regret.

A Catered Affair is playing at Stage 773 through April 1: Fri. 7:30pm, Sat 8pm & Sun 2pm. For tickets and more information, visit stage773.com.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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