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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Never the Bridesmaid
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2013-03-06

This article shared 3033 times since Wed Mar 6, 2013
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Playwright: Bill Jepsen. At: Polarity Ensemble Theatre at Josephinum Academy, 1500 N. Bell St. Tickets: 800-838-3006 or www.pethetre.com; $19. Runs through: April 7

Never the Bridesmaid probably isn't the most accurate title for Polarity Ensemble Theatre's world premiere romantic comedy by Bill Jepsen. Sure, there is a much-married character, but the play isn't solely about her.

After being widowed once and divorced twice, quirky thirty-something Maria (Lindsey Pearlman) is cautious about entering into new relationships. But the play often focuses more on Maria's literary scholar twin brother, Anthony (Nick Lake), who is still coping with being dumped by his fiancée four years ago.

These siblings' unlucky attempts at love are only highlighted by still living at home with their happy, routine-loving parents named Doris (Daria Harper) and Elmer (Steve Pringle), who are nearing their 40th wedding anniversary. (The two also appear to love 1980s pink and turquoise color schemes, since the living room set by designer Charles C. Palia, Jr. brings to mind the old TV logo for Miami Vice.)

However, this wouldn't be a romantic comedy if the grown siblings didn't have love prospects on the horizon. Anthony harbors a long-simmering crush on Maria's career-oriented friend Kathleen (Kristin Danko), while the best man from Maria's first wedding, Brian (Brian Plocharcyzk), has returned home to Chicago and made it a point to reconnect with her. There's also some comic support from Maria and Kathleen's loose and ditzy friend Therese (Catherine Hermes), who blows through her few cameo scenes like a whirlwind kicked up by a high-pitched hair dryer.

Jepsen, who scored a big success for Chicago Dramatists with his 2008 play Cadillac, certainly creates likable characters with enough amusing exchanges for Never the Bridesmaid. But compared to most romantic film comedies that clock in at less than 90 minutes, the nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time of Never the Bridesmaid becomes a patience tester.

Jepsen's parental characters come off as a too blandly ideal, whose dramatic function later in the play just becomes a convenient plot device to prod their kids to take romantic chances in life. The flow of many scenes in the show also feels choppy. Director Richard Shavzin sometimes relies on film soundtrack moments to tie together transitions—not only blackouts but contemplative moments more suited to film montage.

Pearlman as the pouting Maria stands out, especially when she's rolling her eyes at all of the brainy intellectualisms spouted by Lake as Anthony. The rest of the acting company is fine, though they could do more to bring more spark and personality to the script's supporting characters.

For those who just want a nice romantic comedy, Never the Bridesmaid should fit the bill. But it could have been better with more insightful editing, more complex characters and a title that is more encompassing of the actual people in the play.


This article shared 3033 times since Wed Mar 6, 2013
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