The Wedding Party opens ATP’s season with great performances and plenty of belly laughs

Caroline Russell-King offers her postcard review of Alberta Theatre Projects’ season opener.

Show: The Wedding Party.

Playwright(s): Kristen Thomson, based on characters created with Trish Lindstrom, Tony Nappo, Moya O’Connell, Tom Rooney and Bahia Watson.

Production company/theatre space: Alberta Theatre Projects, Martha Cohen Theatre, Arts Commons.

Length: Two acts (two hours, 30 minutes, one intermission).

Genre(s): Farce (with a soupçon of magic realism, but don’t let that throw you).

Premise: Two families, headed up by the bride’s mother and the groom’s father, clash at their children’s wedding.

Why this play? Why now?: It’s always good to kick off the season with a comedy.

Curiosities: I wondered if the show was originally conceived from all the best bits of a semi-improvised Tony and Tina-esque show. Although the play has had quite a few productions, I wondered if the script would benefit structurally if it was tighter. Farce by nature has to have longish expositions in order to set up all the backstories and conflicts, but I wondered if we needed all the denouement and bookends?

Notable moment: Classic comedy fight club!

Notable writing: The conceit of having one cast play multiple, cross-age, cross-species and cross-gender roles is a well-worn comedy path that works.

Notable performances: This well-oiled ensemble is headed up by Christopher Hunt and Katherine Fadum who know their way around a comedy or two.

Notable design/production: David Fraser extends his set past the footlights in his charming design. Kudos to Kerry Johnson and the stage management team for the quick changes that must be facilitated flawlessly each night.

Notable direction: Darcy Evans introduces us to an immersive theatre experience making us feel like part of the wedding party without the awkward audience participation. He drives the action through the bits that seem to be overwritten, and understands that the anticipation of what’s to come is sometimes funnier than the execution of the joke.

One reason to see this show: Smiles, shtick, and a smattering of belly laughs!

(Photo of Christopher Hunt, Curt McKinstry and Helen Knight in Alberta Theatre Projects’ production of The Wedding Party courtesy Benjamin Laird. Set by David Fraser, lighting by Alison Yanota and costumes by Patrick Du Wors.)

The Wedding Party runs until Sept. 29 at the Martha Cohen Theatre, Arts Commons.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here