Alex Trow & Ben Graney in I Now Pronounce. Photo by Bill Brymer.
I Now Pronounce
By Tasha Gordon-Solmon
Directed by Stephen Brackett
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Most weddings have something that doesn’t quite go right – maybe several things go awry. Often these are the things that are at the heart of the most endearing memories of the occasion, but Tasha Gordon-Solmon’s I Now Pronounce imagines a wedding so nearly catastrophic that is unlikely to provide the basis of many fond memories.
The opening is a monologue by Ray DeMattis as a Rabbi officiating at Adam (Ben Graney) and Nicole’s (Alex Trow) wedding, and, as the first in a series of episodic snapshots of calamity, it is the high point of hope. There is a death during the ceremony, some truly provocative (offensive) toasts, unexpected hook-ups, and much drunkenness.
Salmon’s play is a perfect opening salvo for the Humana Festival – ribald, hilarious, immediately identifiable, and played to the hilt by a talented cast. Although vastly entertaining and filled with edgy, acerbic human observation, it also runs longer than necessary. The final scene feels anti-climactic, and tests the audience’s patience. The interpolated structure includes a running thread about three flower girls and, although Carmen Tate, Mary Charles Miller, and Brylee Deuser are talented, lovely, and quite charming in these roles, it also contributes little to the main theme.
What makes I Now Pronounce so worthwhile is the unsentimental examination of the social constructs surrounding love and marriage. The disastrous nuptials uncover enough acrimony and conflict between the happy couple that you cannot help but feel that they are lucky things fell apart this way. The bridal party does little to change this feeling, and some of the best parts of the play involve these characters. Clea Alsip delivers an epic comic performance as the drunken Michelle. Spending an entire play playing extreme inebriation is an invitation to overplay, but Alsip finds the ceiling of taste with fine discipline. Satomi Blair’s Eva is far more complex, given her own journey apart from the unhappy couple, and in scenes late in the play, Blair made me want a play just about Eva. Seth, played by Forrest Malloy, also has his own failed marriage, expressed in fine, self-pitying style, while Jason Veasey draws attention in his every moment onstage as Dave, the cynical, unromantic friend who seems to relish the train-wreck of a reception that surrounds him.
As for the newlyweds, it is natural to root for them to work things out, but Gordon-Solomon is stringent in denying them an easy resolution, and the tough, uncompromising comic sensibility at work here is why we will remember I Now Pronounce long after the after-show drinks. Ben Graney and Alex Trow are beautifully matched as Adam and Nicole, neither willing to relinquish their bitterness and selfishness, but struggling to see a way to happiness.
Stephen Brackett directs with a finely tuned balance of farce and pathos, and the design work is top-notch, from Kathleen Geldard’s costumes, which include a wedding dress that might be the envy of soon-to-be brides in the audience, to the scenic design by William Boles, which works seamlessly with the costumes to create an appropriately blue/grey environment.
I Now Pronounce
March 1 – April 9, 2017
Part of the 41st Humana Festival of New American Plays
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.