Mean girls reign supreme in Bachelorette, Leslye Headland’s acidly funny glimpse into the ugliness that can hide behind pretty faces, back for a return L.A. engagement just a mile from where its 2008 World Premiere put playwright Headland and IAMA Theatre Company on the map.
This time round it’s the year-old Mine Is Yours Theatre Company who bring Becky, Gena, Katie, and Regan (and a couple of not-so-nice young men) to hilariously vicious life, and though these are not folks you’d normally want to spend even an hour with, Bachelorette’s ninety minutes add up to outrageously biting entertainment, albeit quite the opposite of “sugar and spice and everything nice.”
It’s the night before the wedding, and who should show up at the expensive hotel suite rented by bride-to-be Becky (Hannah Pell) but a pair of boozed-and-coked-up bachelorettes, Gena (Sarah Lyddan) and Katie (Hayley Brown), neither of whom is particularly close to Becky, the duo soon to be joined by the equally drunk and disorderly Regan (Cloie Wyatt Taylor), and before long the three gal pals are chugging down champagne straight from the bottle (there are fifteen of them left chilling in the bathtub) and snorting cocaine like it’s going out of style.
Becky and Gena may be mean, the latter describing Becky’s wedding dress as “a beautiful white garbage bag,” but they can’t hold a candle to Queen Bee Regan, who explains how her supposed dear friend Becky can smack down $15,000 for a wedding dress with a dismissive, “She can afford it. She’s paying for rent with her sex hole from this day forward.”
Obviously, with friends like this trio of bachelorette party girls, who needs enemies?
As for the men in Leslye Headland’s world, well they don’t fare all that much better.
Take Jeff (Dane Oliver), for example, who exclaims to his buddy Joe (Michael Bates) upon arriving in the hotel suite, “We just hit the proverbial jackpot! We are going to get laid tonight! Probably several times. In a five-star hotel!”
It should be clear by now that Headland’s bachelors and bachelorettes are complicated, conflicted, and not terribly nice people, and the more they drink, the more they snort, the more they toke, the meaner and more venal they get.
Playwright Headland has a great ear for the language these young women and men speak, their sentences peppered with “dude” and “man.” And her dialog snaps, crackles, and pops with in-your-face, tell-it-like-it-is nastiness.
About the bride-to-be, whom her so-called friends delight in calling “fat,” exactly where might she be? “Probably eating!” About being at Becky’s wedding? “I just want to see this bitch, throw some rice, and get the hell out of here.” About the amount of enthusiasm that should be invested in a blow job? “You start off with a ten and you’ve got nowhere to go. Why is he gonna spend any time fucking you when he just came all over your face?”
Puritanical audiences might well opt to seek their entertainment elsewhere, but for those with a less prudish bent, nothing beats Bachelorette for shocks and raunch.
Under Jessica Hanna’s incisive direction, a cast of talented, attractive L.A.-based up-and-comers do terrific, high-voltage work, beginning with the rowdy, rambunctious duo of Brown and Lyddan as a pair of best friends each more whacked-out than the next.
A riveting Oliver continues to fulfill the promise of his Theatricum Botanicum appearances this past summer as a young man who knows exactly how to work his Prom King looks to his best advantage. Bates is memorable too as Jeff’s somewhat unwilling partner in seduction whose (relative) niceness makes him—and Bates’ performance—Bachelorette’s secret weapon.
Last but not least, though Headland makes us wait a good long while for Becky’s eleventh-hour appearance, a pitch-perfect Pell makes it well worth the wait in a climactic scene which allows the actress to show both Becky’s strength and her own potential for cruelty.
The slick black walls of West Hollywood’s The Actor’s Company Theatre allow scenic/properties designer Shen Heckel to create a snazzy hotel room set with just furniture and props, and Heckel’s lighting is first-rate too. Costume designer Mallin Alter, who doubles as assistant director, has given each character an outfit that suits her or him to a T.
Bachelorette is produced by Brown, Pell, and Mary Ellen Schneider. James Ferrero is stage manager. Ashley Lynette Brown and Chris Ferro understudy four of the six roles between them.
Bachelorette’s original run took playwright Headland from L.A. to off-Broadway to the Sundance Film Festival, and IAMA Theatre Company recently won the 2014 Ovation Award for Jonathan Caren’s The Recommendation, proof positive that L.A.’s 99-seat plan can work theatrical wonders.
Mine Is Yours Theatre Company may just be starting out on IAMA’s path, but as Bachelorette 2015 makes abundantly clear, you’ll likely be hearing a lot more from this talented ensemble of classically trained Los Angeles-based artists in years to come.
The Other Space @ The Actor’s Company, 916 North Formosa Avenue, West Hollywood.
March 21, 2015