Monday, March 26, 2018

Backyard Renaissance Presents High Energy San Diego Premiere Of “Bachelorette”.

“Bachelorette” by Leslye Headland is currently Backyard Renaissance Theatre latest production through April 1st in the Blackbox Theatre in back of Diversionary Theatre.

A couple of thoughts came to mind as I contemplated the ‘sister war’ that took place in an upscale hotel room (set by Justin Humphries lit by Alex Crocker Lakness) somewhere in New York City on the eve of Becky’s (Samantha Vesco) wedding such as,  “With friends like this, who needs enemies?” “Friends don’t let friend’s drink and drive”.  Or in this case friends look out for friends with suicidal tendencies who pop pills with abandon, and snort coke and lets add chugging booze and popping pills might cure what ails you, but could kill you along the  way.
Kay Marian McNellen and Lauren King
Leslye Headland, writer/director of the  “Seven Deadly Sins’ series,  “Cinephilia” (lust), “Bachelorette” (gluttony), “Assistance” (greed) “Surfer Girl” (sloth), Reverb”(wrath), “The Accidental Blond” (envy) produced and premiered at the IAMA Theatre Company in Los Angeles is now making her mark on locals who have seen the Renaissance Theatre’s production. 

No slackers here, Backyard Renaissance walked away with an award from The San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Craig Noel Award just last year for its Outstanding New Musical “Tarrytown”.
The cast of "Bachelorette"
Under director Anthony Methvin’s keen eye the energy level rippling through this 80 or so minute “Bachelorette” party rush to drugs, alcohol and backstabbing behavior is almost non -stop chaos. It is comedy with deep dark broad strokes save a few diversions by some unexpected boy toys that pop in for, well use your imagination.

The story came to yours truly as a sad commentary on todays fast paced, drug induced, sex obsessed and guileless era of ‘whatever’, while laughs rang out in the small space the night I attended.
Rin Ehlers Sheldon is Regan
Twenty –something’s Regan (Rin Ehlers Sheldon), Katie (KayMarian McNellen) and Gina (Lauren King) have been friends for so long that almost forgotten stories pop up throughout the night that might be well put to bed by some. Gina and Kay were invited to spend the night  and party. It's the the same suite at the hotel their friend Becky will become a bride to her wealthy fiancé and will be staying after the ceremony. Regan, Becky's bridesmate invited them.

Regan decided to invite their other two friends, (since high-school) who were not even invited to the wedding up to the room to celebrate another ‘whatever’ with her. And celebrate they do. First with champagne bottles (“fifteen bottles of it chilling in the bathtub”) and then a few hands-full of pills as chasers. 
Samantha Vesco and Rin Ehlers Sheldon
Although Becky is her ‘best friend, she can’t understand why her plus sized bestie is the first of the group to be getting married, let alone chose her as her bridesmate. Whatever. Regan came to the party fully equipped with a pocketbook filled with pills of every color and size. 

The outcome was a recipe for disaster from dissing Becky, that when taken by itself is pretty mild although ‘catty’ to a fault accusing her of everything from being too fat to practically destroying the hotel room, to showing a complete lack of respect, to drinking her celebratory champagne, to causing a tear in her overpriced over sized wedding gown, to inviting a couple of male strangers to the room.

Overall the cast is uniformly sharp, surprisingly real and open to frank discussions of sex, oral and otherwise that some in the audience might find offended.  

If “Bachelorette” needs a rating system, I would have to give it an ‘R’.
Kay Marian McNellen 
McNellen’s Katie in her late twenties is a salesperson, former prom queen and still lives with her parents. She has tried to kill herself on numerous occasions. “I wish I could kill myself”. “I want to die and I can’t bring myself to do it”.  

Lauren King
Lauren King’s Gina is filled with energy to spare and in spite of it all her excesses her moral compass shows through when Katie has overdosed and she (Gina) stays with her in the hospital holding her hand. “And if Katie doesn’t wake up. “She’s willing to be there for that.” The sign of a true friend, “Gina really looks out for Katie”.  

Rin Ehlers Sheldon’s Regan can take credit for getting this party off the ground by first inviting the other two to party with her and then drops the ball and leaves. Both she and Katie share the same affliction, low self esteem. Regan has been dating her abusive Dr. boyfriend for years and thought she would be the first of the friends to tie the knot. She’s educated with a degree from one of the Ivy League Schools but suffers from a big case of the ‘woe is me’ factor.
Samantha Vasco
Becky comes into this mess after most of the damage is done and scores are being settled. Vesco is steady and most credible especially as the bride to be completely put off by those who are supposed to be her friends. Even coming late to the party and being in the last few scenes Vesco hits it big time.

Both Jeff (Alex Guzman) and Joe (Graham Ehlers Sheldon) show us the two- headed sides of the coin. Jeff is self -confident and the devil may care big shot while Joe is tender and caring, sincerely about Kate’s well being. Bong or no, he seems to have himself under control.
Graham Ehlers Sheldon and Kay Marian McNellen
This mind of mine is always surprised at what theatre has to teach me. As an octogenarian not much surprises me although I must admit “Bachelorette” brought me one-step closer the opioid epidemic than I really wanted to be. In my naivety, gluttony was always associated with food. How wrong I was. 

Up until the moment this review was printed, I had to ask myself, “Why this play?” If seeing one small bit of gluttony in any form will change ones mind, then I guess I have my answer.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through April 1st
Organization: Backyard Renaissance Theatre
Phone: 619-453-4856
Production Type: Black Comedy
Where: 4545 Park Blvd. 92116
Ticket Prices: $18.00-$35.00
Venue: Diversionary’s Black Box Theatre
Photo: Daren Scott

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