In our culture, anything wedding-related seems to have this capacity to give its consumers an ethereal sense of escapism with comforting familiarity. This can be seen in the seemingly endless rom-com films, reality television shows, and plays related to impending nuptials—or their aftermath. New Direction Community Theater (NDCT) has chosen to tap into this whimsical cultural fixation on wedded bliss with their latest production of “Always a Bridesmaid.”
This is a show for anyone who has ever been to a wedding, been in a wedding, or thought about what it might be like to do either of those two things—basically everyone.
Written in 2013 by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, “Always a Bridesmaid” invites the audience to experience the beautiful friendship of four women in Laurelton, Virginia as they support each other’s respective journeys down the aisle throughout the years. Each woman has her own defining qualities that bring an enormous amount of hilarity to the story, while also offering some very touching moments between them. This play simultaneously acts as both a form of unadulterated wedding humor and an examination of how beautiful unconditional female friendship can be.
All six of the actresses in this production impressively worked together with such a seamless sense of support for each other. This was best displayed in a moment in which there was a minor technical snafu and the entire cast did not miss a beat or break character. Amanda Connelly, Sherry Mervine, Danna Blais, Julie Fox, Didi Olney, and Laurie Foster keep the show clicking on at a brisk, fun pace. While all six of them created a believable, cohesive set of characters, the three that I found to be of particular note were Amanda Connelly as Kari, Danna Blais as Sedalia, and Julie Fox as Monette.
Connelly brings such an naively refreshing exuberance to her character that she had me laughing out loud during her intermittent monologues as a young southern bride on her wedding day. Blais displays her remarkable versatility as an actress by serving up the perfect stereotype of an nonplussed, seasoned woman who owns an historic wedding venue and has seen too many weddings to count. I last saw Blais in NDCT’s fall production of “Marigolds” where she played a serious role as a non-verbal woman with dementia. It was wonderful to see her completely transform herself into a different character. Fox’s infectious energy fills the entire room as an exuberant, well-meaning woman who has made some questionable decisions in her love life. Her animated character was a joy to behold.
As is always with NDCT, the set design, created by the entire cast and crew, was exceptional. The delightfully designed bridal preparation suite in the wedding venue came to life with a set that was thoroughly swathed in shades of pink and white. Thoughtfully placed details brought the audience into the story—a set of reading glasses, festive champagne flutes arranged on a table, a framed picture of a woman hung in a prominent place on the wall, and a wedding gift bag. This entire show looks the way most weddings feel—as if all the pink and white flowers have “thrown up” all over the stage (and I mean that in the best way possible). Clever costuming by Laurie Foster further enhanced the effect.
Direction by Keith Mervine keeps this show brisk and light-hearted at all times—the time joyously flew by. Mervine’s blocking adds a needed depth to the staging and utilizes the entire set without leaving dead, unused spots. (I applaud him for his work on this show, especially given that he was in the hospital recovering from surgery during opening night.) One of the things I respect most about community theater is its capacity to show how truly resilient its contributors are because of how much they love it. Mervine exemplifies this with his unyielding dedication to his theatre company.
This is a show packed with hysterical dialogue that is well-served by a troupe of actresses who know what they’re doing. They say laughter is the best medicine and we all need a hefty dose of it in these times. This is a show for anyone who has ever been to a wedding, been in a wedding, or thought about what it might be like to do either of those two things—basically everyone.
Running time: Approximately two hours and 30 minutes with one 20-minute intermission.
Content Advisory: Minor sexual innuendo.
“Always a Bridesmaid” runs through April 9, 2022 at the Long Beach Community Center, 5845 Calvert Blvd St. Leonard, MD 20685. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit NDCT’s website here.