Once again, Brown University’s Theatre and Arts Performance Studies and Sock and Buskin have taken on an extremely difficult and multi-layered production, Charles L. Mee’s “A Perfect Wedding.”
The two-hour and 40-minute play is brilliantly directed by one of Brown’s most respected theatre teachers, John Emigh, who has “retired” after 42 years of teaching and directing. Mee is one of those rare playwrights who allows the director and actors to loosely interpret his words, changing scenes and lines as they wish.
The sprawling, two-act production requires over two dozen actors, with dancing, singing and musical instrument skills in addition to acting abilities. There are intimate scenes where a single actor or two share their thoughts and feelings. And then there are moments when the entire cast is on stage.
Act I deals mostly with the arrival of guests for a wedding. Many of them are paired up in some sort of relationship. There are moments of reflection, where love, commitment, culture, trust, happiness and the meaning of life are discussed in detail (a bit too much in a few cases). At times, you have the feeling you are watching a Shakespearean production, but then the action swings to a more French farce feeling. And at the end you are deep into a Bollywood extravaganza. The production is overwhelming, reaching for every laugh, while trying to make a multitude number of statements about life, love and death.
The second act swings from a wedding to a funeral, and this is where the play really picks up and runs wildly from one scene to the next. Most of the characters have their moments, requiring good acting skills from many of them. And they come through. There are too many wonderful performances to single out in this ensemble production.
Mee allows for a variety of points of view on love, death, cultural differences and particularly sexual orientation.
Music and dancing are an integral part of the play, and the final scenes are so upbeat, perfectly choreographed and hysterically funny that you will leave the theatre smiling and forgetting how long you sat there. There are even a couple of chances for audience participation.
We have seen some incredibly challenging and difficult plays at Brown over the years. This is a university department that is always willing to take risks, challenging the actors and audience. You won’t see “The Odd Couple” or “Annie” on their stage.
“A Perfect Wedding” is at Brown’s Leeds Theatre, 77 Waterman St. on Providence’s East Side, through April 22. Call 863-2838 or go online at brown.edu/tickets.