The four friends at the centre of The Aldershot Player’s latest offering prove that Always a Bridesmaid doesn’t have to mean never a bride. Split into four scenes that feel like different episodes of the same sitcom, Always a Bridesmaid is a vivacious comedy that follows a group of middle–aged southern belles and their obstacle–strewn walks down the aisle. Libby Ruth (Lisa Cook), Charlie (Kimberly Jonasson), Monette (Nikki Blain) and Deedra (Valerie Rossen King) made a pact in high school to be each other’s bridesmaids, and several decades later, they’ve stuck to their word, despite the increasingly absurd predicaments surrounding each of their weddings, from duelling grooms to run–away–brides. The play is narrated by Kari, competently played by Courtney Phelps, who is giving a drunken speech at her own wedding and recounting the nuptial–based antics of her mother, Libby Ruth, and her friends. This is truly an ensemble piece, with each woman playing off the others in a way that creates the warmth and easy familiarity of old friends.
As individuals, the cast is strong as well. Cook is an endearing delight as the ditzy but nurturing Libby Ruth, Jonasson a comedic powerhouse as the wonderfully hapless Charlie, and Rossel King plays Deedra, the opinionated Northern transplant, with ease. Kyla McCall as Sedalia, the take–no–prisoners event coordinator, is sharp as an axe, from her delivery to her perfectly honed Southern drawl. The only holdout in this ensemble is Nikki Blain as Monette. The playful sexpot the character seems poised to be simply doesn’t land due to an inconsistent performance that bounced from flat to over–the–top with little in between, complete with an even more inconsistent accent. This would not stand out nearly so much were the rest of the cast not so strong, but as it stands, it distracts from an otherwise cohesive ensemble.
The script of this Jones Hope Wooten play is clever and overflowing with quips. With one member of the playwrighting trio a former writer for Golden Girls, the play has strong echoes of the classic sitcom, complete with touching moments, raunchy jokes, and a lighthearted look into life as a middle aged woman. At its heart, this is a play about friendship, love, and supporting those you care about most, and that comes through in spades. Director Sondra Learn deftly fills the stage with her cast, offering lots of fluid blocking to match the energy of the piece. Costumes are mostly cohesive and combine well with a set of so much lavender and florals it would make any ’80s grandmother jealous, creating a charmingly off–beat feel. However, some odd oversight of certain details — a price tag left on a costume piece, Sedalia’s dark makeup and costumes inconsistent with her character — take away from the otherwise coherent feel of the play. These overlooked details stand in especially stark contrast to the extra elements the company put in place to draw you into the world of Always a Bridesmaid. From the moment you enter the theatre, you are a guest at Kari’s wedding. There’s a guest book to sign, a picture of the fictitious bride with her real-life boyfriend as the stand–in groom, and the crew are all dolled up for the event. This feeling carries right into the play itself, when Phelps’s Kari walks down the makeshift aisle and begins her speech to the audience, her wedding guests. These clever touches, combined with the overall strength of the cast and the witty script, make for a truly fun night at the theatre. Any wedding, real or fictional, is bound to have a few small snafus, but at the end of the day they’re a celebration of love, and at its heart, so is this quirky comedy.