By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
for laughs; Wedding fails to engage
There are good reasons why this play isn't done much anymore, reasons Bucket Productions perhaps should have weighed a little longer before attempting to stage The Member of the Wedding at the Bath House Cultural Center. Among the difficulties are the 13 speaking roles, more than most small local theater companies can afford to cast with any depth of experienced talent. Also, the leads, the child Frankie and the one-eyed housekeeper Berenice (played by Ethel Waters in the film), are as dialogue-heavy, emotionally charged and difficult to carry off as the roles of Blanche and Stella in Streetcar.
Starting with the opening seconds of Act 1 of Bucket's Wedding, directed by Nancy Roberts, nearly everything about this production looks and sounds terribly wrong. The first distraction is the egregious set by Joe Murdock, a garishly painted cross section of a dining room and corner of porch. Then the actors start to speak. A freight train could rumble through the long, awkward pauses between when one person onstage stops talking and another finally says the next line. As Frankie, tomboyish teenager Weslea Rose Finley is utterly unconvincing as a tomboyish teenager. Her every gesture is stiff, every line delivered in an unfocused, sing-songy manner. As Berenice, Vivian Fullerlove fails to get anywhere near her character's innate dignity and quiet compassion. Fullerlove doesn't act so much as recite.
A small nod to Steve Roberts as Mr. Addams. He has a relaxed, Ned Beatty-ness about him. Guinn Powell has a nice moment in Act 1 as Berenice's boyfriend, T.T.
What happens after Act 1, I cannot say. Saving the best for last hasn't worked at weddings since the biblical one at Cana, and it's not good practice in the theater. As soon as the lights came up for the first of two intermissions, the "we of me" made their escape. The prospect of another couple of hours at this Wedding exhausted my tolerance. And, really, life is too short.