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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
A Perfect Wedding

By Laura Hitchcock

A guy will always say to you, 'Let's have an adventure', when what he really means is, he doesn't have a clue. ---Tessa.
Charles L. Mee's world premiere of his delicious, challenging A Perfect Wedding , was the perfect choice to open the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Center Theatre Group's newest branch. CTG's Artistic Director Gordon Davidson did the honors himself, kicking off not only a new theatre but a new play in his final year at CTG. He directs it as a charming multicultural romp with echoes of Company and the Woody Allen version of A Little Night Music, which makes it an appropriately festive event for the opening of a new house.

But there's more to this play than that. As he often does, Mee has found artistic inspiration in the classics. This time, it's Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. A groom on the brink of his wedding dashes off into a forest, followed by the bride and the wedding party. There love is found in many guises. Meridee, the bride, with Ariel, her bridesmaid; Meridee's sister Tessa with the escapist groom Amadou; and one of the four male wedding planners with another.

Between these escapades and the three weddings which climax the play is a funeral. When the bride's grandmother arrives in a coffin and her son goes almost mad with grief, Mee exploits the chance to deepen his play from what began as a satirical exploration of the convention of marriage to the rituals with which we cope with death and separation.

Multiculturalism drenches the stage with the Indian saris donned by the wedding planners (a cross between the fairies and the tradesmen in Shakespeare's play), African robes worn by the groom's mother and, in the finale, costumes of every age and clime from the costume trunk.

This world's many obsessions are colorfully demonstrated by the groom's African mother's account of her ritual defloration and the groom's father's wistful admission of his fascination with teen-age Catholic girls in their knee socks.

Independent Tessa calls marriage part of the whole apparatus of controlling people by the state. Paradoxically, the gay men are the ones most desperately anxious to be controlled by this apparatus. Mee's people debate marriage passionately, with conventional marriage seen as pointless but commitment as a positive parable for all the nations of the world.

The raw lyricism of Mee's prose is a gift. He underlines the universality of the need for love by repeating the same love scene and dialogue between different couples. In his enchanted forest, pain is always tempered by compassion and the ending goes beyond happy. It's an Ode to Joy and Beethoven gets a credit.

To single out any one in the excellent acting ensemble seems unfair, since some roles gave the players more scope than others. For example, the comic talents of John Fleck as Isaac, Jon David Casey as Heiner and Veralyn Jones as Djamila were at liberty to range wildly and well. Harry Dillon, so superb in Drifting Elegant performed at San Francisco's Magic Theatre for the ATCA Convention, has the intensity to make an impact in the more thankless role of the groom Amadou.

Christal Weatherly's glorious costumes, Donna Marquet's elegant sparse scenic deisgn with curtains playing trees struck just the right notes for this richly ebullient production. The scarlet tones of the Kirk DouglasTheatre itself could have been designed for this show. Located next to Sony (formerly MGM) Studios, where Mr. Douglas once was one of its brightest stars, this vivid theater is an appropriate gift from an actor to the stage where he launched his long and memorable career.

Playwright: Charles L. Mee
Director: Gordon Davidson
Cast: Tony Abatemarco (Edmund), Jim Anzide (Dieter), Julian Barnes (Father Thane), Melody Butiu (Ariel), Mark Capri (Francois), Jon David Casey (Heiner), Jennifer Elise Cox (Tessa), Wilson Cruz (Julian), Harry Dillon (Amadou), John Fleck (Isaac), Brian George (Vikram), Katherine Griffith (Bob), Veralyn Jones (Djamila), Ruth Livier (Meridee), Leo Marks (James), Raymond O'Connor (Karl), Jason Peck (Jonathan), Dileep Rao (Willy), Cristine Rose (Maria), James Sutorius (Frank)
Set Design: Donna Marquet
Lighting Design: D. Martyn Bookwalter
Costume Design: Christal Weatherly
Original Music and Sound Design: Karl Fredrik Lundeberg
Choreography: Christine Kellogg
Running Time: Two hours with one intermission
Running Dates: October 31-November 28, 2004
Where: The Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, Tel: (213) 972-7376.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on November 7.
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