At 90 minutes long, Bachelorette, at Profiles Theatre, does not break for intermission. That’s usually a good thing, since it allows the dramatic action to flow uninterrupted. In the case of Bachelorette, it’s a necessity. Were there an intermission, I suspect most of the audience would bolt. Any who returned in hopes of a stronger second half would be sorely disappointed.
From the moment brunette Gena (Amanda Powell) and blonde, former prom queen Katie (Linda August Orr) burst onto the set, two uninvited guests at what turns out to be a non-bachelorette party for a former schoolmate in a posh, soon-to-be-trashed New York City hotel suite, shrillness trumps everything else in Leslye Headland’s unremittingly strident play. That none of the characters has a single likeable or redeeming trait takes the experience of watching them implode from potentially dramatic to meaningless.
The Profiles Theatre production, directed Darrell W. Cox, doesn’t elevate the material. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine how this material could be elevated, but when this play premiered off-Broadway in 2010 it enjoyed a sold-out extended run. The Los Angeles-based playwright then adapted her drama for a film she directed starring Kirsten Dunst, which premiered last month at Sundance to lukewarm reviews — even a star of Dunst’s caliber couldn’t restore its soulless core.
In any case, the actors at Profiles aren’t of Dunst’s caliber. It’s telling that the most convincing piece of acting comes when Orr depicts a passed-out Katie. Hillary Marren as redheaded Regan — the audience knows it’s in trouble when the three main characters are more notable for their hair color than anything else — adds nothing truly new to the mix either. Even the introduction later in the play of two male characters, Profiles ensemble member Eric Burgher, miscast as Joe the wallpaper-hanger, and Adam Soule as Jeff, who seems to care only about banging Regan, doesn’t alter the formula. The last to enter is Becky (Rakisha Pollard), the overweight bride looking forward to her marriage the next day to rich guy Cal.
Before Becky’s entrance much of the dialogue revolves around weight and body image, with skinny Katie and Gena suggesting that they could both fit into the fat bride’s $15,000 wedding gown. Had Headland explored issues like body image, addiction and sex in any meaningful way for these twenty-something women, her play might engage the audience. But Headland’s purpose seems no higher than to try to shock, and anyone who has watched a raunchy movie has heard this language and seen this behavior before. The irony is that what’s most shocking is the play’s lack of originality. We know we’re in for a long 90 minutes when the most original scrap of dialogue is “You guys had an abortion without me?”
If there’s any reason to see Bachelorette, it would be to see how set designer Scott Davis transforms Profile’s gritty rectangle of floor space into a luxury suite at the Peninsula Hotel. With a few tiles of marble flooring, a curvy pink settee and a crystal chandelier, the audience may think that there is some way out of the darkness.
Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago
Thursday through Sunday through March 11
Tickets $35-$40, with discounts for students and seniors: www.profilestheatre.org or 773-549-1815
Photos: Shawn Cagle