A Hilarious Look at a Southern Ontario Tradition
A funny play about the making of a pre-wedding Bridezilla? Or a more serious message about the greed that goes with the traditional pre-wedding bash? Stag and Doe, a brand new play on stage at the Blyth Festival is both.
The real star of this premier is playwright Mark Crawford. He has written a very clever comedy that lets the audience snack on many laugh-out-loud moments, and then serves up some food for thought at the end of the buffet. Crawford, originally from Glencoe, Ontario, knows about the southwestern Ontario tradition of celebrating with a stag and doe and builds a good story around it.
Bonnie and her fiancé Brad, along with her maid of honour, Dee, are preparing for their stag and doe to be held that evening in the Community Hall. There is discussion about the purchase of booze for sale at the stag and doe, which evolves into a squabble about wedding expenses, namely the $6,000 dress that Bonnie has purchased without consulting Brad, much to his horror. Mandy arrives directly from the hairdressers, very upset about last night’s storm which blew away her wedding tent. She wants to bump the stag and doe and tries to commandeer the Community Hall for her wedding reception. Not only is that unacceptable because Bonnie is already counting the cash to be made at the stag and doe, but Mandy is also unwelcome because her husband-to-be, Rob, literally left Dee at the altar a few years ago. Finally a deal is made to have the wedding dinner first, then allow guests to stick around for the 9:00 p.m. stag and doe. The caterer, Jay, arrives and takes over the kitchen, removing the all-important Jello shots from the fridge.
With Blyth’s largely rural audience, Stag and Doe’s comedy stems from recognition. We have all been in the community hall kitchen – at the fairgrounds, at the Legion, at the arena – they are all the same. And we all know small town brides who compete to have the most impressive weddings. Crawford’s characters are very familiar – I did wedding photography for 22 years – I know these people.
Crawford’s dialogue is funny, but not forced. The laugh-out-loud moments are scattered generously though out the play.
Rebecca Auerbach steals the stage with her very natural presentation of Dee. She tosses off the wisecracks but can also tug our heart strings with her lost romance. Nicole Joy-Fraser is perfect as Mandy, the bridezilla demanding the use of the hall. She also has the difficult role of getting gradually drunk and pulls it off perfectly. Greg Gale as Jay, the caterer is also very natural – he stands back and watches the mayhem unfold, and remains unflappable when learning that his servers have been arrested, adding to the comedy.
The two grooms, Eli Ham as Brad, and Jason Chesworth as Rob, are both excellent as easily recognizable guys next door. Elizabeth Kalles as Bonnie didn’t seem as comfortable in her role. Her transition was unconvincing when she made the switch from wanting the cash-cow stag and doe, to tearing up the cheque.
The premise of the play questions the need for the stag and doe (or buck and doe or Jack and Jill – whatever it’s called in your corner of Canada). In the old days, it was a fundraiser to help the newlyweds set up housekeeping. But as the characters point out, most couples have been living together for a few years and they already have a toaster. So why the cover charge, the many raffles, the 50-50 draw, and the selling of tickets to those who have no intention of attending? Is it ethical to use this community event to fund a $6,000 wedding dress or luxury destination wedding? Or should it just be an evening of fun, held on a break-even basis? That’s where this play excels – it gives us plenty of laughs, but raises a few questions, too.
Congratulations to writer Mark Crawford on a very successful premier. This new show continues this summer at Blyth and will also be on stage at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre.
Blyth Festival has had 40 seasons of bringing new Canadian scripts to life: some go on and on, such as “I’ll be Back before Midnight” which was performed at Playhouse II this summer in Grand Bend, 35 years after it premiered in Blyth. Stag and Doe will, no doubt, follow that path!
Stag and Doe continues at the Blyth Festival in repertoire until September 1. Call 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or go to www.blythfestival.com for tickets.
Photo: Rebecca Auerbach as Dee and Greg Gale as Jay. Photo by Terry Manzo
Stag and Doe
By Mark Crawford
Directed by Miles Potter
Performed by Rebecca Auerbach, Jason Chesworth, Nicole Joy-Fraser, Greg Gale, Eli Ham, Elizabeth Kalles.
Blyth Festival, Blyth
July 30 to September 1, 2014
Reviewed by Mary Alderson