Stag and Doe

Planning the Perfect Wedding – Oops!

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

In your corner of Canada, what do you call the big bash that’s held a week or two before the wedding? Is it a Stag and Doe, a Buck and Doe, a Jack and Jill, or a Social?  Is it a crazy-good party or a fundraiser for the bride and groom? If you’re familiar with this big event, then you will enjoy the comedy Stag & Doe, now on stage at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre. Playwright Mark Crawford has used his amazing sense of humour to examine this Canadian phenomenon.

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. It’s Mandy’s wedding day, but suddenly she shows up at the hall, 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 several 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 wedding dinner caterer, Jay, arrives and takes over the kitchen, removing the all-important stag-and-doe Jello shots from the fridge.

Those of us who make small town Ontario our home will find that 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.

The premise of the play questions the need for the stag and doe. 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.

Rose Napoli owns the stage as Mandy, the Bridezilla who demands the use of the hall for her now-tentless wedding reception. She is visibly trying to control her anger, but it gets the better of her. She also gives a realistic interpretation of someone getting gradually drunk. Napoli reminds me of Cecily Strong of Saturday Night Live. Genevieve Adam is Dee, the many-time bridesmaid who was jilted by Rob, the groom of the day. She has the quick come-backs and the rueful laughs down pat. Bonnie, the doe of Stag & Doe has the difficult task of going through an attitude change, but it is handled well by Janelle Hanna.

Amir Haidar makes an excellent Brad, the farm boy next door and the stag of Stag & Doe. He is genuinely baffled by the enormity of the wedding plans. Stuart Hefford is Rob, the groom you love to hate. Hefford is good at being an unwitting jerk. Luke Marty as Jay the caterer gives us an excellent interpretation of the nice guy who comes to the rescue. He remains cool when his servers are arrested, adding to the comedy.

In my opinion, Ontario has three excellent writers of comedic plays – Norm Foster, Drew Hayden-Taylor, and Mark Crawford. (Make that four. I just saw Mirvish’s & Juliet written by David West Read and he should be added to the list.) But back to Mark Crawford – his humour is brilliant, with laughs scattered throughout the play. His jokes in the dialogue are never forced, and the fun comes unexpectedly, but naturally. You will miss the next punch line, when you’re still laughing at the last joke. I’ve seen four other plays by Mark Crawford: The Birds and the Bees, The New Canadian Curling Club, Bed and Breakfast, and Chase the Ace. They are all equally funny, so watch for them.

In Stag & Doe, Crawford has made us think. 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 late night buffet.

Stag & Doe continues at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope until July 30. Tickets are available at the box office by calling 905-885-1071 or visiting https://capitoltheatre.com/

Photo: Genevieve Adam as Dee, the bridesmaid to be, with Amir Haidar as Brad, the future groom.

Stag & Doe
By Mark Crawford
Directed by Jamie Robinson
Performed by Janelle Hanna, Amir Haidar, Rose Napoli, Stuart Hefford, Genevieve Adam, Luke Marty.
Capitol Theatre, Port Hope
July 7 to 30, 2022
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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