The truth about weddings is they are only intermittently about the couple getting married. Written by Canadian Kristen Thomson, The Wedding Party is a new play that explores this truth. Last week, I was fortunate enough to see the world premiere of this delightful romp in the brand new Streetcar Crow’s Nest Theatre. It’s a production set at the wedding reception of two twenty-somethings named Sherry and Jack Junior. While they come from different backgrounds, we are told they are deeply in love. Interestingly, however, the bride and groom never actually appear on stage.
Instead of focusing on the couple in love, the play goes deep on the reverberations their wedding day has for everyone else. With a set that perfectly recreates the ballroom of a generic luxury hotel in downtown Toronto, the play captures the stressful, high-stakes feeling of being in a wedding party. From the acrimonious politics of toasts to the messiness of an open bar, Thomson’s play is not afraid to visit some uncomfortable places.
Though a laugh-a-minute comedy, the play is not without its pathos. Its characters are fully fleshed out humans with pasts and problems. In fact, most of the show’s humour is derived from the struggles and pain of its leads. There’s Sherry’s mother, Maddy, a retired circus performer who feels judged and bullied by Jack Junior’s much wealthier family. Then there is Jack Junior’s best woman, a British academic played with aplomb by Moya O’Connell. She’s secretly in love with her best friend (AKA the groom) but doesn’t want to ruin his big day. And of course, there is a parade of uncles, siblings, and miscellaneous family members all ready to bring their complicated lives to the table too.
Another highlight of The Wedding Party for local theatre goers is how specifically Canadian it is. There are references to the Winnipeg Ballet and Karen Kain, and a joke about how North Bay and Toronto are in the same time zone. It’s a play that isn’t specifically about Canadian identity, but proudly owns its Canadian perspective.
Ultimately, The Wedding Party is a humourous and fresh take on the meaning of weddings. The show’s central conceit, that the couple getting married are never seen in the flesh on stage, captures what weddings are actually like for the majority of people in attendance. Lightening rods as these special occasions are for family squabbles and introspection, we do our part to give the happy couple a beautiful day, but it can be a challenge to check our emotional baggage at the door. The Wedding Party is not a love story; it’s a story that confronts how one couple’s happy ending can be a catalyst that changes the lives of their loved ones.
The Wedding Party runs from January 12 to February 11. We want to send you and a loved on to Crow’s Theatre on Wednesday, February 1st at 8:00pm. Click here for details on how to enter our contest.