(Seen in photo above: A sob session with (l to r) Clea Alsip, Lizbeth Mackay, Jeanna Phillips, Megan Ketch in a scene from One Slight Hitch at Williamstown Theatre Festival. Photos by T. Charles Erickson.)Lewis Black has to be one of the most manic people I have ever seen on stage, and though he does not appear in One Slight Hitch, his characters are constantly on the move, as he explores the love/hate relationship many people develop for the fuss and expectations that whirl around the planning of a wedding.
It is a delightful, perfect summer theatre offering with tons of laughs and just enough seriousness to avoid being called a farce. The plot is contrived at times, and after the performance it felt like it fit somewhere between a reality show like Bridezilla and a situation comedy. The jokes piled on each other like pancakes at a church fundraiser, and there was both substance and silliness to feast on.
Tomorrow I will hardly remember much about it other than it was a good time.Director Joe Grifisi kept the superb cast moving, though sometimes to the detriment of punch lines which sometimes got caught in the middle of other business, so not all of them were delivered with clarity. The actors mostly used the less is more approach, keeping the dialogue sounding like normal, natural conversation, and the play was most delightful when it veered away from this approach.
Ben Cole was the all-too-perfect fiance saying the exact right thing in a studied way that undercut his credentials as the perfect husband to be. Lizbeth Mackay as the mother Delia was perfectly overwrought, except when she was under the control of a white pill, and brought to life on stage the perfection of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Her only weak moment came during the second act monologue which did not register as more than delirious words. Perhaps that was the author’s intent.
People who have seen the play are talking about two things – the delightful job that Jeanna Phillips does with her part os P.B. Coleman, the youngest of the three sisters in the Coleman household. It seems that of all the characters, she is the only one who has it all together. Clea Alsip and Megan Ketch bring the older sisters Melanie and Courtney to life, with hints of a sexpot in Courtney and a deep thinker in Melanie.Of course the arrival of the ex-boyfriend Ryan is what sets this play in motion, and Justin Long gets to spend most of Act I shirtless, with just a towel or shorts to wear since his clothes have all been thrown into the washer. He is not the least bit embarrassed by this, a strong hint as to his character Ryan’s general cluelessness.
The play is one of 40 that Lewis Black has written, and the one that seems to have been performed more often than his others. The Deal, a dark comedy about business, was made into a short film in 1998 and picked up by the Sundance Channel. In 2005, Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theatre in Los Angeles first produced One Slight Hitch, a play that was later seen in 2006 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center’s Patel Conservatory. It is good to have a chance to see it at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.One can’t help but wonder what might result if Lewis Black indulged his angry and incisive side to write a political play. He has been described as someone who is more a pissed-off optimist than mean-spirited curmudgeon. With his background with The Daily Show, several books to his credit and more than 200 standup appearances each year, he is a writer and performer with a lot to say. Imagine his take on the future for America.
I bet that play that wouldn’t be funny at all, even as we laughed our heads off. Here’s hoping WTF and Mr. Black continue to collaborate.
Williamstown Theatre Festival presents One Slight Hitch by Lewis Black, Robin Vest (sets), Susan Hilferty (costumes), Rui Rita (lights) Charles Coes (sound), Directed by Joe Grifasi. Cast: Jeanna Phillips (P.B. Coleman), Lizbeth Mackay (Delia Coleman), Mark Linn-Baker (Doc Coleman), Justin Long (Ryan), Megan Ketch (Courtney Coleman), Clea Alsip (Melanie Coleman), Ben Cole (Harper). Two hours plus one 15 minute intermission. July 6-17 at the Nikos Stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.