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When it comes to sex, drugs, or rock ’n’ roll, living a life of either excess or repression generally leads to no good. It’s not a coincidence, then, that two shows about characters living at opposite ends of that spectrum share some key plot points: suicide and abortion. But quickly, before you groan and stop reading, know that one, Bachelorette at Studio Theatre, is a comedy, while the other, Spring Awakening at Keegan Theatre, is a hit musical.
You can probably guess which is about excess and which is about repression.
Bachelorette is the summer’s must-see play for D.C. women of a certain age and situation. I’m talking about ladies between the age of 25 and 40 who have attended one too many prenuptial nights out. The friend who joined me to see the play has five (five!) weddings to attend this year, and is pulling bridesmaid duty in two. We came looking for catharsis, and we got it—plus a year’s worth of blowjob jokes and an honest look at just how cruel insecure women can be, more so to themselves than to each other.
Bachelorette isn’t exactly Bridesmaids. At the very least, the play’s gags are rooted in a grimmer reality. Instead of cuddling with golden retriever puppies at the bridal shower, the maid of honor comes clamoring for coke. When the show opens, two 20-something high-school chums are stumbling into a swank Manhattan hotel room. (The authentic-looking sets are courtesy of Debra Booth.) The girls have already done some snorting this evening, and what would go better with the powdery stuff than an (offstage) bathtub full of chilled champagne?
Life hasn’t worked out quite so well for Gena (Laura C. Harris) and Katie (Jessica Love) as it has for the bride-to-be. Becky (Tracy Lynn Olivera) charmed a wealthy attorney while temping at a law firm. She’s a plus-sized girl—two bridesmaids can, and do, fit into her dress—and her ladder-climbing marriage has come as something of a surprise, especially to maid of honor Regan (Dylan Moore), who wants a ring on her finger before her boyfriend finishes med school.
Katie and Gena, on the other hand, have lower standards. “I just want a boyfriend with a job,” opines Katie, who works in retail. Becky opts to sleep with her fiancé the night before the wedding, leaving the trio of single troublemakers to bitch, snort, and tell cock jokes in the honeymoon suite. A litany on the topic of blowjobs ends with this exchange:
<8.880000><8.880000>Katie: Men suck.
<8.880000><8.880000>Gena: No, they don’t. Women suck. Men just taste bad.
(Here I should note that except for a few brave couples on dates, my in-demand bridesmaid friend and I were pretty much the youngest people in the theater. Our laughter was somewhat conspicuous. Think watching a Judd Apatow movie with your parents.)
Despite the girls’ moaning about men, they’re hardly disappointed when two show up and add pot to the dispensary of available substances. Both the banter and situational twists are brilliant in Leslye Headland’s script. For all their interest in weed, casual sex, and the Dave Matthews Band, it turns out that these guys are knights in Doors T-shirts. (A film version of Bachelorette, directed by Headland and starring Kirsten Dunst, opens in theaters this September.) Jeff (Eric Bryant) may not know Regan’s name, but he knows her control-freak type and calls her on it. There’s also a chance that Joe (JD Taylor) may be the guy with a job Katie’s been longing for.
The ending’s no fairy tale, however. Director David Muse sends the entire cast pummeling toward a sobering climax. The situation may be extreme, but ladies, if you have ever bitched about that plus-sized bridesmaid—the one whose size-18 girth meant you had to buy cheap chiffon gowns from Alfred Angelo instead of cute dresses from J. Crew.—you will leave Studio Theatre a changed woman, ready for that next weekend wedding trip. No bitching or hard drugs allowed.