Controlled Riot Productions
Directed by Woody Rau
Through May 7
Anyone who has been to the Alley Theatre is familiar with its black box format - it's a black box. But when you come to see Impossible Marriage, you will be taken from an urban alley downtown into a lush garden of Southern genteel society. Gary Lott, who also acts in the show, designed a set that is enticingly realistic, and creates complete immersion for the audience. The plot revolves around the marriage of Pandora Kingsley (Sarah Holland-Froehlke), a young woman who is about to marry Edvard Lunt (Lott), a man twice her age and disapproved of by Pandora's family. The wedding is to take place in her mother's (Terri Mann) garden, and all the action is set there. Pandora's very pregnant sister, Floral (Andrea Lott), is devilishly enthusiastic about breaking up the engagement, perhaps because she wishes to be rid of her own overly doting husband, Jonsey (Dave Ruark). Into this already bizarre situation storms Edvard's son Sidney (Shawn Whistler) - who Edvard doesn't even recognize - to relate the message that as soon as Edvard and Pandora exchange vows, Edvard's ex-wife is going to kill herself. Topping it all off, there is something not quite right about the reverend (Nick Carpenter).
This complicated mess works well on stage without ever being too busy. Even though you are keeping track of many relationships, they unfold in their own time, without being rushed, which allows you to enjoy one at a time.
The cast has a great time on stage. Holland-Froehlke swirls about in her own happy, dingy oblivion, blue wedding wings attached to her back, while Andrea Lott gulps food with abandon and smirks her way through degrading her husband and plotting against her sister. Ruark shares much of Holland-Froehlke's oblivion, while coming off as a Southern dandy of the highest caliber. Gary Lott took some time to settle into his role opening night, but by Act 2 was on top of his frustrated character. Mann oversees the action with the world-weariness of a mother who has seen it all, while impulsive Whistler shows his character's unbalance and neediness. Carpenter finally gets to exhibit his mettle when events conclude.
The cast clicks together and creates a unique showcase of the dysfunctional family unit. But I have to admit, not as unique as the arrangement of "Material Girl" played during the pre-show musical interlude, or Floral's extravagant bridesmaid dress (costumes were superb, thanks to costume coordinator Eileen Kramer).
Impossible Marriage continues through May 7 at the Alley Theatre, 1716 N. Illinois St. For reservations, call 372-3149.