Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Father of the Bride
Set, according to the program in "The not too distant past," we meet the Banks quintet, a cross between an all-white, less-affluent version of "Diff'rent Strokes" and an abbreviated "Brady Bunch" clan, with Delilah, their very own half-witted version of Alice.
Initially, the happy young coupleKay Banks and fiancé Buckley (Jaimasan Sutton and Richie Kotwica respectively)express their wish for a small, very small, intimate wedding. Unsurprisingly, this escalates into a full-blown almost societal event, with each family member secretly adding extra guests until the number of invitees is in the hundreds.
From an audience (i.e. my) perspective, nothing unforeseen happens, yet the Banks family are constantly dazed and bewildered as events unfold. No mild astonishment hereeverything onstage is experienced at warp speed with the constant threat of multiple simultaneous explosive coronaries potentially showering all in the building with arterial shrapnel.
Don't misunderstand me, it's not a bad productionthere was a large, very appreciative audience at the matinee performance I attendedbut many discernible anomalies bothered me to an unexpected degree. Despite the Amazon boxes, the Swiffer, the casual mention of a "Keurig" coffeemaker, I was firmly in mid-century America. No cellphonesa solitary wireless tabletop handset being the only means of electronic communication. The mention of eleven ferns which in reality were reduced to seven, left me anxious, waiting for the missing five. I was wildly amused at the notion of six cases of bubbly (probably Cardbordeaux at the stated $100 a case) sustaining the anticipated droves, thus prompting a memory of the biblical "loaves and fish" parable. The oft-referenced and much anticipated shoulders belonging to Kay Banks' beau transpired to be the second greatest disappointment in my life. And the blackouts. Nancy, oh Nancy, what possessed you? Two in the first act alone. Could not a drop be used, something, anything to stop the rude wrenchings back to reality?
Props and plants aside, Sellin assembles an impressive cast, many making their ALT and/or stage debut, with two returning from a respective and impressive 25 and 48-year hiatus. All 17 members interact and play off each other confidently and well, with no obvious imbalance of talenta tendency which can plague many a good production.
Interestingly, some of the actors are better known for playing in musicals, and it is a surprise and pleasure to watch them perform straight roles. Others, I have seen onstage in pre-COVID times, and there are more than a few who are new to me, and whom I look forward to seeing perform again.
There are some very funny moments sprinkled throughout, several which involve Tommy, the youngest Banks, played by Adam Tedesco. A naturally ebullient actor, perhaps a few performance valleys would lend more appreciation to the numerous peaks delivered to us by this talented young man. Mr. Massoula (Ron Gallegos) is another live-wire, bringing his own intermittent comic relief to the stage. The sole household staff member, the maid Delilah played by Bonnie Lafer, is a convincing nitwit with a brain as soft and formless as a London fog. Mr. Banks (Eric John Werner) does a fine job in the titular role. I remember seeing him in a supporting role in Harvey, an earlier, very successful production at the Adobe Theatre also directed by Nancy Sellin. It's nice to see his rapid progress to leading man.
Back to the storythe combination of upcoming-nuptial misunderstandings, teenage hi-jinks, stern secretaries, dancing decorators, flamboyant caterers, a rather irritating bride, a seemingly oblivious wife, and the worry of a rapidly escalating bill all fade away as Mr. Banks, with the sad voice of experience, explains to his soon to be son-in-law the reality of women and of married life. This in turn makes him realize how happy he really is, helps him bond with Buckley, and enables him to be genuinely joyful for his daughter's future.
The tasteful, beautifully constructed set, with a lovely hall stairway, is a pleasure, as is the sound design by Lando Ruiz, whose music almost takes the sting out of the repeated blackouts which the poor, unfortunate Tobie Barker, stage manager and board operator, is tasked with providing.
Overall, Father of the Bride is one of those shows which you can safely bring your mother or grandmother to. Mature men, especially those with daughters, will find a lot to identify with. It's fun, extremely relatable to a certain demographic, performed with real pleasure by all. Bring a loved one along to this COVID safety conscious theater which boasts an on-site testing program for each and every cast and crew member, all of whom are masked when not actually onstage.
Proof of vaccination, or very recent (within 48 hours) negative COVID test results are required for admission. The management and staff of ALT truly appreciate the overwhelmingly positive reaction by their patrons with regard to creating and sustaining a safe environment for all to enjoy the return of live theatre. For this, they thank you most sincerely.
Father of the Brideruns through October 3, 2021, at Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:00 p.m., with additional performances on Saturday, September 25, at 2:00 p.m., and Thursday, September 30, at 7.30 p.m. For information and tickets, call 505-242-4750 or visit albuquerquelittletheatre.org. Tickets are also available at the door.