When TheaterWorks Hartford announced it wanted to do “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” for the summer of 2021, it was at a time when people were still hesitant to have real weddings indoors. The theater ended up being closed for most of that year, with the company hosting virtual shows and the memorable outdoor play “Walden” that summer.
The time seems right again for a big, noisy wedding.
“Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” is a saucy comedy from Matthew Lopez, whose drag club adventure “The Legend of Georgia McBride” was a hit for TheaterWorks in 2018. Lopez is also known for dramas as heavy as “The Whipping Man, “Somewhere” and “Reverberation” – all of which were made by Hartford Stage between 2012 and 2015 – as well as the 2018 London and Broadway sensation “The Inheritance”, an epic literary interpretation of gay life in the 20th century loosely inspired by a novel by EM Forster.
As a playwright, Lopez can seemingly evoke any tone or emotion he wants, and for “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding,” he created a rambunctious comedy about a Brooklyn wedding that, as his stage directions suggest, ” wants to be elegant but it was clearly done on the cheap” and includes a ceremony in which “a lot of Rilke” is recited.
A lot of things go wrong at reception. TheaterWorks Marketing Director Freddie McInerney said that “instead of ‘fiasco’, we use the phrase ‘disastrously fun'”.
“Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” is directed by TheaterWorks Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, who directed “Georgia McBride” four years ago.
Rachel B. Joyce, the New York-based actress who plays the bride, says she’s “very excited, after this time of isolation and self-taped auditions, to do a live play again,” a play where she can interact so energetically with the rest of the cast.
“I’m also delighted to do a whole piece in a wedding dress,” she says, which was purchased from David’s Bridal in Manchester.
“I went with Rob and the costume designer. I had to let the people there know that I wasn’t really a bride, so they wouldn’t do all the special things a bridal shop does, like ring the bell. It was fun thinking about Zoey and what her dress would be like, and I had to remind myself that I wasn’t going to buy the dress for myself. But that’s all I’ll say, it’s bad luck to unveil the dress before D-Day!
“The whole play takes place at a reception for this wedding,” says Joyce. “Everything is high: strong emotions, high stress… The bride feels a lot of emotions. The whole piece runs on a motor that’s go-go-go. It’s not like an all-out stage fight, but there’s a lot of choreographic movement. We really push each other.
“We are only six [actors] to represent the whole marriage.
One of the things that sets the tone: a DJ who spins everything from wedding-friendly standards to 80s pop hits.
“The play is set in 2008,” Joyce says, which means COVID and other recent world events aren’t in the air. “It’s just the right amount of period piece. We are talking about Obama.
A society actor came to “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” through a different path than agents, managers, and auditions in New York City. Halley Eliza Friedman plays Zoey’s cousin, Missy, who has been commissioned as a wedding planner. Friedman is a student at the Hartt School, whose previous off-campus performances in the area include a reading of Thornton Wilder’s “The Long Christmas Dinner” at Hartford Stage and playing Rapunzel in “Into the Woods” for Playhouse on Park’s Connecticut Shakespeare Festival. last summer .
“My relationship with TheaterWorks started with ‘The River,'” she says, citing the Jez Butterworth drama Ruggiero directed in the fall of 2018. “I saw it for school and absolutely loved it. I wrote an essay for the class about the completely silent 20 minute scene where you just see this man gutting a fish. Then in my sophomore year I did an internship there when they were doing “American His”.
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Friedman now finds himself on stage in a TheaterWorks show.
“There’s so much energy in the room,” she says. “For many of us, this is the first production we’ve done since the pandemic.”
The rest of the “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” cast includes Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Blair Lewin and Daniel José as the bride’s friends, and Esteban Carmona as the wedding DJ. It’s true, the groom (whose name is Patrick) is not a big character in the play.
And what is Missy, Friedman’s character, wearing at the wedding?
“I’m wearing a beautiful floral pink dress. My favorite thing about it is that I have to wear a fanny pack, and I love wearing fanny packs. My fanny pack and notepad will be color matched to the dress.
“Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” runs from April 30 through June 5 at TheaterWorks Hartford, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. $65. twhartford.org.
Christopher Arnott can be reached at [email protected].