The first thing that needs to be said about Leslye Headland's "Bachelorette," at Studio Theatre is that it is part of Headland's Seven Deadly Plays series, in which single plays deal with human failings: lust, greed, sloth, wrath and envy. "Bachelorette" takes on gluttony.
Without that knowledge, it's hard to understand Headland's extravagant, nearly incredible characters, who exist in catty, exaggerated relief while their gluttony utterly dehumanizes them.
The three primary characters of "Bachelorette" are almost-thirty-something friends who avidly enjoy getting extremely smashed on pot, alcohol and cocaine while criticizing Becky, a friend they have known since they were in high school together, 10 years earlier. The play takes place the night before Becky's wedding.
|Where: Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW|
|When: Through July 1|
|Info: $35 to $60; 202-332-3300; studiotheatre.org|
Headland is a very entertaining writer and has packed a lot of black humor into her script, and Director David Muse has molded his extraordinarily talented cast into a well-orchestrated ensemble so that every moment of the play is packed with tension and a certain wildness that seems appropriate to Headland's unconventional voice.
The play takes place in a swanky hotel room overlooking Central Park. Regan (Dylan Moore) is on hand to serve as maid of honor at the wedding.
What Becky (the magnificent Tracy Lynn Olivera) doesn't know is that two other ex-friends, Gena (Laura Harris) and Katie (Jessica Love), are in the hotel room ripping through the many bottles of champagne chilling in the bathtub.
Love, Moore and Harris are astonishingly credible portraying these savage, desensitized characters in their exhilarated rush to self-destruction. The cast of "Bachelorette" includes two men, who are picked up by the women. Jeff (Eric Bryant) is a total cad, and Bryant captures his sleaziness well. Joe (JD Taylor) is the most honorable character in the play. Joe becomes alarmed when Katie won't wake up, and he insists on getting her to a hospital. Taylor is taking as the self-effacing, trustworthy Joe.
In the final scene, "Bachelorette" switches from being a caricature of morbid life to being a morality play, and the action ends in a slightly melodramatic confrontation between Becky and Regan.
But even that final jolt can't disperse the intense malaise that Headland creates. Headland may want to create sympathy or educate with her dehumanizing vision of gluttony. Her dark comedy does both.