I didn’t have a laugh meter for the Billings Studio Theatre’s production of “Maggie’s Getting Married” on Sunday, which is just as well. The play might have broken the thing.
If the play, which continues through Saturday, feels cramped, with only one set and essentially one long scene that encompasses an intermission, it more than makes up for it with well developed characters, lively dialogue and a knack for one-liners that keeps the audience howling through much of the show.
Casey Visser, directing his first major show, gets plenty of mileage out of a veteran cast. The script, by Norm Foster, brings together a husband and wife (Shawn Bettise, Elizabeth Alexander) with their two daughters (Amy Peterson, Angela Fulkerson), one daughter’s boyfriend (Zak Kreiter) and the other’s fiancé (Jayme C. Green).
The plot wouldn’t take long to tell, but it should perhaps remain untold. Suffice it to say that the younger daughter, Maggie (Ms. Peterson), is getting married, and her big sister, who has a history of stealing Maggie’s boyfriends, seems to know more about Maggie’s guy than she really should. The action consists of characters bumping into each other in the kitchen as they tend to guests and discuss the wedding.
That’s about it, in terms of story. The play derives its energy from the way the characters interact with, and make jokes with, the other characters.
There is the father, for instance, a dentist who is nursing a yen to became a musician but who, at age 56, has learned not to expect much from his dreams.
“The only dreams I have are of healthy prostates and regularity,” he says.
Then there’s the wife, uncertain about her daughters’ – and her own – love life. When they ask what married sex is like, she blurts out, “Oh, girls, I don’t want to talk about housework right now.”
And there’s Wanda, the older daughter, who has left behind a string of lovers and can’t resist tutoring her conflicted sister: “You’re the only person I know,” she says, “who needs to think before she gives a kneejerk reaction.”
There is Maggie, full of uncertainty; Wanda’s boyfriend, a lost soul who says, “I’m afraid of all women,” and the fiancé, a real estate salesman trying hard to fit in.
The cast is uniformly excellent, though perhaps special praise should go to Mr. Bettise, who pulls off the dad with a sense of longing and resignation. Also a word for Mr. Kreiter, whose part could easily have been overplayed.
The only thing that’s a bit hard to swallow is a rather dramatic character shift the fiancé makes when the big secret comes out in the open. We are to believe, one presumes, that the new character is the real man, not the strutting salesman we first meet.
But by that time, the characters have become so engaging that one scarcely notices. One simply wishes everyone well.
“Maggie’s Getting Married” plays through Saturday at the Billings Studio Theatre.