Playground Theatre’s season finale revels in destructive excess and the ugliness of words as evidenced in its excellent production of Leslye Headland’s brutally dark and provocative comedy Bachelorette, continuing through March 11 in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center.
Co-directed with captivating realism and savvy use of space by Jenna Valyn and A.J. Breslin, Bachelorette centers on a wild night reuniting Regan, Gena and Katie, high school friends living it up in a swanky Manhattan hotel suite overlooking Central Park. They’re in town for their mutual friend Becky’s wedding, but actually despise her. After all, Becky is getting married before them and at her current weight, fueling extreme jealousy, backbiting and body shaming. Whether or not this amusing clique can look past the past and simply evolve as mature, tolerant women is an underlying factor in the sitcom-esque action, which catapults into an evening of heavy drinking and vicious insults ultimately putting their friendship to the test.
Kaleigh-Brooke Dillingham (Regan), Mary “Alaska” Stoughton (Gena) and MacKenzie Aaryn Stephens (Katie) deliver bold, brave, physical, and heartbreaking performances. Dillingham, memorable in Playground’s local premieres of Really, Really and Reasons to Be Pretty, skillfully attacks with icy intimidation solidifying Regan’s status as the queen bee. She unleashes her stings with laser sharp precision as if at target practice while winningly revealing the layers within Regan’s emotionally wounded fragility, especially pertaining to her unhappy love life and addiction to prescription drugs. Stoughton, funny and unique, nicely balances Gena’s central responsibilities as sidekick and sister. In a complete departure, Stephens, previously seen in Wright State University’s productions of A Streetcar Named Desire and The Grapes of Wrath, approaches her comic relief with impressive abandon while vibrantly conveying how troubled Katie is beneath her giddy party girl exterior. Valyn delivers a brief yet powerful turn as Becky, orchestrating a terrific showdown with Dillingham that is the show’s pivotal centerpiece. Darren Lee Brown (Jeff) and Christopher Hahn (Joe) effectively intermix as confident if underwritten men on the prowl with varying objectives on the evening’s revelry from the bedroom to Motown.
Check out Bachelorette and see why Playground Theatre is Dayton’s foremost cutting edge theater company to have and to hold for many seasons to come.
Bachelorette continues today at 2 and 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. The production runs 80 minutes without intermission. Tickets are $15-$20. For tickets, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com. More information can be found at theplaygroundtheatre.org. You can also follow Playground’s Spotify playlist at pgdyt.org/bachelorette. The play contains adult themes, strong language, alcohol and drug use, sexual content, and nudity.