April 28, 2022
This world premiere is something to laugh about
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
Buckle in. The girls are back, and the turbulence you will experience comes from the laugh-a-minute hilarity that saturates Girls’ Weekend 2: The Bachelorette Party. Iowa Stage Theatre Company has the distinct honor of presenting this world premiere of Karen Schaeffer’s latest play, a farcical gem that would make Scrooge himself cackle with belly-jiggling delight. One need not have seen the original Girls’ Weekend to thoroughly savor each twisty turn and physical comedic bit delivered in an avalanche of theatrical delight.
The power of this ensemble comes from a well-established relationship: the original cast returns to reprise the roles they first created. With a raucous family reunion feel, the instinctive understanding for one another elevates their interplay to great levels, infusing the story with an irresistible familiarity.
The story is about Meg’s pending marriage to Sheriff Tom Lane. Their wedding venue is double-disastered by flood and fire. Meg and Tom need an alternative strategy to get hitched. But their close friends have planned Meg’s big bachelorette party that night. Add intrigues, well-intended actions, subplots and an onslaught of classical farce close-calls ensues. This leads to a series of unintended and thoroughly uproarious results. Think Warner Brothers cartoons, the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges with a healthy dose of estrogen. Don’t worry, guys – you’ll get it, too.
Schaeffer crafts a fine script, elevated through director Kathy Pingel’s keen penchant for developing its masterfully paced delivery and physical comedy. These catalysts bring a rare, irresistible flow to the action. Girls’ Weekend 2 captivates with a marvelous momentum carrying the audience on a beginning-to-end ride on a wave of smiles, laughter and appreciation.
This strong ensemble, with cornerstones Becky Scholtec (as the loveable blushing bride-to-be, Meg – and, the blush is conditional) and Nancy Zubrod (as the unfiltered matriarch Dot), creates a performance energy of megavolt proportions. The physical comedy is as plentiful as the free-flowing wine…and, other stimulants. Peter Dean’s Sheriff Tom Lane, Meg’s betrothed, is an affable, pie-consuming teddy bear. Megan Schug (rampant-hormone influenced Carol) and Kaci Conetzkey (as Ellie, Meg’s daughter, also juggling her own relationship) round out the feminine powerhouse quartet, each weaving into and out of the action.
As Rick, Carol’s hubbie, Gabe Thompson brings his hormonally driven role in garbed diversity. Cody Schug is the potential fly-in-the-ointment Stephen, adding an extra dash of intrigue. Tiffany Flory-Haack’s Officer Brenna Casburn delivers an earnest Barney Fife-like energy to her role. Always wrapping himself with an easy-going believability is Josh Visnapuu as Mr. Smitty. A special tip of the cop cap goes to Michael Tallman as Bubba, Ellie’s love interest. With a low tolerance for the sight of blood (he swoons) and a great talent for comedic shtick, Tallman continually brings high marks for the low humor of prat falls, clonks and more.
The brilliance of Schaeffer’s script under Pingel’s masterful direction is wrapped in scenic eye candy, thanks to Designer Jay Michael Jagim. His re-conceiving of the Stoner Studio Theater space is amazing. Who’d have thought that so much could fit into such an intimate space. Add the talents of Alex Snodgrass (Lighting Design), Dakota Sommer (Master Electrician), Caroline Frias (Costume Design), Brandon Kair (Sound Design), and Krister Strandskov (Carpenter), and this production shines like the best of any small show national tours. The talent onstage adds to that aura. One more special acknowledgment must be given: Lauren Dursky as Stage Manager, for without her keen gift for managing such a fast-moving show with so many triggering elements, it would not be the great show it is.
And, that it is. A great show, premiering to the world in our own back yard. Girls’ Weekend 2: The Bachelorette Party will whisk its audiences into a whirlwind of humor, delight and theatrical escapism at its best. Get your ticket for this memorable ride.
The Culture Buzz theatre reviews are written by professional writers to inform, encourage and enlighten. To receive weekly newsletters, email TheCultureBuzz@gmail.com or visit www.TheCultureBuzz.com. The Culture Buzz is a weekly broadcast/streaming arts & entertainment show, airing Wednesdays 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Central Time on KFMG 98.9 FM and streaming at www.kfmg.org.