Risk comes naturally to Playground Theatre, but organizers admit the company’s local premiere of Leslye Headland’s viciously dark comedy “Bachelorette” pushes its penchant for the provocative as never before.
Opening Thursday, March 8, in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center, “Bachelorette” reunites Regan, Gena and Katie, high school friends gathering in a luxurious New York City hotel suite the night before their old friend Becky’s wedding. The trio is happy for Becky but jealousy, resentment and vindictiveness consume them, leading to an evening of heavy drinking and stinging comments that put their friendship to the test.
“We wanted to take a big risk and end our season with a bang,” said Playground co-founder Christopher Hahn. “We’re constantly learning about the types of shows and stories we can tell and what works for us. The only way for us to be sure of a certain play is to do it. There are other plays down the line we want to tackle that are probably riskier than ‘Bachelorette,’ so if we’re going to do that we have to start somewhere. We don’t know how this show will be perceived, but it does have a ‘Sex and the City’ vibe and also addresses how far people go to cover up deep insecurities.”
“This play also features the most nudity we’ve ever put on stage before and I know that’s something not seen very much in Dayton theater,” echoed Playground co-founder Jenna Valyn, who also serves as co-director and portrays Becky. “We’re nervous about it, but we also recognize we’re a cutting-edge theater company who wants to push the boundaries and take risks. Most importantly, this is a very important story to tell. I love how much it represents the female perspective. The characters are colorful and powerful even though they’re not the nicest people in the world. They’re flawed 29-year-olds who have to take a harsh look at where they are in their lives. They ultimately spew venom fueled by alcohol. The show really examines excess among millennials but everyone will be able to relate.”
“The themes in this show are appropriate and relevant to everyday life,” added Darren Lee Brown who portrays Jeff, a friend of Joe, portrayed by Hahn, who joins the ladies in their wicked revelry. “The play’s sitcom structure is unique but there is a definite seriousness to the issues as well.”
Examining eye-opening truths
KB Dillingham (Regan), Alaska Stoughton (Gena) and MacKenzie Aaryn Stephens (Katie) acknowledge the delicacy of the play’s brutal examinations of gluttony, bullying and body shaming. However, they’re excited to tell a story that will hopefully encourage others to be more tolerant and aware.
“I grew up as a dancer and someone who was very conscious of what my body looked like,” Stoughton said. “It was hard to be in an industry so concerned with being thin. I remember saying certain things about people that were bigger than me, but now I’ve realized there is no standard when it comes to beauty. I’ve come to terms with my past because of this play.”
“These characters are being affected by society’s idea of what women should be,” added Stephens, a Wright State University acting major recently seen as Rose of Sharon in “The Grapes of Wrath.” “It also shows us how much people are constantly screaming for help without screaming for help. Katie particularly masks her problems and drowns her sorrows in a good time which so many people do. We live in a society in which we don’t want to admit anything is wrong, and if it is wrong it’s someone else’s fault.”
“It’s gross the way females treat each other without even knowing it sometimes,” Dillingham remarked. “Regan gets twisted pleasure out of being cruel. It’s pretty despicable. This play speaks to what we do to each other as human beings. We put up walls and live inside them but you can’t hide from the truth. It’s always there.”
Considering the rise of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, co-director A.J. Breslin feels “Bachelorette” taps into the importance of female relationships in a distinct way in spite of the material’s spiteful framework.
“It’s important for women to build each other up,” he said. “As women today continue to fight for their rights across the board, this story needs to be told even if it is cynical and tragic. This play starts a conversation as to what can happen when women are not (in solidarity).”