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2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘The Groom’s a Fag; The Bride’s a Cunt; The Best Man’s a Whore; and the Maiden of Honor (Just) Hung Herself in the Closet’ by On the Rocks at The Beard Cave at St. Mary’s Church

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What do you get when you mix over-the-top parody with uncensored vulgarity with pure poetry? The Groom’s a Fag; The Bride’s a Cunt; The Best Man’s a Whore; and the Maiden of Honor (Just) Hung Herself in the Closet – On the Rocks’ original “haunted wedding” fantasia, latest late-night Fringe offering, and the third and final installment in the company’s “Dead Teenager Trilogy.” The full-length two-act work is a sardonic, sad, and spooky “celebration of marriage” and a meditation on the people and issues that haunt us, delivered in the no-holds-barred style of Playwright Haygen-Brice Walker, Director Elaina Di Monaco, and their cast and team of bold and talented Millennials.

Walker’s frightening, funny, and foul-mouthed creation ranges from his engaging send-up of the horror-film genre to his indictment of life in our backwater swamplands to his keen observations on the behavior, attitudes, pleasures, and challenges of his own generation, as seen in the context of the traditions and expectations (including sexual commitment) associated with matrimony. His insightful narrative (visually supported by Julia Montante’s telling scenic installation and props, and Gina Colacci’s costumes) is interspersed with sudden unexpected eruptions of vigorous dance (the smiling ensemble’s euphoric performance of the “Electric Slide” – a favorite at wedding receptions – is hilarious) and the now-ubiquitous trend of interpretive movement (choreography by Kevan Sullivan), along with surreal episodes of jarring emotional memories and disturbing imaginings in the characters’ minds, signaled by dramatic breaks in sound and lighting (by Jeremy T. Cohen). All told, they create a mood that wavers between general outward appearances and personal inner realities.

Kevan Sullivan and Campbell O’Hare. Photo courtesy of the production.

Kevan Sullivan and Campbell O’Hare. Photo courtesy of the production.

In the titular roles, Ashton Carter is affable and sympathetic as the sexually-conflicted groom; Campbell O’Hare is both deeply tormented and viciously tormenting as the virgin bridezilla; Josh McLucas as the best man is a study in laughable libidinous machismo; and Lily Cumberpatch is strange and sullen as the ill-fated maid of honor. Jenna Kuerzi presents a laugh-old-loud caricature of the couple’s driven and nerdy wedding planner, and Sydney Banks (who just stepped into her role on the night I attended) is another stand-out in the cast as the groom’s no-nonsense straight-talking sister, who is clear in her dislike of his fiancée and disapproval of their ill-matched union. Rounding out the impressive ensemble of emerging talents are Joe Canuso and Warren Johns as the groomsmen, Abby Garber, Carrie Thorworth, and Bianca Sanchez as the bridesmaids, and Kevan Sullivan as the enigmatic phantasm of The Bunny. And if you think that the show’s long (and accurate!) title is a mouthful, just wait until you hear Di Monaco’s realistically chaotic direction of the characters excitedly talking at the same time, arguing, and trying to out-shout each other, staged as multiple simultaneous monologues and conversations – another rare and accurate observation of human behavior in this incisive production.

With The Groom’s a Fag; The Bride’s a Cunt; The Best Man’s a Whore; and the Maiden of Honor (Just) Hung Herself in the Closet, the audacious and unapologetic On the Rocks will creep you out and make you laugh, while delivering a serious message about people who don’t fit into their life or environs, and encouraging those who feel alienated, inauthentic, and unfulfilled to GTFO while they can. Fast. Before it’s too late.

Jenna Kuerzi. Photo courtesy of the production.

Jenna Kuerzi. Photo courtesy of the production.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and five minutes, including an intermission.

The Groom’s a Fag; The Bride’s a Cunt; The Best Man’s a Whore; and the Maiden of Honor (Just) Hung Herself in the Closet plays through Friday, September 22, 2017, at On the Rocks, performing at The Beard Cave at St. Mary’s Church – 3916 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the Fringe box office at (215) 413-9006, or purchase them online.

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