There are all sorts of weddings: Destination Weddings, backyard weddings, shotgun weddings, DIY weddings… the list goes on. They all, however, have a few things in common: At least one person is going to cry, and someone else (or perhaps NOT someone else) is going to get very, very drunk.
So it is with God is Dead and April’s Getting Married. The play opens with Elliot (Colton Needles) and El (Anna Shafer) separately receiving invitations to April’s (Lauren Farnell) wedding. Elliot and El say nothing, but both quickly reach for their bottle of choice before discarding the invitation.
From there the play ping pongs back and forth between present day and five years earlier, when Elliot, El, and April were in high school together.
In the early years, Elliot and April are in love, with El playing the role of the proverbial third wheel.
They’re quite the trio. Elliot is pretentious and driven; El, spirited and rebellious; and April, a goodly Mormon daughter trying to square her conservative home life with her heathen boyfriend and a lesbian best friend who swears like a sailor.
God is Dead and April’s Getting Married
closes July 29, 2018
Details and tickets
It works, for a time, until April realizes that Elliot isn’t quite who she’s looking for in life. Or at the very least, he isn’t the only one she’s looking for.
I won’t say more than that, but what unfolds is impressively smart. There is an element of an old Taming of the Shrew trope, though in reverse, with the audience rooting for a reserved April to rebel against her “better” angels and become her true self. For that reason, I’ll admit, I nearly wrote this play off 20 minutes in as just another two-dimensional work about young love.
There are no cookie cutter characters we can define and discard at will. Colton Needles does a fine job of making us hate him, then pity him, then despise him on the turn of a dime. He’s an overachieving mansplainer, whether he’s complaining about his “safety schools” or lecturing a lesbian woman on queer terminology.
Anna Shafer is believable and relatable as El, no doubt thanks in part to some smart choices made in partnership with director Jess Phillips. Whether she’s tearing up a wedding invitation or playing a vulgar round of telephone with her friend April, we’re right there with her.
Lauren Farnell has an air of sweetness as April, but manages to cast a hint of mischief that gives dimension to the character and leaves the audience wondering if there’s more to her than the soft-spoken Mormon girl she portrays.
Despite all-around strong direction, the nerd boy in me would be remiss if I didn’t note that the gamer-girls portrayed on stage hold their N64 controllers incorrectly. Left thumb goes on the joystick, right thumb goes on A and B, with the middle prong tucked into the palm of your left hand. Come on, people!
That, like the occasional flubbed line and other small missteps are quite irrelevant to the strength of the play. While I won’t spoil the ending, I will say that playwright A.A. Brenner deserves credit for a piece that is satisfying without daring to give closure.
Kind of like every wedding you’ve ever been to, don’t you think?
I say that somewhat tongue and cheek, but attending a wedding for a friend you’ve lost touch with or –God help you – an ex- partner is an opportunity to reflect on your relationship to the person on the altar and the path life has taken you since you first met them. That may bring a joyful tear to the eye or leave you reaching for the bottle.
God is Dead and April’s Getting Married is much the same, delivering all the feels and more than a few laughs along the way. Is it the deepest or most “relevant” play you’ll ever see? Hell no. This is still a play about a wedding and a high-school couple. But it has soul and spirit, and it’s just hard-hitting enough to leave you feeling slightly bruised on the way out the door.
Check it out.
God is Dead and April’s Getting Married by A. A. Brenner . Director: Jess Phillips . Featuring: Lauren Farnell, Colton Needles, Anna Shafer . Presented at Capital Fringe Festival 2018 . Reviewed by Jon Boughtin.
Michael Thompson says
The reviewer didn’t mention an important element about the staging of this piece. It is performed in a small room at Arena Stage (“Violet”). All of the seats are on the same level, and there is no raised stage – the performance is at the same level as all the chairs. A fair amount of the action is performed sitting down, and is therefore invisible to anyone not seated in the first row. This detracts from the experience.