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The best part about Starlight Dinner Theatre’s production of “One Slight Hitch” is its heart. Playwright and comedian Lewis Black’s play about wedding plans that go awry is a subtle, social satire with sincere affection for his characters.
It’s a dramatic departure from a comedian who is better known for his volatile, political rants.The actual production directed by Mona Gille, however, feels under rehearsed. Despite some individual efforts, the pre-wedding anxiety that drives the plot does not power the cast.
In 1981 in suburban Ohio, middle daughter Courtney (Rebecca Williams) is supposed to marry her fiancé and ideal partner Harper (Joe Clark) in the backyard of her family home. But when her beatnik ex-boyfriend Ryan (Tyler Frease) drops by, Courtney begins to rethink her future. Add in the heightened expectations of Courtney’s mother Delia (Linda Granger), the daft efforts of her father Doc Coleman (Chris Klaver) along with the meddling of sisters P.B. (Monica Holland) and Melanie (Carin McEvoy) and you have a recipe for a fun family farce.
The cast has fun with slamming doors, shouting at one another and playing around with a well-endowed fertility statue, but their interpersonal chemistry often lacks fire. When Courtney and Ryan finally see each other, their dialogue hints at the flame that once kept them together.
But the argument between Williams and Frease Friday night felt like a stale line reading. At other times, the cast crackles like when competing males Ryan and Harper express passive aggressive pleasantries with each other.
The cast also struggles with continuity of behavior, especially when using substances. The wet bar in the corner of the living room gets plenty of use from family members, especially oldest sister Melanie who prowls the stage in a nurse outfit. At one point, McEvoy plays full-drunk, stumbling with her walk and slurring her speech before appearing completely sober several minutes later.
To steady her nerves, Delia takes an unknown pill from her husband’s physician’s bag. Granger starts off loopy but quickly reverts to lucid. The effects of substance abuse are played for a laugh and are rewarded by the audience, but the lack of follow-through from the actors dulls the comedic potency of the moment.
One of the show’s strongest elements is Jim Lorenz’s set design. Like the living room of a 1980s, middle class, Midwest home, the set is complete with baby blue pastel walls and beach scene paintings. With the exception of the stage’s wood floors instead of white carpeting, we could be looking at many a childhood home.
Friday’s audience did not seem to mind any of the pacing issues or nit-picky errors. They generously laughed throughout and even gave the cast a standing ovation. If you’re nostalgic for the early 80s, especially the election of Ronald Reagan and a less caustic culture war than what we have now, “One Slight Hitch” is a heart-warming time capsule that allows its audience to reminisce and escape.
“One Slight Hitch” Starlight Dinner Theatre
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11 & 12 (6:30 p.m. dinner)
Waverly East Intermediate School, 3131 W. Michigan
Ave., Lansing. Dinner reservations required 72 hours in advance.
Show and dinner: $36/$33 seniors and students/$20 children 12 and under.
Show only: $15/$14 seniors, students/$10 children 12 and under. (517) 599-2779, starlightdinnertheatre.com