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Theater Review: “Bachelorette” at Studio Theatre

Leslye Headland’s pitch-black comedy explores what happens when mean girls grow up.

Laura C. Harris, Jessica Love, and Dylan Moore in Bachelorette. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Leslye Headland’s chaotic exploration of excess, might sound a little like the 2011 hit
Kristen Wiig movie
Bridesmaids, with its foul-mouthed heroines, pill-fueled exploits, and prewedding hedonism. But Headland’s play, which debuted in 2010
and was recently made into a movie starring
Kirsten Dunst and
Isla Fisher slated for release later this year, is a different trip entirely. Lacking kindness, empathy, or any redeeming characteristics
Bachelorette’s three central Gen Y-ers are monstrosities, spewing a perfect trail of bile and insults in their wake.

Bachelorette is one part of a seven-play cycle
Headland’s undertaken, each of which explores a different deadly sin. In
this case, the
focus is on gluttony, which becomes less about food than about
overconsumption in every other possible way, from a case of
vintage Veuve Cliquot bottles chilling in a tub to a glassine
baggie full of blow. Gena (Laura C. Harris) and Katie (Jessica Love) are 29-year-old portraits of dysfunction who gather in a hotel room to help their high school classmate Becky (Tracy Lynn Olivera) have one last big blowout
before her wedding. Gena’s recovering from a bad breakup and an
abortion; Katie works in retail,
lives in Long Island with her family, and thinks heroin sounds
glamorous. But the pair have a trump card they cling to—they’re
not fat, unlike Becky, who, despite being the object of their
jagged derision, has managed to snag herself a handsome hedge
funder for a husband.

Regan (Dylan Moore) is Becky’s maid of honor and, at
first glance, the most adult of the group: She works in a cancer ward
for children and
has a long-term boyfriend. Nevertheless, she skewers Becky more
viciously than anyone, despite their ostensible friendship.
In high school, she tells Gena and Katie, “we were close. We
threw up every meal together.”

As the night proceeds to become a perfect storm of pandemonium, coke gets snorted off of silver-wrapped wedding presents,
Champagne corks fly, and Regan invites two men to join in: sleazy Jeff (Eric Bryant), and sweet-natured stoner Joe (JD Taylor), the most likable person in the room. Through the drugs, the nonsensical conversations, the endless vulgarity, and the cruel
barbs, it becomes clear that all the characters have their own issues to tackle. Director
David Muse guides the cast through
uncomfortable sexual exploits, acts of physical indignity, and verbal
crudeness that had much of
the audience wincing on press night. Though the pace seems a
little slow at first for such a frenetically hyper-charged evening,
events pick up steam as they draw toward their inevitable
meltdown of a conclusion. As Regan, Moore is chillingly effective,
almost sociopathic in her icy manipulations. Harris, who
recently starred as the ditzy younger woman in Studio’s
Time Stands Still, is a neurotic but compelling mess as Gena, and Love’s Katie becomes brashly sympathetic as the most messed-up character
of all.

Bachelorette isn’t easy to watch, and until we see
glimpses of humanity peek through the characters’ godawful exteriors, it
can feel like
an occasionally entertaining endurance test. Headland is
viciously funny, for sure, and her focus on narcissistic New Yorkers
is razor-sharp. Amid the sleek elegance of
Deb Booth’s opulent hotel-room set, the carnage the three girls wreak is visually shocking. By the time Becky arrives—a calming, serene
presence amid the mayhem—it’s hard not to wonder quite how these people have functioned without her for so long.

is at Studio Theatre through July 1. Running time is 90 minutes. Tickets ($35 to $69) are available through Studio’s website.