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Theater RED’s ‘Bachelorette’ something new in Milwaukee

Engagement and wedding season is underway and it seems many people are in the position of congratulating couples on their plans. 

With the most sincere “congrats,” well-wishers can find these life changes forcing them to take stock of their own lives.

Gazing into this mirror of self-reflection are the characters in Bachelorette, a dark, edgy comedy chronicling the evening before a wedding.

The play is set to appear at the Alchemist Theatre thanks to Milwaukee’s Theater RED.

Bachelorette, written by Leslye Headland, made its premiere in Los Angeles in 2008, shortly before a 2010 off-Broadway run, but Theater RED director Mark Boergers didn’t know of it before its Midwest premiere at Chicago’s Profiles Theatre (around the same time, a film version starring Kirsten Dunst appeared at Sundance).

The play’s main characters are three long-standing girlfriends, veritable “frenemies” of the bride. They share the evening before their friend’s wedding, with this bride’s impending happiness plunging them into the throes of resentment, jealousy and substance use. 

While each of the bride’s “friends” openly criticize and comment on the circumstances in her own way, each woman also finds herself dwelling upon the nature and direction of her own life. 

“It’s a very raw play with very complex characters in it, and it doesn’t pull punches at all,” says Boergers. “It’s a really interesting commentary on our generation, it’s irreverent and, at the end, a really powerful statement about growing up.”

The play also is a good fit for Theater RED, meeting all three of the company’s goals: 

• Bringing new, boundary-pushing theater to Milwaukee;

• Providing substantive roles for women;

• Providing opportunities for local artists to develop their craft onstage.

Marcee Doherty-Elst, Theater RED’s co-founder, says the company decided to produce Bachelorette at the Alchemist Theatre due to its intimate space, a perfect fit for intimate interactions. She says ensuring the cast members had genuine chemistry with each other was essential.

It also was an excellent educational opportunity — one of those core Theater RED tenets — and so Doherty-Elst and Boergers brought in professionals to work with the cast.

“We did a lot of movement workshops to help the actors prepare for what it would be like to embody characters who are under various states of intoxicants over the course of the play,” says Doherty-Elst. She said her cast also took a master class — “Stage Combat, Intimacy and Shared Weight” — presented by Society of American Fight Directors-certified instructor Christopher Elst, to prepare for the close-quarters, hands-on acting.

Bachelorette is set in a room in a chic New York bridal suite, but the hedonistic activities and gluttonous indulgences will take the play’s energy level from 0 to 60 and back again and again — just like a real bachelorette party. 

Patrons who want to simulate the debauchery can take advantage of pre-show activities in the Alchemist Theatre lounge. Doherty-Elst says Theater RED has created VIP ticket packages with increasing levels of themed perks, from Party Crashers ($25) to the Bachelorette Party ($35) and the Bride ($50).

ON STAGE

Theater RED’s production of Bachelorette runs March 3 to 19 at the Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee. Tickets are $15, with ticket packages available for $25, $35 and $50. Visit theaterred.com to order.

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