REVIEW: ZOEY’S PERFECT WEDDING
at The Denver Center
by Devon James
Denver Center’s production of ZOEY’S PERFECT WEDDING by Matthew Lopez is a quick, sharp witted reminder that “perfect” is relative. Lopez uses his own personal, wedding experience as inspiration for the pages of this script. And Director Mike Donahue takes this story off the page with a perfect balance of grit, humor, and efficient transitions.
The play “revolves” around Zoey’s wedding reception, and quite literally, thanks to the revolving set design by Dane Laffrey. Laffrey brought the Brooklyn Marriott to the Space theatre, and built a space that encouraged us as the audience to feel like an integral piece of the story, (think “dinner theatre,” only no one is getting fed-even most of the wedding party).
The Denver Community is thriving with talented, credit-stacked performers, but if you’re looking to get a glimpse of the pool outside the Rocky Mountains, DCPA is at the top of the list for hiring outside its’ Region. This casting was no exception. Not often do we see an entire cast of debut performers, but “Zoey’s” is the first introduction to the Company for each of these professional Artists.
Working regionally, is being asked to build deep relationships within a few short weeks; it’s potentially being in a completely foreign environment. With that in mind, Donahue’s production delivers some very truthful and raw moments, packed with relationship depth. Nick Ducassi (DJ) has hands down the most difficult role to play. His job is to get that party started, and theatre goers are not always expecting a party. Thankfully, he plays a self-centered, flippant, yet totally lovable Puerto Rican DJ, that completely lacks self-awareness. Opening Night can sometimes be a point of contingency, and when you’re new to a space it can often take a couple shows to get your footing with the different energy. Overall, I would say this was a very successful evening, but there was a good 10-15 minute “settling in” period for both the performers and the audience. As the night unfurled, we met: “Charlie” (Jeff Biehl), the dream killed musician who was forced into the Corporate World by his wife, “Rachel” (Mallory Portnoy), the highly coveted (other than Zoey) Wedding Planner. Rounding out this group of old relationships from the Zoey’s past, we have “Sammy”, the wealthy, sexually active, yet committed gay friend. There’s also Zoey’s cousin, and chosen Wedding Planner, “Missy” (Kristin Villanueva). Her journey, for me, was the most enjoyable and complete. It was her energy that really drove this piece. And of course, there’s “Zoey” herself that the talented Nija Okoro succeeded in bringing such personality to the title role.
This play touches on themes such as, “personal and relationship evolution,” “expectations,” and “acceptance.” Whether we came in with the expectation of the “perfect wedding,” or we saw where this title was heading, we still walk away with a bit more than we may have bargained for. Lopez basically asks us throughout this play to step out of what we’re trying to control and have faith that the Universe has our back. He does this by resonating with anyone anywhere who has witnessed firsthand the shift in our friendships; the growing apart from the people closest to us. And we experience this through some very vulnerable and touching moments. Most of which include the brilliant execution of character by Mallory Portnoy. There’s a beautiful line that mentions something about “perhaps what you perceived to be wrong, was exactly what you needed”.
Zoey’s may not be exactly what people expect, but in the end, the message of releasing may be exactly what you need. No matter what, it will all be alright.
See what all the calamity is about in ZOEY’S PERFECT WEDDING, playing now through February 25th at the Space Theatre in the Denver Center Complex. For tickets or more information, contact the Denver Center Box Office by calling 303-893-4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: AdamsVisCom.