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Headland’s ‘Bachelorette,’ by LunaBY: Jim Rutter 01.31.2012
At a pre-wedding party, three single women fast approaching 30 chase down their sour grapes with pot, pills, and champagne. Notwithstanding its lack of plot, Bachelorette scores some perceptive points about the “happiness gap” suffered by young professional women who lack traditional families.
Bachelorette. By Leslye Headland; Gregory Scott Campbell directed. Luna Theater Company production through February 18, 2012 at Skybox at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St. www.lunatheater.org.
Lost generation, still losingJIM RUTTER
Bret Easton Ellis’s 1985 novel Less Than Zero, with its depiction of the drug-addled, promiscuous and licentious lifestyles of affluent sons and daughters, was pilloried by critics for two opposing reasons. Half objected to Ellis’s brutal portrayal of substance abuse and easy sex; the other half doubted that such characters existed in Los Angeles, let alone anywhere else.
Few perceived Ellis as an epidemiologist diagnosing the decay of self-indulgent narcissism that was about to trickle down into the professional and working classes. When Ellis published his chronicle of young adults “afraid to merge,” the average age of first marriage for women was still just 23.3 (and only 25.5 for men).
Fast-forward to the present-day setting of Leslye Headland’s equally raw and uncensored Bachelorette, where a trio of women fast approaching 30 can’t stand that the “fat friend” they belittled in high school will beat them to the altar (with a rich fiancé, to boot). Over the play’s 70 minute run time, they party away the pre-wedding night in a five-star Fifth Avenue hotel suite, chasing down their sour grapes with pot, prescription pills, cocaine and magnums of champagne.
Between drinks and hits, they disparage their past and current lovers (calling them “boyfriends” would imply stable relationships), mock a friend’s abortion (wait, you guys had an abortion without me?) and debate the merits of using blow jobs to manipulate men into long-term commitment.
None of them has found success in life or love; Katie (Kate Brennan) is a former prom queen who now works in retail; Gena (Amanda Damron) survives by scoring coke; and Regan (Julia Frey) works in a cancer ward so she can pinch pain pills from patients.
Frey fidgets with a pair of eye-catching pyramids dangling from her ears, her face an emotionless slate as her insults deflect any responsibility for ruining the one marker signifying a friend’s transition into adulthood. Brennan lists about the stage in perpetual intoxication.
Headland’s plot, such as it is, involves Gena and Regan ripping the 15K wedding gown and Katie passing out. Nevertheless, in this snapshot of an evening, Headland at times brilliantly depicts a spoiled generation’s refusal to acknowledge that their extended childhood has expired.
Studies have found that career-oriented, well-educated women suffer from a “happiness gap,” and many of them long for a more traditional lifestyle of marriage and motherhood. Bachelorette’s characters both indulge and exemplify these attitudes. They work at unfulfilling jobs and flounder from one weekend to the next with no long-term purpose.
The men in Bachelorette fare no better. An alpha male (Bob Stineman) opts for quick and easy seduction of drunk, loose women, while his beta-male buddy (Jeremy Gable) holds Katie’s hair while she vomits and refuses her advances afterward because “she’s not in a good place.” Both genders stroll through life in a bubble, admitting no responsibility or consequence for their actions.
Greg Campbell’s direction downplays the more political asides and oblique references to Marilyn Monroe while emphasizing the existential burnout of those who’ve been charred in the crucible of hedonism. His pacing achieves a deft balance between humor and horror; Headland’s quips may not be memorable (“I once woke up naked next to a hamburger and thought, did I just fuck a hamburger?”), but they’re well delivered, and the laughs end in gasps at the shocking indifference of grown women to their own depravity.
What can we learn from this play? Maybe nothing, except that Brent Easton Ellis may have more prescient than anyone realized back in 1985.
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