Bachelorette parties, where the bride-to-be and her girlfriends go wild on the town, have been ripe for the kind of woozily surreal sendup that playwright Adam Bock delivers in “The Drunken City.” Dark & Stormy is producing the show at a “found” space in an apartment complex on University Avenue in St. Paul.
The strength of this comedy, given a vivacious staging by Bill McCallum, is not in its originality. We have seen these characters before in a slew of movies from “Bridesmaids” and “Bachelorette” to almost anything touched by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. But in a compact, 60-seat theater space, the show makes palpable the jitters a woman feels over her impending nuptials.
Director McCallum uses the natural light of the party room in the Lyric at Carleton Place to good effect in telling the story of three friends who are engaged. Melissa (Adelin Phelps), Marnie (Sara Marsh) and Linda (Tracey Maloney) show us their rings before going out for a bachelorette blowout.
The alcohol they have consumed has not only made the ladies uninhibited. It has given Marnie, paradoxically, clarity about her doubts. Upon meeting Frank (Kris Nelson), a fellow who has been unlucky in love, she acts on her thoughts.
There are so many small but potent things in this production, which has a few surreal, topsy-turvy moments, that a frequent theatergoer can find himself thinking that the show is more than it actually is. But the 75-minute one-act is like a delicious hors d’oeuvre that should not be mistaken for a meal.
“Drunken City” features gorgeously funny turns by Nelson, who sometimes says more onstage with silence than with words. Back in 2000, he played an Edgar Allan Poe-esque poet in “Summer and Smoke,” a wordless performance that is seared in memory because it was so evocative. Here, his Frank does a dance that is an offering for Marnie. He’s smitten, but unable to express his feelings. It’s funny, and not too sad.
Marsh’s Marnie is vividly telegraphed. We see her working through her fears as she interacts with Frank, whom she has just met. She comes off as strong, instead of pathetic, even though her insights float on the veils of spirits.
Maloney has had a winning career onstage, and her presence in this show recalls some of her roles, including as a giggly Fezziwig daughter in “A Christmas Carol.” But here she brings depth, wisdom and, paradoxically, sobriety to a character who is a sidekick.
The real discovery in “Drunken City” is relative newcomer Phelps, whose character goes from a slight woman just out having a good time to a powerhouse as soon as she hears that things might change.
The production also has some quiet, meaningful tap dance by Frank’s dentist friend, Eddie (Paul de Cordova), whose moves have as much heart as Frank’s but are less pathetic.
Ben McGovern, primarily known as a director (including of Dark & Stormy productions) acquits himself well in the role of Bob, the girls’ gay friend who has come to help them out.