Two’s company, but John Dixon and Matt Sax create a crowd of thirty wedding revelers in their new show We Thee Wed, currently running Ars Nova.
Wresting momentarily the nuptial craze from the purview of the reality show bridezillas, the duo present their unique brand of wedding madness, with guests ranging from a widowed father of the groom to a nebbishy priest. The opening scene takes place near the end of the bachelor party, the groom passed out at a Lazer Tag game, while the best man and the next-to-best man grapple for dominance in everything from jumping contests to rock/paper/scissors tournaments in a display of male ego.
The pace and build of the first half of the show allows the performers to introduce to the audience the majority of the characters, with all their attendant accents, tics, and motivations, resulting in most of them being seen not as merely caricatures but fully realized characters. Moments between a grandfather and his Jonas Brothers-adoring granddaughter verge on the tender. Then, lest the show wend towards the mawkish, a succession of oddballs join the fray, including a mentally unstable ex-lover and a bawdy, Borscht Belt deceased clergyman in the employ of the Grim Reaper.
The scenarios give a glimpse of a familiar and contemporary, if kooky, vision of America, one with mega-churches, recessionary woes, and non-nuclear families. And from these seemingly character-driven scenes a cohesive narrative organically emerges, churning the wedding day in a dervish of events, from an attempted assassination and a kidnapping to a race against Death himself. Like so many ceremonies, there are uninvited guests and surprises and tenderness!
Which is not to say this is Our town. Throughout the show the punchlines are rapid-fire, and to the writer/performers’ credit, more jokes score belly laughs than silence.
Aided in no small part by Jeff Croiter’s adroit lighting, the frequently split-second transitions are seamless, with the merest projection or pin spot clarifying the shifts between location and character. The duo blend the disparate elements into a tightly-edited, high-stakes climax, with even the most off-the-cuff asides from earlier scenes finding their way into the conclusion of the piece. Audiences familiar with long-form improv will recognize the callbacks and circular nature of some of the storytelling, and may see the joints and connectors in the process. Either way, it is no detriment to the story on display, a blend of the manic, pop cartoon quality of shows like “30 Rock” with the darker tones of troupes like Britain’s The League of Gentlemen.
We Thee Wed is one ceremony you’ll definitely want to RSVP to.