Three Grooms and a Bride

The most entertaining segments of this underwhelming staged sitcom are the recorded voicemail messages left by high-profile performers, who mercifully did not have to stick around for this tedious sojourn through the lives of two couples (one straight, one gay) attempting to plan a double wedding in L.A.

With:
Adam - Seth Resnik Zack - Michael Otis Wendy - Stephanie Venditto Paul - Christopher Jacobs Bitsy - Anne DeSalvo

The most entertaining segments of this underwhelming staged sitcom are the recorded voicemail messages left by high-profile performers, who mercifully did not have to stick around for this tedious sojourn through the lives of two couples (one straight, one gay) attempting to plan a double wedding in L.A. An attractive, hardworking ensemble do their best with the material but are done in by scribe Gary Goldstein, who extends his flimsy premise way beyond its comic value, and by the pedestrian staging of helmer Randy Brenner.

The first act resembles the gay/straight antics of “Will and Grace,” wherein the lives of Wendy (Stephanie Venditto) and her live-in boyfriend, Paul (Christopher), are thoroughly enmeshed with those of Wendy’s former college sweetheart, Adam (Seth Resnik), and his lover, Zack (Michael Otis).

The complications arise when control-freak Wendy decides she and Paul are going to get married and overly zealous Adam coerces a reluctant Zack to make it a double ceremony. The “situation” occurs when, for no logical reason, the cash-strapped foursome hire take-charge wedding planner Bitsy, played to the manic hilt by Anne DeSalvo, who proceeds to bulldoze her way through their finances and sensibilities.

Goldstein has created some intriguing characters in Adam, Zack, Wendy and Paul. His first act, with some judicious editing, has possibilities, but the second act needs a serious rethink if this work is to have any legs beyond its present small-theater confines.

The ensemble, especially the comically adroit Venditto, manages to make the first-act shenanigans plausible, despite the often tedious, redundant rehashing of their dilemmas and the overly zany antics of DeSalvo’s Bitsy. The plodding second act, which introduces a woefully unworkable romantic schism between the two couples, sends the whole production into the lower depths of non-comic despair.

As if the proceedings weren’t turgid enough, Goldstein has included a thoroughly depressing mea culpa scene that has no other reason to exist other than to allow emotionally overwrought Bitsy to chew up more scenery.

The starry ensemble of pre-recorded voices provides much-needed Greek chorus diversion from the onstage action. Serving as comical between-scenes fodder are a menagerie of concerned relatives, including Adam’s mother (Loni Anderson), father (Elliott Gould) and sister (Brooke Shields), Zack’s parents (Sally Kellerman, Paul Mazursky), Paul’s parents (Renee Taylor, Dan Lauria), Wendy’s parents (Mariette Hartley, Robert Mandan) and somebody’s Aunt Sophie (Jean Stapleton).

The minimalist but stylish multipurpose set of Larry Sousa, complemented by James Schipper’s lighting, adequately serves as a number of environments, including a trendy West Hollywood eatery, Adam’s office and the split-stage bedrooms of Adam/Zack and Wendy/Paul.

Three Grooms and a Bride

Coast Playhouse; 99 seats; $25 top

Production: Moon and the Stars Prods. presents a play in two acts by Gary Goldstein. Directed by Randy Brenner.

Creative: Sets, Larry Sousa; lights, James Schipper; sound, Jonathan Burke; costumes, Tim Neuman. Opened, reviewed, June 28, 2002; runs through Aug. 4. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MON.

Cast: Adam - Seth Resnik Zack - Michael Otis Wendy - Stephanie Venditto Paul - Christopher Jacobs Bitsy - Anne DeSalvoThe Voices: Jim J. Bullock, Loni Anderson, Paul Mazursky, Dan Lauria, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, Robert Mandan, Mariette Hartley, Renee Taylor, Brooke Shields, Jean Stapleton.

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