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British sex farce in There Goes the Bride

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It's not a huge surprise when no one makes it to the church on time in THERE GOES THE BRIDE, the opener in N.C. State's month-long TheatreFest trilogy. But it's a bit more interesting to learn that when the sex is downplayed in this version of the British sex farce, a fairly pleasant comedy of manners remains.

I've had little use for British sex farce since Prime Minister John Major (and Bill Clinton on this side of the pond) staged their own real-life versions in the early 1990s. Mostly, I dislike its lack of nerve in vending an extra inch of a woman's skin amid low-rent laffs while never actually venturing beyond the timidly risqué. The only immediate exception that comes to mind is Noises Off, Michael Frayn's meta-backstage sex farce about a sex farce.

The rest generally represent the O'Douls non-alcoholic beer of modern theater—certainly light, but less than satisfying.

Perhaps director Allison Bergman feels the same way. By the end of the first scene, she's already dispensed with the obligatory, contrived and surprisingly modest disrobing of Judy (Allison McAllister), whose London wedding day is about to be thoroughly undone.

With the sex out of the way, Bergman seems conspicuously free to focus on a farce more substantial than might have been anticipated.

After a bump on the noggin, Judy's father, advertising executive Timothy (a gratifyingly harried Mark Filiaci), hallucinates that Polly, an imaginary 1920s flapper girl from a client's ad campaign (a carbonated Sarah Winter), has joined the wedding party.

Naturally, no other characters can see her, a circumstance that, oddly, grants Polly only the mildest of liberties to put the make on Timothy. Fortunately for her, Tim's easy: a single fictive kiss renders the concussed father of the bride indiscriminate in his affections.

The rest of Ray Cooney and John Chapman's script involves keeping up appearances—and concealing the father's recent mental illness—as the household falls apart.

Enlisted in the effort are Timothy's business partner, Bill (a smooth Michael Brocki), his long-suffering wife, Ursula (a tortured, torqued Susannah Hough) and glowering mother-in-law Daphne (a slow-burning Kathy Norris). T. Phillip Caudle fumes as Mr. Babcock, the out-of-towner who's being kept in the dark. The mischievous Danny Norris dodders amusingly as fusty, half-deaf grandfather Gerald.

If no great human truths are uncovered here, neither do we feel we've been subjected to a grubby, amateur burlesque. Instead, physical and situation comedy rule in a nice-enough diversion for a sweltering June night.

INDY's contributing editor for the live arts.

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