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Studio’s “At the Wedding” Brims with Bride and Joy (Review) – Metro Weekly

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At the Wedding: Dina Thomas and Holly Twyford — Photo: Margot Schulman

The Studio’s Milton stage is all dressed up for a designer barn wedding. Candles in mason jars line the floor, succulents and roses wind around the columns. The space feels familiar — you’ve been to, or seen a wedding like this before, and can’t help but wonder, what has or is about to happen?

Director Tom Story and company — namely, set designer Luciana Stecconi and lighting designer Mary Louise Geiger — have so properly set the mood for Bryna Turner’s well-observed comedy At the Wedding, that one might feel like an invited guest. A guest with a front-row seat to what’s sure to be entertaining mess once Carlo, the bride’s ex, strolls in and takes a seat at the kids’ table.

As Carlo, Dina Thomas has this character firmly in her grasp, even as it becomes clear the character might lose her grip on her strong emotions. Thomas grabs the show’s first hearty laughs as Carlo tears into a rant against all the things they don’t tell you about falling in love.

In terms both romantic and desperate, she possibly traumatizes a table full of children explaining that heartbreak is a fall from heaven, while the “la-la-la-la-la’s” of “Lovin’ You” trill in the background at the reception.

Story hasn’t placed any kids onstage. They’re implied, as are almost all the guests, the reception hall, the groom, and most of the ceremonial events at the wedding. From the audience’s perch, in a warmly lit spot on the margins of the main activities, we meet only a few other attendees who wander through or stop to talk to Carlo, who’s laying low over here.

Holly Twyford is Maria, the buzzed yet still sharp mother of the bride, a role the actress inhabits with verve from the moment she line-dances onstage as part of a group “Single Ladies” shuffle.

That Maria should be tipsily preoccupied with her ex-husband, the father of the bride with his much younger new wife, is not the most revolutionary dramatic development. Still, through Twyford, we hear the unspoken history behind Maria’s disputes with the man, though we don’t meet him.

We meet Carlo’s ex, Eva, better known as the bride. Persuasive in the role, Yesenia Iglesias conveys Eva’s ultimate goals in inviting Carlo to this wedding, her wedding to a man, while also offering hints of the bond the two women once shared.

In a series of mostly two-hander scenes pairing Carlo with Eva, Maria, bridesmaid Carly (Emily Kester), guests Eli (Jamie Smithson), and Leigh (Cameron Silliman), the play fills in a resonant world of longing and regret, joy and resignation. Carlo could make a wild, public play for Eva to run away with her, or she might have to learn to let go. “Risk joy,” she hears someone say.

Just like a real wedding, these festivities are filled with folks offering free advice. It fizzes like champagne washing down morsels of gossip and heartache. And right there with ears on nearly every confession is Jonathan Atkinson, fabulous as attentive, usually silent cater-waiter Victor, a ball of laughs thanks to his smooth moves and knowing glances.

He’s with us, an observer to a funny, touching story, vividly rendered in all dimensions in just a few, well-chosen strokes.

At the Wedding (★★★★☆) runs through April 28 at The Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets are $40 to $95, with discount options available. Call 202-332-3300, or visit www.StudioTheatre.org.

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