Opening Nights: Wedding Belles

Your garden club will love it.

It's the summer of 1942 in Eufaula Springs, Texas. The members of the garden club—happily married Bobrita (Gretchen Douma), happily many-times-married Glendine (Pat Sibley), spinster Violet (Kim Morris), and widowed Laura Lee (Karen Nelsen)—are busy gossiping and squabbling about flowers, neighbors, and other dire matters. Think Steel Magnolias—but on a smaller, post-menopausal scale. Their meet-up is interrupted, however, when frazzled 18-year-old Ima Jean (Charissa Adams) stumbles off the bus looking for her fiancé before he ships off to war. The older women immediately begin to fuss over her, enthusiastically planning her wedding while stuffing her with lemonade and fried chicken. Meanwhile, Ima Jean's intended is nowhere to be seen, causing the women to wax poetic about men and love. Directed by Karen Lund, this production is simple, sweet, and perfectly cast. (The play, by Alan Bailey and Ronnie Claire Edwards, premiered off-Broadway three years ago.) All 90 minutes take place on a small veranda, and the five actresses easily command your attention in such an intimate space. Adams is a wispy little thing with a childlike voice who makes Ima Jean as endearing as she is naive. Yet Sibley's Glendine steals the show with hilarious accounts of her past husbands, including an Italian ("He had three sisters and was the only one in his family without a mustache!"), a rodeo rider, and a silk-stocking salesman. Granted, Wedding Belles is mighty lighthearted for a play set during World War II. (Why is it that when the groom fails to appear, everyone worries he's gotten cold feet rather than gone AWOL?) But never mind that. This Texas tale is meant to be pleasant, slightly hokey, and as familiar as reruns of Golden Girls. Members of your local garden club will absolutely adore it.

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