Communique: Dark Comedy "Bachelorette" By Leslye Headland Onstage At Thalian Hall | PSL
Bachelorette, the dark comedy by Leslye Headland, is part of the "Seven Deadly Sins" collection. This play (also made into a film that premiered at Sundance in 2012) manifests the sin of greed. Pineapple Shaped Lamps (PSL) opens the show on Thursday, October 26 at 8:00 in Thalian Hall's Ruth & Bucky Stein Theatre.
Director Matt Carter has wanted to direct this play for a few years, and he finally got this opportunity to do it. He calls it "a chaotic, sexy mess that is unlike anything you've ever seen on stage before." Listen our conversation with Matt above and see an extended transcript below.
Pineapple Shaped Lamps presents "Bachelorette." Thursday, 10/26-Saturday, 10/28 @ 8:00pm, Sunday, 10/29 @ 3:00pm. Friday, 11/3-Saturday, 11/4 @ 8:00pm, Sunday, 11/5 @3:00. Ruth & Bucky Stein Theatre at Thalian Hall.
The show stars Jessica Gift, Mickey Johnson, Em Wilson, Phill Antonino, Anthony Corvino, and Kat Rosner
Gina: How did you get involved with Pineapple Shaped Lamps?
Matt: I auditioned for them freshman year and they did not cast me. They said, no you're not funny enough. And then two years later they asked me to be in PSL and I've been doing sketch shows with them ever since and I went on tour with them this summer.
Gina: And you were a student at UNCW?
Matt: Yes. And it's my second time directing. The first time was at UNCW for the lab series. It was The Hand of God.
Gina: Did you choose this show, Bachelorette?
Matt: I did get to choose this show. It was hard to choose the show. But I asked two of my professors. I was like, what do I do? And they were like, Why don't you just do this play that you won't shut up about all the time, Bachelorette? It's one of my favorite plays and they were like, just do that. It's a college town. Lots of college students for lots of twenty somethings to cast and people will love it, they'll have a good time.
Gina: What when did you first see the play or experience this play?
Matt: When I was a sophomore, I was cast in the student lab series by my friend Christina Auten, and watching her direct, I was like, oh, that's what directing is like. You don't just tell people what to do and bark orders...you get to build a whole world out of another artist's words and ideas. And I was like, that's the most amazing thing that I've ever seen, that's what I feel like I've always wanted to do. And so I just started finding plays to read. And Chris Marino, my professor, was like, you need to read Bachelorette. And I read it and it was the perfect blend of dark comedy and and sneery tongue in cheek humor. I loved it. And ever since then I've wanted to direct it.
Gina: What is it about?
Matt: It is about these three high school friends. Ten years later they get back together and they trash their other friends bridal suite the night before her wedding. They all hate she is getting married before them and they get very very drunk, high, the drugs never stop. And through this this this drug-induced night of fun, we learn terrible secrets, they destroy each other's lives and and lots of fun jokes are made.
Gina: So I'm thinking immediately of Heathers.
Matt: Yes. It's like if they grew up but never learned how to grow up, if that makes sense. There are these girls who suddenly aren't the mean girls in high school anymore and they didn't really know what to do with their life after that. And now they're mean and scared and bitter people.
Gina: Grown up people. But sort of not grown up.
Matt: Yeah. Exactly.
Gina: Wow. And what has been the most challenging thing about directing it? I mean you've said you've thought about this show for a while, now you're directing it, and that's when the rubber hits the road. So what has been challenging about it?
Matt: All the all the drugs are certainly a big obstacle. We have to fill these refillable champagne bottles up with sparkling water every night and shake them so they burst open like champagne. We have to use these fake herbal cigarette things for weed. And I had to build a device so they could snort coke onstage.
And then the challenging part is just delving into characters that are so... actors don't want to play characters that mean genuinely because they don't want to admit things that are similar to themselves in these characters. But you have to play them, you have to say, everybody feels this way, everybody feels insecure, everybody feels like they need to be right or they're going to break down and cry. Everybody is one insult away--they have one insecurity that if somebody said it, they just fall apart immediately. And that's what you have to find. You have to find why life is scary to you and apply it to these characters. And yeah, they can't just be a bunch of mean terrible people. They're hurt damaged people. They're just people.
Gina: So give them some complexity. Not just cartoons.
Matt: Exactly.There's definitely redeeming qualities in all of them. There's there's one character who I think- I always say he's like the only good person in the show. His name is Joe. He's just a stoner that's just there to get high and have a good time. And he's the only one who seems to genuinely have concern for the people around him. And it's this character and seeing the way he reacts to Katie, this tragic prom queen who grew up and doesn't know how to be an adult and still works at the Gap and cries every night over how she's not as pretty as she used to be. It's their interaction. That's one of my favorite scenes in the play. It's beautiful to watch them sort of fall in love with each other.
Gina: And since watching this piece, the embodiment of it versus just having it on the page, for a long time just words on a page and ideas, and now you have actors actually embodying these characters, have you found new things about the play? Have you discovered new gems, discovered new facets of the story?
Matt: Definitely, definitely. I mean, I don't think you can ever know exactly what the play is going to look like until you put the people that are going to be those characters in there. And then you say, oh I suddenly these characters make sense to me. Regan, who is like the queen bee, the Heather Chandler of the group, I always read her as this aggressive sharp character but this this girl walked in had never been an actress. She never acted in anything. And she delivered the lines which with such an icy blasé demeanor that just sent chills up my spine and suddenly I was like, No that's what this character needs to be. She has to you have to look at her almost like an art piece like Regina George or Heather Chandler. Seeing it all together and then with the cool confidence that they deliver their lines... that's what a queen bee is. She's not a villain. She doesn't think she's a villain, she just thinks she's right. And it's, especially because they're all comedians, it's definitely morphed. The sense of the play I used to think of it as being so much darker. And I guess very Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf bougie, but these actors have made me decide the play is more of a party that just becomes a complete terrifying mess as the play goes on. Fun, it's fun, until it's not anymore.
Gina: But for audiences it's fun the whole time.
Matt: Oh for audiences it's fun the whole time. It's so fun to laugh at people's misfortune. I think I think we all need to admit that as audience members we think it's hilarious to watch two people about to kiss and then someone runs into the room and ruins it, it's hilarious. And that kind of stuff happens throughout the play. We love to watch these characters make a fool of themselves and for their dark secrets to come bubbling up with the champagne that they open.
Gina: A little bit comedy but also there is a little tragedy about the human condition would you say?
Matt: Definitely, definitely. It's really sad, especially just graduating college. Man, life is scary, no one tells you what you're supposed to do. And these girls are like, we're not the prettiest girls in school anymore. Now we have to figure out what we what we want and some of them didn't, and that's why they're so upset their friend is getting married and is going to have a happy life with a rich guy she met. Because they're like, why aren't we happy? That's that's just the question they all keep asking themselves and blaming each other for. So yeah, it's definitely got.
I think of the play as this expensive chocolate truffle and it's got that outer layer of fun drunken comedy and all the jokes and the the mean bitchy humor. And then...when you take a bite of it throughout the play, you realize there's this dark gooey center that's just really nasty and awful to look at. And it makes you uncomfortable because you're like, I feel like that character sometimes. So hopefully the audience has fun until they're like all, that's me up there...snorting coke.
I hope audiences are ready for what they're going to watch. It's certainly not a nice play in any way. Leslye Headland did not hold anything back. I promise a night you'll never forget. A chaotic, sexy mess that is unlike anything you've ever seen on stage before. So I hope everyone comes out and sees it and buy a glass of wine downstairs first, drink with the girls, you'll have a blast.
Gina: And this is not for children.
Matt: This is not for children, do not bring your child. In fact, there are people instructed if you do bring your child, to say that you should probably think twice before bringing them in here. House management is the head of child blockers. They will have a lot of questions that you won't want to answer yet.