I had the distinct pleasure to sit down with Paper Doll Ensemble co-founder Grayce Hoffman a few months ago for a broadcast of Theatre with a Tea podcast. It was at that time that I learned about their newest offering Marry Marry Quite Contrary. Once Hoffman told me it was a spoof off of The Bachelor franchise mixed with true crime, I was sold!
Part of Paper Doll Ensemble‘s mission is to redefine traditional stories of the female experience. With this, the studio space at Plays & Players invites us into the behind the scenes world of mayhem of reality show, “The Chosen”, where John dates 20 women vying to be the final chosen and win his heart. The performance begins with a “pre-show” at neighboring Quig’s Pub. Audiences are free to purchase libations or sit and lounge or mingle. While patrons are awaiting the theatre house to open, we meet our three principle actors, Grayce Hoffman (Julie), Taiwo Sokan (Taylor), and Sara Vanasse (Bridget) who each mingle amongst the bar patrons. Right before the house is about to open we hear a blood curdling scream from Bridget. Another contestant spilled wine all over her evening gown!
Within minutes we were escorted to our theatre seats (general admission) and the show continues in the hidden walk-in closet of John the bachelor’s mansion as cheekily designed by co-founder Amanda Jensen. The first five minutes are probably the finest of this one hour piece. We are given a glimpse into the neurosis of “here for the right reasons” Bridget as her night has been tarnished from a wine spill and her guttural cries and whimpers in between chugging her own glass of nerve calming veno. As a HUGE fan of ABC’s Bachelor franchise, her cries most emulate series favorite Ashley Iocanetti who always presented belly laughs any time she appeared on screen. Vanasse’s rendition very much provides the same fodder. In comes “vampish villain” Julie and “too smart to be on a campy tv show” Taylor and we quickly realize these gals have a final three pact to get to the end of the season and will stop at nothing to get there.
I couldn’t help but wish there was an actual TV series that showed the “girls behind the curtain” much like RuPaul’s DragRace has “Untucked”. There were several gasps and ahs at some of the frank sexual dialogue. Something surprising in this day and age that some still find it vulgar for women to openly discuss sex and use curt language. I found it refreshing that these perky ladies were able to present real-talk amongst such a comedy. Hoffman had some of the best one-liners as well as physical re-enactments.
No Reality Steve spoilers here as the production is quick and would ruin any of its momentum if I were to share any more of it’s plotline. I can say this, I had no idea coffee could be used in so many ways! I commend Fight Choreographer Lauren “Ren” Williams because I did not see the end coming, but sadly, I can also say that I actually couldn’t “see” the ending because of the staging. Although a small theatre, it’s best to sit as close as possible to get the full effect. Billed as a mix of true crime, it didn’t really have that feel throughout. With only 60 minutes and how the story unravels, it would warrant a second act. The only thing missing was some product placement for Sugar Bear Hair or FabFitFun!
Paper Doll Ensemble is generously spending their time creating works for women, by women. In just a few short years they are moving the needle and carving out a lifelong path in Philly. All of the founders have been educated locally and employ local artists.
Performances take place in the Skinner Box Studio at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Street, Philadelphia PA. Tickets are $15, with $10 industry tickets available, and can be purchased at http://playsandplayers.org/marry-marry-quite-contrary/.
Monday, January 27th @ 7pm
Thursday, January 30th @ 7pm (Talkback by dramaturg Paige Zubel)
Friday, January 31st @ 8pm
Saturday, February 1st @ 8pm
Photos by Emilie Krause.