When Sarah Palin proclaimed herself a feminist, it dealt a mighty blow to sisterhood, but Bachelorette, a champagne-fueled play by Leslye Headland, aims to deliver the knockout punch. The night before Becky’s wedding, various frenemies (and a couple of guys they’ve picked up at a clambake) gather in a well-appointed hotel room to denounce the bride-to-be, whom one pal affectionately describes as “Pigface Fat Fatty Fat Fuck.” Though the play ends with a chorus of “Don’t Worry, Baby,” “I Am Woman, Hear Me Bitch” might prove a more apt theme song.
Part of a project in which Headland has consented to write a play for each of the seven deadly sins, Bachelorette ostensibly concerns itself with gluttony, though the girls display equal aptitude for envy, avarice, pride, lust, sloth, and wrath. Headland has a talent for lacerating one-liners, as when Regan (Tracee Chimo) insists on her intimacy with Becky, saying, “We were close. I mean, we threw up every meal together,” or when Katie (Celia Keenan-Bolger) whines, “You guys had an abortion without me?” And the much-delayed entrance of Becky herself (Carmen M. Herlihy) hints at some structural adeptness. (Think Waiting for God-ette.) But all the cleverness conceals some rather lazy plotting and a thematic arc that rivals Beverly Hills 90210 episodes in complexity.
Happily, director Trip Cullman has marshaled an able and eccentric cast and encouraged many nicely observed moments, as when Regan, epically stoned, plays a scene with her nose pressed to a glass lampshade. These performances suggest that while mean girls get older, they don’t get any wiser—or nicer.