Love is in the air at Hendersonville Community Theatre: If you like traditional rom-coms, this is the play for you. Significant Other, written by local playwright and Xpress contributor Jeff Messer, is showing on HCT’s second stage through Sunday, July 9.
Joe (played by Blake Smith) is faced with quite a conundrum. He’s about to marry Emily (Matilyn Hull) — the girl of his dreams — when he receives a letter from a past lover, Maggie (Kathleen Riddle), the day before his wedding. This spirals the eventful day and all of Joe’s surrounding friends into a last-minute frenzy.
This is Messer’s official premiere of Significant Other, a play he wrote years ago, when he was similar to the age of Joe’s character. It is poignant to think of this play’s journey from then to now. Ultimately, it was worthwhile to blow the dust off the pages rather than let it be forgotten in a drawer somewhere. As a playwright, Messer pens some excellent stand-alone zingers. As a director, he oftentimes over-indulges the comedy with inflated moments that threaten to yank reality from his words. But when those realistic moments are present, they are rewarding.
The casting of Smith was essential to ensure that the necessary drama in this romantic-comedy is anchored. When a scene starts to rumble out of control, his wit and natural charisma tame it. Hull is well suited as the sensitive bride and displays unexpected sensuality in an early scene with Smith. They work so well together, it seems almost impossible that the wedding could be in question.
At first, it feels like Maggie is out to sabotage things, but Riddle smartly goes for the dramatic approach as she has too little stage-time to play the viper that we so crave. We keep thinking there’s this big bombshell that’s going to land upon us — something that explains the destruction of Joe and Maggie’s relationship. But the story never offers up an explosion.
One of the best things about this play is that almost every character gets his or her own opportunity for a full-circle mini-story. Tessa Martin as Susan is this play’s shining star. With her well-balanced pop of comedy, she reminds us of Bridesmaids’ Wendi McLendon-Covey. Martin brings a winning personality of her own that is adored in every scene. When Zachary Eden, as the Reverend Matt, promiscuously photographs her at a bachelor party, she comes unglued. Eden has some great one-liners but, at times, he doesn’t appear to be fully invested in the scene.
Jack McConnell, as Jacob, impresses from beginning to end, as well as Jenny Lee as “the Best Man” Max. Lee has the play’s greatest scene, recalling her character’s coming-out story while in the groom’s dressing room with Smith. Other players include the energetic Christopher Fox, Lenin Angell, Mary Grace Mullinax, Jan Robbins and the underused Barbie Angell.
WHAT: Significant Other
WHERE: Hendersonville Community Theatre, 229 S. Washington St., hendersonvilletheatre.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, July 9. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. $16