The concept behind Bubba and Brenda’s Wedding is a familiar one to anyone who’s attended one of Jack North’s Murder Afloat events on the Georgia Queen riverboat:
Talented local actors improvise around a loose script using the boat itself as a stage, while the audience interacts -- or just eats and drinks -- as it sees fit.
The similarities to Murder Afloat end there, however, as Janet Gamble and J.R. Reynolds of Interactive Adventures have put together a comedy improv that digs deep into social satire and Britney Spears-NASCAR kitsch for one of the funniest local theatre experiences I’ve seen in a long time.
As you board the Georgia Queen, you’re given a nametag with a fictional white-trash moniker -- mine was “Beans” and my wife’s was “Tiffany” -- that identifies you as either a member of the bride’s or groom’s family. While audience members are under no obligation to actually follow through on these personae -- though it is fun if you try it -- the two families couldn’t be more different.
Bubba -- portrayed by one of Savannah’s brightest young talents, Kyle Merritt -- is the stereotypical pampered Southern mama’s boy you see everywhere these days, wearing pressed jeans and driving a brand-new supersize pickup, whose idea of “off-road” driving is taking the Veteran’s Parkway to Bass Pro Shops instead of Abercorn.
As you’d expect, Bubba’s well-to-do parents -- portrayed by Barry Finch and the rotating duo of Cathy Pellicone and Susan Gamble Wooten -- look down their noses at Brenda’s family, who can charitably be said to come from the wrong side of the tracks.
Brenda -- played to the hilt by the always-excellent Stefanie Selai -- trys her best to control the antics of her mother Darlyne (played by the matchless local comedienne Grace Diaz Tootle) and her aunt Carlyne, hilariously and hammily played by Janet Gamble.
J.R. Reynolds plays the decrepit and completely Bible-illiterate preacher presiding over the wedding, which features everything you’d expect in a nuptual: Bouquet-throwing, garter-snapping, sappy singing, snippy catfights, and -- drunken making-out?
Well, maybe just a little drunken making out.
The show has no profanity or anything a reasonable person would consider offensive. However, the themes are somewhat adult in nature, so young children -- while they’ll no doubt enjoy the energy and vivacity of the cast as well as the let’s-put-on-a-show interactivity -- probably won’t get much of the “plot,” such as it is.
In addition to the show itself, the audience can enjoy a cash bar and a buffet with items that might be at such a wedding, like fried fish, hot wings and yes, Moon Pies.
While the show itself is just about as good as improv comedy can realistically get at a local level, I have to quibble about the food. It may sound silly to complain about the buffet at a theatre performance, but it is included in the price of the ticket, after all, and food becomes especially important when you’re on a boat for an hour and a half.
While the wings were indeed excellent, most of the other food was barely edible. I was looking forward to the fried fish, but discovered to my chagrin that the breading was soggy -- apparently it was covered to keep it warm, which you just don’t do with fried food.
But the service -- and the drinks -- at the cash bar are very friendly. And the show is absolutely hilarious.
If you’re at all touchy about “interactive” audience-participation shows, don’t worry about this one. The level of participation is completely up to you.
The performers are top-level craftspeople, and their show stands with or without the audience. But I say step right in -- the water's fine. ç
Upcoming show dates for Bubba and Brenda’s Wedding on the Georgia Queen riverboat are June 13, July 11, August 15, Sept. 12, Oct. 10 and Oct. 24. Tickets are $38.95 per person, which includes dinner. Cash bar available. Boards at 6 p.m., sails from 7-8:30 p.m. Call 232-6404 or 800-786-6404.