Tears, vomit and drugs fall on Katzen’s stage floor in AU’s production of “Bachelorette” last month
Students explore the meaning and importance of marriage in Leslye Headland’s play, “The Bachelorette.”
My mom once asked me what kind of wedding I wanted, and I said I’m unsure if I wanted a wedding at all. I don’t know if I ever want to get married. She cried, and I felt guilty. Setting marriage as a goal isn’t detrimental, the problem lies in the unfeasible perfection expected of a woman as a result of internalized misogyny. I’ve often felt pressure to be perfect and so do the characters in Leslye Headland’s play “Bachelorette” performed Nov. 14 at AU.
Unrealistic societal standards warp the female psyche in society and through “The Bachelorette.” The female characters in the play lack empowerment and aim for a societal standard of female perfection when perfection (in the play) isn’t possible. After failed attempts at achieving perfection, these women fall into dangerous traps - stimulant use, suicide threats and mental breakdowns - all in an effort to achieve an impossible standard.
The play begins with two drunk, cocaine-indulgent best friends, Katie and Gena, played by College of Arts and Sciences senior Kendra McNulty and CAS junior Erica Pierce, respectively. They arrive at a hotel bridal suite stocked with champagne bottles in the bathtub. Their friend Regan from high school, played by CAS and School of Communication senior Alex Johnson, invites them to have wild fun in Becky’s hotel room without telling the bride Becky, acted by CAS sophomore Emily Krusche-Bruck.
Two men then enter the room, Jeff, played by Kogod sophomore Matt Winton, and Joe, played by School of Communication sophomore Sam Ferguson, and the party continues. Without hesitation, all the girls begin succumbing to their vices (alcohol, drugs, sex) while viciously bashing Becky, the first one of them to get married. Each of the girls mentions Becky's weight-- they call her pigface and torment her for her gluttonous behavior, when, in reality, their actions in the play suggest that they are the ones guilty of indulging their vices.
“If I’m not married by the time I’m thirty, I’ll kill myself,” Katie proudly declares. Some girls begin planning their perfect weddings in elementary school, others begin by describing their perfect husband. But perfection doesn’t exist.
The characters delve deeper and deeper into their addictions until they’re stripped down to their insecurities and reveal the sadness in their lives. Jeff will do anything to belittle Regan. He isn’t satisfied until he coerces Regan into cheating on her boyfriend and basks in happiness and spitefulness listening as a fight breaks out between them over the phone.
Meanwhile, Katie attempts to woo Joe, a polite stoner who has been scarred by the death of his friend after a night of heavy drinking. Katie tells him about her suicidal thoughts, and Joe tells her about the time he was so trashed he lit his friends couch on fire.
“When things get that bad, I feel like Marilyn Monroe,” Katie tells Joe.
Katie recognizes that Monroe isn’t ideal in the conventional sense, but she still aspires to achieve Monroe’s type of perfection -- good looks, successful and in the spotlight. Jeff tells her Monroe was anything but perfect. After Jeff stops kissing Katie and tells her she tastes of vomit, Katie breaks down.
“This is what Marilyn Monroe looks like,” Katie screams, hysterical after the night of drinking, pills, cocaine, marijuana and denied sex.
To some, Monroe embodies the pitfalls of striving for perfection, but Katie idolizes her flaws: her famous bleached locks, her expensive dresses and her calculated smile. Monroe died of a barbiturate overdose, but her legacy transcended mortality. Her fluttering white dress is still plastered across decrepit dorm room walls. Her embodiment of reckless youth was immortalized for future troubled generations. Rifling through Regan’s bag, Katie continues to swallow pills. And when she later needs to be hospitalized, an unexpected collection of characters join her at the hospital including Gena and Joe, her coked out best friend and the man she met an hour earlier who still wears her vomit on his shirt.
Becky finally enters the stage in the last scene, and she embodies a women put together, in love and comfortable with not being perfect. Although Becky’s character has been defined as gluttonous through the eyes of the other actors, she doesn’t exude voracity like her friends.
All the female characters is “The Bachelorette” sought perfection, and young girls today see idealism as the only measure of success. Starting at childhood, society instills the concept of fairy tale weddings in young girls – we should aspire to resemble princesses. I remember receiving my first Barbie Dreamhouse, equipped with a just-married smiling Barbie and Ken. But that’s all the painted pieces of plastic could do-- smile. And the house was called a Dream for a reason, but I didn’t know that yet. And neither did my friends. Each of these women in the play wanted success, good looks, and perfection, and so do I. Headland’s “The Bachelorette” grips the audience from start to finish as the characters face a roller coaster of events, but in the end, a single message is clear: perfection isn’t possible.