Sketch Club Player’s ‘TIL BETH DO US PART Pleasant Diversion in Woodbury

by Jack Shaw

Michael Hicks, Chrissy Phillips, and Bonnie Kapenstein in a scene from Sketch Club Players' 'TIL BETH DO US PART, playing in Woodbury NJ through February 5.

Sketch Club Players’ ‘TIL BETH DO US PART kept the audience laughing at some old jokes and bits at first, then doubled the jokes and bits and then tripled them. It was good fun with some hysterical moments. There’s no denying it. This was an enjoyable show especially as it reached its zany climax.

This was also proof positive that all theatre doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful. It can be sweet, it can be clever and it can be funny. Such was the night I had at Sketch Club Players in Woodbury, NJ. Director Preston Brooks’ take on ‘TIL BETH DO US PART had the audience in nearly constant glee by delivering on some early promises that this romantic comedy was more than just that. The play started slowly but built rapidly to the comic craziness one expects with this kind of show. That was, in fact, what made this performance a success on the Woodbury stage.

The play, ‘TIL BETH DO US PART, by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten is not a classic comedy farce, nor a big Broadway success, but it was perfectly good choice for a Sketch Club Players entree. Not every play has to have won Tony Awards to be entertaining community theatre, and that’s what this was. The idea is basic sitcom, and little more than that. It is a tribute to the actors that the play reached the level of success it did tonight.

The actors did the best they could with the material given; ironically, the one time theatre has to identify with its audience so completely is comedy. It is the one time being theatrical at the wrong moment takes away rather than adds to a play. That is perhaps what happened here. That is not to say it was not an enjoyable performance; it was certainly that, but it needed work–work mostly on the script side, I think.

Whether the slow start of the show was the fault of the script or actors settling in was hard to tell. It was obvious we had experienced talent before us, but the early scenes lacked life. The actors went through the motions, said the right words with all the right gestures. Blocking seemed to work as well, but something was off. I’m going to say the writing needed something to give it that natural appeal as well as some natural acting. There were funny lines, but they were nothing exceptional. Fault: the scriptwriters. The actors tried to make the comic lines and bits all work, however the timing or energy was off because the honesty of the moment wasn’t written there, or simply the fact that we’ve heard the same “joke” many times before.

Suzanne Buksar and Michael Hicks star in 'TIL BETH DO US PART at Sketch Club Players.

Comedy is best played honestly rather than for laughs–especially in the beginning. The chuckles or laughs may be small returns, but they’ll be there and keep coming. And, with that reality as the situation builds so will the laughter. Concentrate on being real and we will identify with you. Lose it when we would lose it. Be your character consistently and the comic reality follows.

If you are in the mood for something light, this is a perfect diversion. My wife always says I am too serious when I go to the theatre. That may be true, but I laugh, too. Classics are classics because they do something, or most things, right to remain fresh with an audience. It may be the topic or unusual way it is presented. Not all plays or performances are destined for greatness, but it’s nice to try. Think of an old comedy you saw again recently and ask yourself if it worked as well this time, or even in a different way. Hopefully a good way. You know, those details you missed you saw this time, or those jokes that suddenly had new meaning. Had the comedy’s time passed or was it still comically fresh? Did it still make you laugh even if it made you laugh at different things?

‘TIL BETH DO US PART is worth seeing and a pleasant, entertaining diversion, but don’t expect more than that. Sometimes laughter all by itself is what we need, and it’s okay to get it at the theatre.

by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten
Directed by Preston Brooks
January 27, 28; February 3, 4, at 8:00PM
January 29, February 5 at 2:00PM
Sketch Club Players of Woodbury
433 Glover St
Woodbury, NJ 08096

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