Last Chance: 'A Catered Affair' At North Fork Community Theatre

NORTH FORK, NY — There are certain times when you step into a theater and find a gem, a veritable treasure of a show that you’d never even known existed — a show that changes how you think and feel about just about everything.

Such is the case with the North Fork Community Theatre’s latest offering, “A Catered Affair,” with a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by John Bucchino. The show, a warm and emotionally stirring family drama, is directed by Bob Kaplan, with assistant direction by Jenna Spates and musical direction by Jim Lowe. Co-produced by Mary Kalich and Gillian Schroeder, the show is perhaps one of the most gripping performances ever to unfold at a theater where stellar shows are like so many pearls on a strand.

The story, while seemingly simple, digs deep into hearts and souls — sparking reflection by audience members who wonder about the long-lasting impacts of choices made, of roads not taken.

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The plot centers on a couple, Janey, played by Leah Kerensky, and her groom, Ralph, portrayed by Ghana Haase. The pair decide to marry — and with an eye toward saving money, opt for a City Hall wedding. That way, they can use their vacation time to drive a car — belonging to friends who are having a baby and have decided to fly — to California for their honeymoon.

No fuss, no muss. Just a crazy, life-changing adventure, an idyllic ride to explore new horizons as they embark upon their life together, that’s the plan. Until Aggie, mother of the bride — in a transcendent performance by Eileen Trilli — decides that her daughter should have a big wedding, the kind with a glorious gown and a real reception, a “catered affair.”

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What evolves is much like the unraveling of a delicate lace veil, the carefully woven strands, held together with tenuous hope and dreams, threatening to dissolve, irrevocably ruined, as truths emerge and hearts are bared.

The money that Aggie hopes to use for the wedding are the bereavement funds given by the government, to compensate for the death of their beloved son at war. Tom, meanwhile, had hoped to use the check to buy a share in his taxi business, to provide greater financial stability for his family.

As Aggie shops for the sweeeping-trained gown of her fantasies with her daughter — she, herself, never got to have a white wedding, because she was pregnant, Aggie reveals — Tom, a working-class man, watches his dreams of a better future dissipate into mounting catering costs and a rapidly expanding guest list on the groom’s side. The groom’s parents, played by Gene O’Brien and Gillian Schroeder, forced to stare in the face of Aggie and Tom’s struggle, capture every nuance of privilege in a single glance or sigh.

The play isn’t just about a wedding, just as no wedding is just about the details. It’s a coming together of families, of stories, of truths and heartbreaks and, above all, love. Faced with the idea that her daughter is leaving forever, Aggie is in a frenzy to give her girl one last, bright, shiny memory that she can hold onto, after years of fading into shadows in the face of her brother, the oldest, the admitted favorite.

As bitterness and angst emerge over escalating wedding costs, Tom and Aggie are at odds, and truths, sometimes ugly, are spoken.

And in the midst of the family drama, rich with emotion and detail, there is Winston, uncle of the bride, played to perfection by Huck Hirsch, who elicits laughter and emotion and has one of the show’s most memorable monologues at a dinner not to be forgotten.

It’s the actors who drive this show, with performances from the entire cast so remarkable that audiences literally left the theater in awe, murmuring, “I had no idea that this show would be this good.”

Listening to Tom’s raw and passionate rendition of “I Stayed,” the show reaches its pinnacle — it’s an emotional tour de force that leaves the audience breathless. And then, an ending so pure in its message that suddenly, a show called “A Catered Affair,” one that few had heard of before, suddenly becomes a favorite, forever, in the hearts of all who’ve experienced the journey.

There are two remaining performances of the NFCT’s “A Catered Affair,” on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets, click here.

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