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Grand's 'Bride' is a classic

Vicki Pugmire, Ashlee LaPine, Brian Bahr and Bruce Craven, clockwise from top, star in "Father of the Bride."
Vicki Pugmire, Ashlee LaPine, Brian Bahr and Bruce Craven, clockwise from top, star in "Father of the Bride."
Steve Fidel, Deseret Morning News

FATHER OF THE BRIDE, Grand Theatre, through Nov. 6, 957-3322. Running time: two hours, five minutes (two intermissions).

This 55-year-old story is supposed to be a comedy. But — depending on your placement in the family tree — it could be closer to a Greek tragedy.

Adapted by Caroline Francke from Edward Streeter's 1949 novel, the tale has seen its share of film versions, including remakes and sequels. But this still holds up very well as a humorous look at how one family survives — just barely — the betrothal and marriage of their daughter.

The setting is the living room of the Banks family home in a small Connecticut town, circa 1952. A room that, within the next few months (five scenes spread over three acts), will turn into Grand Central Station.

Coordinating the ever-increasing traffic across the stage is Anthony Buck, in his first Grand Theatre solo directorial job. And he's put together an excellent cast.

Ashlee LaPine and Brian Bahr are delightful as the romantic young couple, Kay Banks and Buckley Dunstan. They both agree on one thing — just a small, intimate wedding. Maybe they'll just drive around until they find a quaint little ivy-covered church.

As it turns out, the only "driving" in this comedy is driving dear old Dad — Stanley Banks — out of his mind (and maybe into bankruptcy). Bruce Craven is terrific as the title character, who sees his wallet become thinner as the guest list grows fatter . . . in direct proportion to the escalating numbers and fees of caterers, designers and other assorted wedding services. Vicki Pugmire is perfectly cast as his concerned wife.

Buckley and his soon-to-be father-in-law are quick to learn that whatever men propose — after "the proposal" — means zilch. Rounding out the family are Kay's two younger brothers — Ben (played by Jason Gordon) and little Tommy (Shane Davis).

One of the most comical roles is Miss Bellamy (Barb Gandy), Mr. Banks' all-business secretary, who flees the premises after her efforts at paring down the guest list are torpedoed by family members, who are constantly shifting names from the "house-only" list to the "church-only" list.

Mike Brown delivers a fine performance, too, as Mr. Massoula, the caterer. He's appalled when the Banks purchase American, not French, champagne (Mrs. Banks insists they're just trying to be patriotic).

There are also several other good players in lesser roles — Joe (Jim Tarr), who does the grunt work for Mr. Massoula, plus Becky Williams as the fussy maid, Dellialah and others who surface during the final scene on the day of the wedding.

Thad Hansen's period costuming (augmented by Jennifer H. Lloyd's makeup and wigs), Greg Caputo's realization of a mid-'50s home and James Mayo's sound were fine.

Depending on whether you've been through a wedding , "Father of the Bride" could be considered either a gently humorous glimpse at the marriage process — or a horror story just in time for Halloween.

Just don't expect the frenetic Steve Martin version. This is slower paced, closer to the Spencer Tracy version.


E-mail: ivan@desnews.com