Invited To The Wedding: T2’s return to live theater exciting, emotional

Invited To The Wedding: T2’s return to live theater exciting, emotional

In a show-stopping monologue at the top of Bryna Turner’s “At the Wedding,” main character Carlo details the lofty heights of falling in love: “Food will taste better/music will sound better/you will suddenly comprehend /every line in every book you’ve ever read/as it was meant to be comprehended,” she says.


But, as Carlo knows better than anybody, not every love story has a happy ending, and the monologue is a roller coaster of a speech that launches the audience as witnesses to the most painful evening Carlo has ever experienced. Turner’s dialogue, fast-paced and crackling with wit, keeps things from becoming too maudlin while still providing plenty of thought-provoking moments that point toward a message of hope and optimism. As a whole, the show seems a perfect choice for TheatreSquared’s first live production since the pandemic started.

“‘At the Wedding’ is a quirky, fast-paced, very funny 70 minutes of pure joy and chaos,” says director Keira Fromm, who last directed T2’s 2018 production of “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.” “It’s a dark comedy about love and loss, set against the backdrop of a wedding, with a killer soundtrack. Comedy feels like the perfect draw to get back to the theater. Laughter is very restorative, and I think people want and need the opportunity to laugh after this year of isolation.”

Turner’s writing style is distinctive: Her scripts might look more like poems on the page, but her dialogue is grounded, visceral and contemporary.

“This is the second play of Bryna Turner’s I’ve directed,” says Fromm. “The first play, ‘Bull in a China Shop,’ I was drawn to for two reasons: [First,] it’s a play about feminism, and [second,] I was compelled by the way the words were laid out on the page. Bryna’s plays are deeply poetic. She loves language and uses it with great intention. This is the case with ‘At the Wedding,’ too. The poetry is a primary feature. And yet, at the same time, she writes these very authentic, complex characters who you can’t help but identify with. So much of this play is about making space for change in your life. Some characters are embracing that notion confidently; others are defiantly resisting. That makes for some really exciting and explosive moments in the theater.”

“This cast is just hilarious and moving and wonderful,” says Tyler Meredith, who plays Carlo in T2’s production of “At the Wedding.” “I think we all feel so ready to be able to welcome audiences again — we miss them. I’m so excited that TheatreSquared has done such an incredible job as far as safety measures and keeping us safe.”

“As an audience member, I saw a production of ‘Bull in a China Shop,’ and there is something really melodic about her writing,” agrees Tyler Meredith, who plays Carlo. “I do a lot of Shakespeare , and I told [Turner], ‘Whether you want to or not, you write in iambic pentameter.’ She doesn’t, really, but it has that feeling. I think ‘lyrical’ is the perfect way to describe it. There’s a melody to it. And, somehow, it’s incredibly contemporary.”

Meredith worked on “At the Wedding” in its workshop phase during the 2019 Arkansas New Play Fest. The role of caustic, cynical Carlo is worlds apart from that of the titular role in “Miss Bennet,” which she played in late 2018.

“If people hadn’t seen [the workshop production], but maybe had only seen me in ‘Miss Bennett,’ it couldn’t be more different, which is so exciting for me,” she says. “I love that this character is a bit unhinged but incredibly charismatic. She has some qualities and elements that I don’t normally get to play. Turner’s script is so well-crafted, and it’s been so incredible to grow with it during the New Play Fest. And then to be able to come back and do a world premiere — especially in this role — is the greatest honor.”

For both Meredith and Fromm, this is the first return to the stage since the pandemic shuttered most live arts events in March of 2020.

“It’s surreal, to be honest,” says Fromm of returning. “To be back in rehearsal rooms, theater spaces, the costume shop, et cetera — places that are so familiar but have been off-limits for 13 months, feels a bit like emotional whiplash. These are spaces that have been second homes to many of us. So to rejoin our friends, collaborators, the theater itself, in-person after such an extended hiatus creates a lot of emotions. Mostly of the good variety, but also mournful feelings for the people, time and art lost over this extended hiatus.”

For Meredith, T2 is more like a family than a job, she says. A Fayetteville native and former student of both Robert Ford and Amy Herzberg, co-founders of T2, Meredith’s acting career was launched when she was cast in her first professional theater job, the 2006 production of T2’s “Lily’s Plastic Purse.” Watching the evolution of the theater she’s been involved with for 15 years has been emotional, she says.

“There is something so overwhelming about getting to see someone’s dream realized, and to have gotten to be a teeny, tiny part of that at all is so overwhelming,” she says. “Amy actually gave me a tour of the space [in 2019], and for us to be able to experience that together — I think I cried several times. But, truly, the vastness of that building, the architecture and the details that went into creating it and in honoring the nature and the land in Fayetteville and around us — it’s so breathtaking. It gives me so much joy and pride to keep coming back, and to get to see two people that I’ve admired so dearly for the better part of my life accomplish something like this is the greatest joy.”

Tyler Meredith (from left), Brianna Buckley and Eduardo Xavier Curley-Carillo star in the TheatreSquared production of “At the Wedding,” a new play by Bryna Turner that will mark T2’s return to live theater. (Courtesy Photo/Wesley Hitt for T2)

Now a Chicago-based actor, Meredith was in Fayetteville when live arts events ground to a halt because of the pandemic. She had settled into T2’s artist housing, ready to start rehearsals for T2’s “My Father’s War” when it was abruptly canceled. Because of the uncertain future for artists during that time, Taylor says T2 generously invited cast and crew to stay put for as long as they needed to, and she stuck around for a few months. She hasn’t been able to perform in a play since then — until now.

“It’s gut wrenching and something that I just love the most,” she says. “To be able to come back and be a part of TheatreSquared’s first performance, welcoming back audience members — it’s so overwhelming. It really does bring me to tears. It’s just so exciting.”

In “At the Wedding,” Carlo says, “I’ve tried the whole hope thing/it almost killed me/what am I supposed to do/ just walk into it?/like a lamb to slaughter?”

Dear Carlo: Hope has brought us live theater again. It ain’t all bad.


‘At the Wedding’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 2 p.m Saturday-Sunday, April 28-June 13

WHERE — TheatreSquared, 477 W. Spring St., Fayetteville

COST — $51-$70

INFO — 777-7477

Categories: Cover Story