By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
Every bride wants a big wedding with all the bells and whistles. Every father of the bride wants a small ceremony with a few (inexpensive) snacks.
Each bride is very certain she is a fully-grown adult and has chosen the perfect man. Each father knows she’s far too young to tie the knot and the boy she’s marrying is simply not good enough for her.
These conflicts come to a head at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre as the time-honored story “Father of the Bride” is being staged now through Sept. 29.
Flowers, caterers, decorations, dresses, tuxes, and presents invade the previously-calm home of Stanley Banks as his 21-year-old daughter resolves to walk down the aisle. With each mounting interruption of his no-longer-peaceful life, household frustration grows and the audience gets to enjoy the antics of the stressed-out family.
Jeff Stockberger delightfully portrays Stanley, the stogy, gruff, financially focused father who occasionally lets his soft spot seep to the surface. Clearly not ready to admit that his daughter has grown past the stage of pigtails, this father begins the story as an unreasonable hothead, but ends it as a compassionate peacemaker.
Stockberger causes the audience to erupt with laughter at even well-used gags, such as the 20-year-old tux that no longer fits. While a big man wearing a little suit is not a novel idea, this comedic actor works the bit masterfully until every onlooker is in stitches. Later Ivory McKay, playing the flamboyant caterer, even piles onto the bit in an unexpected and hilarious way.
While the story was first penned in an Edward Streeter novel in 1948, the exorbitant cost of weddings keeps the storyline of “Father of the Bride” relevant. A 1950’s film starred Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor and a 1991 film cast Steve Martin and Kimberly Williams in the key roles.
To bring the story up to date, the cast added a few modern cultural references. The younger brother, played by Joseph Marvis, wears a Minecraft T-shirt and mentions his need to check Facebook. A couple of characters whip out cellphones and a reference is made to the TV series “Downton Abbey.”
Adding local flair to the lines, the bride-to-be, Lisa Ermel, announces that her suitor is from Terre Haute, which is “just as good as Carmel.” When Ben Tebbe, who plays the future groom, worries everyone by staying out all night, he later explains he was just driving around and around Interstate 465.
Conflict between the characters continues to arise as the guest list lengthens. Even though the bride has promised the groom a small wedding (with no more than 50 attendees), she is pressured to invite the friends of her parents, the friends of her brother, high school friends and long-lost family members. The list tops out at 472.
While everyone wants the list cut down (especially the cost-counting father and the overly nervous groom), no one is willing to drop the names of the people they added. As the caterer prices the reception at $130 a head, sheer distress settles in Stanley. In a moment of panic (or clarity), the stressed-out father offers his daughter $20,000 to elope. (In the book, the amount was $1,500.)
Finally the pressure causes an argument between the betrothed that cancels the wedding and the father finds himself in the role of peacemaker. He saves the day by explaining why women love big weddings. While his explanation may be wanting, it is enough to bring the couple to an understanding.
By breathing new life into an old story, the cast offers a laugh-out-loud comedy in a family-friendly way. Whether you are the father or the daughter (or the mother or the son), you are sure to find amusement in this production.
If you go
What: "Father of the Bride"
Where: Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 N. Michigan Road, Indianapolis
When: Now through Sept. 29
Cost: $37.50-$62.50 (includes Chef Odell Ward’s dinner buffet)
For more information: call (317) 872-9664 or visit www.beefandboards.com