“Invitation to a March” is a Pleasure to Accept

Arthur Laurents’ 1961 play “Invitation to a March” has a lot going for it. It’s about an impending wedding between two children from wealthy families who have rented a summer house on the South Shore of Long Island. The youngsters are well-matched with one hitch, the affianced young woman keeps falling asleep, especially when the groom-to-be starts talking about their secure life in Connecticut. The owner of the summer folk’s rental is a free spirit whose plumber son wakes the young woman with a kiss during one of her slumbers.

Broadway and Hollywood veteran Laurents (“West Side Story,” “The Way We Were”) packs a lot into the story. There are the class divisions addressed directly and, speaking of direct address, the characters break the fourth wall and speak to the audience about money, class, choices, opportunities, the past’s hold on you, and especially romance.

The play has three meaty roles for women of a certain age, the soul and lifeblood of community theater wherever it is practiced. The Ghent Playhouse in choosing this play has given Jennifer Young, Sally McCarthy and Meg Dooley the chance to play rich, fully formed characters. The play, which is rarely revived, is well over two hours long in its three acts and gives everyone their chance to make their case and be heard, and these three strong women make the most of it.

Meg Dooley as Camilla Jablonski has a lovely scene in the second act with Mark Wilson who is the father of the groom and a mystery man from her past. She does a fine job threading the needle through Laurents’ wild creation of this character. Sally McCarthy is even better and rules the patio deck as if it were a piano bar, lobbing out zingers and taking on all comers. Jennifer Young has a soft southern lilt to her voice, but a great stage presence that deserves a sharper written role.

The young lovers are played by Leigh Fisher-Troche who could use more variety as the narcoleptic Norma, Matt Benincasa who cuts a stolid figure as Schuyler, and the very comfortable Jerry Byrne, appearing in only his second play as Aaron Jablonski, the maiden-kissing prince of a plumber. Noah First-Huneau has great fun as the bride’s younger brother, especially when you give him a drum.

The play is very talky, and the greatest stakes are the comfort and security of this group, but Laurents can write some cutting confrontations and he is questioning the foundations of this privileged world. It is a distinct satisfaction to be able to attend this production of a significant play from Broadway’s past which has been brought to the stage with care and great effort by its director, J. Peter Bergman, and this cast.

“Invitation to a March” runs through 2/19 at The Ghent Playhouse Tickets: ghentplayhouse.org

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