Racine Theater Guild performing “Perfect Wedding” (Jan. 13-29)

RACINE — It’s a popular sentiment that success in life is all about timing.

The same can be said for a comedy.

And, in particular, for a farce.

That explains why Michael Clickner and the cast of “Perfect Wedding” are spending this week working on — what else? — timing.

“The show is definitely a comedy with elements of farce,” said Clickner, who is directing the show, opening Friday night at the Racine Theater Guild.

As opening night draws near, the six cast members, he said, “are focusing on fast timing.”

A key, he added, is making the playwright’s dialogue sound natural and conversational.

“This playwright has a lot of lines that are ‘oh, God,’ ‘uh,’ ummm …’ and other short snippets,” he explained.

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Making such utterances fit into sometimes overlapping dialogue with other actors is a challenge.

Luckily, it’s a challenge he’s confident the cast can meet.

“I love having such a small cast,” Clickner said of the six-character comedy. “That way, I have more time one-on-one with each of them.”

Feeling at home

A theater veteran with decades of experience, Clickner is a director who “likes to let the actors have a lot of freedom. If it doesn’t work, I tell them to stop it,” he said with a chuckle, “but I like to let them run the whole play, and then we discuss it.”

His theater experience includes building sets for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and the Fireside Theater in Fort Atkinson, along with working at the Madison Repertory Theater and teaching theater at Edgewood College, also in Madison.

But he truly feels at home at the Racine Theater Guild.

In fact, his connection to the Theater Guild is older than he is.

“My parents met here working on a show and later got married,” Clickner explained. “So this place is literally in my blood.”

His own Theater Guild career started when he auditioned for a show there in 1975.

“That was at the former theater,” he said. “And I got involved in building this theater building, which opened in 1976.”

If that’s not enough, he also performed on stage in the first production — “The Taming of the Shrew” — in the then-new theater space.

All of that is a long way of saying: “I love the Theater Guild and getting to work with all these volunteers, who give it their all. And we get to do it all in this wonderful facility.”

Wedding chaos

Clickner was talking in the lobby of the Theater Guild Monday evening, before a rehearsal for “Perfect Wedding.”

Joining him were two cast members: Stephen Fletcher, who plays the would-be groom Bill, and Kate May, who plays Judy (or, as her character is known for a lot of the show, “the girl”).

Bill and Judy are at the center of this comedy, which takes place on the day of Bill’s wedding.

There’s just one hitch: Hours before the ceremony, Bill wakes up in bed with a strange woman lying next to him. How to explain this to his bride and to himself?

The character of Bill “is very different from what I’ve done in the past,” said Fletcher, who usually performs in musicals.

He finds the comedy to be a fun challenge that involves — you guessed it — “working on getting the timing right. We’ve also been running lines a lot to get the rhythm of the dialogue to work.”

May, who lives in Milwaukee, performs in Theater Guild shows every few years. This show, she said, “sounded like a fun comedy.”

In contrast to the often ridiculous action unfolding around her on stage, “My character is the most grounded person in the play,” May said. “Usually, I play a kooky role, so this is a change for me.”

Lots of laughs

While May and Clickner are both married, neither one had a wedding day as disastrous (and farcical) as the one in “Perfect Wedding.”

All three are looking forward to performing the comedy for an audience and hearing their laughter.

“In the month of January,” May said, “this is a bright, shining way to get some needed laughs in what can be dreary, gray weather.”

Adding that she is often “a restless audience member,” May said this show “moves so fast, there isn’t any downtime once it gets going.”

Clickner, too, said coming to this comedy offers “the chance to see a show that is just so funny and to see local performers at their best.”

The comedy, Fletcher added, is “a mix of chaos and hilarity and nonsense. So much nonsense. And so many laughs.”

If you go

What: “Perfect Wedding”

Where: Racine Theater Guild, 2519 Northwestern Ave.

When: Jan 13-29. Performances are 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday, and 2 pm Sunday. There are also two Saturday matinees: 2 pm on Jan. 21 and 28. The two “Value Night” performances (with discounted ticket prices) are 7 pm Sunday, Jan. 22, and Thursday, Jan. 26.

Tickets: $18 for adults, $16 for seniors (age 62 and older) and $13 for students (21 and younger).

To purchase tickets: Call 262-633-4218 or log on at racinetheatre.org.

About the show: Written by Robin Hawdon, “Perfect Wedding” is a fast-moving comedy taking place on a “perfect” wedding day that goes disastrously wrong. The action starts when the groom wakes up on his wedding day in the bridal suite, with his bride-to-be about to arrive at any moment, and finds a strange girl in bed beside him. Due to his hangover, he cant’ remember who this woman is and how he met her. With his bride (and her mother) due at any moment, he’s desperate to get out of this situation.

Local production: Michael Clickner, a theater veteran of more than five decades, is directing the Racine production. The six cast members are: Suzanne Maki as Rachel (the bride), Stephen Fletcher as Bill (the groom), Jacob Edwards as Tom (the best man), Kate May as Judy (described as “a girl”), Meghan Flynn as Julie (the chamber maid) and Barbi McGuire as Daphne (the bride’s mother).

tallyho? No! Though this is a British play, “we’re setting the action in upstate New York,” Clickner said. “The Theater Guild just had some shows with British accents, but we’re not trying it for this show.”

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