Joan Marcus
July 30, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Being sober among a bunch of drunk, high, and drunk-and-high-to-the-point-of-puking people gets old very quickly. Yet in the stiletto-sharp black comedy Bachelorette — receiving a first-rate production at Off Broadway’s Second Stage uptown (a great place to spot up-and-coming writers) — playwright Leslye Headland never crosses that very fine line between highly amusing and extremely annoying.

The show is set in a ritzy Central Park-adjacent hotel room, ostensibly for a bachelorette party. However, there’s no bachelorette to be found. (The room itself will soon end up in tatters, along with one or two friendships.) The usual girlie pre-wedding antics — Cosmos, sex-toy demos, spa treatments, male strippers — wouldn’t be appropriate for Gena (Katherine Waterston), Katie (Celia Keenan-Bolger, who makes a very endearing drunk), and Regan (Tracee Chimo, beautifully brittle), the hostess/maid of honor. Cocaine, marijuana, straight-from-the-bottle champagne, and one-night stands are more their speed. The girl talk is down and dirty: There’s an extended, extremely detailed discussion of the levels of enthusiasm, on a scale of 1?10, with which a woman should give her boyfriend oral sex. (For example: ”8 is like?in the car. While he’s driving.” ”On the way to your parents’ house for Christmas.”)

Not surprisingly, a couple guys show up: Joe (Fran Kranz), a stoner with a heart of gold, and Jeff (Eddie Kaye Thomas, a.k.a. Mother-lover Paul in the American Pie movies), who can recount obscure facts about the Truman presidency but can’t remember Regan’s name hours after they’ve met. But they’re theatrically akin to the Sex and the City quartet’s conquests: functional, even sweet — pothead Joe watches over suicidal, vomiting, hoping-to-black-out Katie — yet ultimately disposable.

Bachelorette is, appropriately, all about the women; Headland’s best barbs — a throwaway reference to college bulimia, an insanely audacious aside about someone ”snorting away her unwanted pregnancy” — fly between (and behind the backs of) the friends/frenemies. Only the ending, a showdown between Regan and the much-discussed bride-to-be Becky (Carmen M. Herlihy), feels disingenuous. That two longtime girlfriends should descend into a claws-out brawl is genuinely believable; the proverbial dropped bomb, however, is completely puzzling. Suddenly, it’s as if Bachelorette‘s giddy 90-minute buzz has worn off. B+

(Tickets: or 212-246-4422)

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