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Christel Bartelse brings the laughter in ONEymoon
Concluding a memorable excursion at the "by invitation" portion of this year's DivaFest, this author's final show was ONEymoon (A Honeymoon For One).

Co-written by the show's soul performer Christel Bartelse, ONEymoon opens with the wedding march. Cue the entrance of Caroline (Bartelse), who—acknowledging the crowd during her walk down the aisle—takes center stage for her "big day." The person she intends on marrying—as you may have inferred from the title—is herself, and it isn't long before jokes pertaining to this scenario emerge from the script.

Jetting off on her Caribbean honeymoon, we find Caroline, with a copy of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina in hand, sipping cocktails as she eyes the potential "one-that-got-away" character of Roberto. Indeed, in an effort to ward off temptation, she reminds herself of the fact that she is already married, vowing to remain "faithful" to herself.

The show is peppered with comic one-liners and legitimately well-written (and expertly delivered) gags, which are often aimed just as much at the audience as any of the imagined characters on stage. Indeed, Bartelse's tireless endeavor into the world of audience participation is a consistent device throughout and serves the performer (and, indeed, the audience) extremely well. One such occasion sees two men—handpicked from the audience—take to the stage to play the parts of her dad and ex-boyfriend. Such moments, which had the potential to fall flat, play through seamlessly.

After a number of song and dance numbers, including an appropriate—if "drunken"—rendition of I Touch Myself, we arrive at the show's climax, which sees a pathos-filled confession regarding the character's fear of commitment and of growing old alone. Here, the character's human side becomes strongly solidified and the play, having gone back and forth between Caroline at the wedding and Caroline on her honeymoon, concludes with her throwing a bouquet into the audience while back at the former.    

An extremely well-written comedy, ONEymoon is a delight from its matrimonial opening to its poignant conclusion, delivering an abundance of comic moments throughout. Hardly surprising, when you consider that Bartelse herself graduated from Chicago's Second City, an enterprise that gave birth to the likes of Tina Fey, Jane Lynch and Amy Sedaris. On this evidence, Bartelse would not look out of place next to these.

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