Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Assembled Parties **

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Richard Greenberg's family chronicle, now in previews at MTC's Friedman Theatre, introduces us to a highly assimilated Jewish family comfortably ensconced in their 14-room Central Park West apartment on Christmas Day 1980. Julie (Jessica Hecht), her husband Ben (Jonathan Walker) and their two sons, Scotty, 24, (Jake Silbermann) and Timmy, 4, (Alex Dreier) are joined for the holiday dinner by Ben's sister Faye (Judith Light), her husband Mort (Mark Blum) and their 30-year old daughter Shelley (Lauren Blumenfeld). The only non-family member present is Jeff (Jeremy Shamos), Scotty's college friend, visiting for the first time. Julie was a movie actress before marriage. Faye married downward after getting pregnant. Her daughter appears to be at the low end of the IQ range. Julie and Ben joke that Scotty will be president some day. Jeff falls in love with their life. A necklace of possibly genuine rubies owned by Faye and Ben's mother plays an important role in the plot. Act Two takes place 20 years later. Reality has intervened. The survivors gather for a smaller, sadder Christmas dinner. On the plus side, there are juicy roles for three fine actors: Hecht, Light and Shamos. They all shine, although I found Hecht a little too mannered at times. There are many witty lines for them to deliver. Another big plus is Santo Loquasto's amazing revolving set which includes most of the rooms in the apartment. Jane Greenwood's costumes are first-rate too. The play's negatives include a few plot points that make very little sense, a sluggish pace in the first act and a few roles that are underwritten. As I write this, there are over 3 weeks left before opening night. Perhaps director Lynne Meadow will tighten things up by then. As it stands now, there are many entertaining moments and a few touching ones, but it doesn't add up to a lot. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes, including intermission.

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