Theater Review - The Assembled Parties (NY)

“The Assembled Parties’ is a decided disappointment. Richard Greenberg, a good playwright and the author of the award-winning “Take Me Out” is not having a good year. His adaptation of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” just closed; if this were not a subscription theatre, “The Assembled Parties” would be gone! Although Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director of the Manhattan Theatre Club has assembled a lovely cast led by the pluperfect Jessica Hecht and Judith Light, who delivers a line like a rapier and everything takes place on Santo Loquasto’s beautiful set, a fourteen room apartment on Central Park West, the play is contrived and the characters are not clearly defined. Even though the families are supposed to be Jewish, each act takes place on Christmas Day: Act One in 1980, Act Two in 2000.

 

In each case, Jessica Hecht’s Julie, a former teenage movie star who is very happy with her present life, her husband, Ben (Jonathan Walker) and two sons, is cooking a gourmet dinner. Her sister-in-law, Faye, the acerbic Judith Light, struggles with her seemingly slow-witted daughter, Shelley, an oddly entertaining Lauren Blumenfeld. Faye is married to Mort (Mark Blum), who is blackmailing Ben for cheating on his wife.  The object is a ruby necklace that could and could not be real. What Ben did is not clear, and the circular set moves too quickly for us to find out or care.

 

We hoped that we and Julie would find out in the second act.  We do not.  The Second Act is a mass of murky mysteries. Ben has gone to jail for something to do with money and Mort has died. Julie’s older son, Scotty, who did not want to go to Harvard in the First Act, has died from AIDS from a blood transfusion; her younger son, who was four in the first act, is now working in a restaurant and secretly living with a woman named Molly, who we discover has just had a baby.  It is intimated by friend-of the family Jeff, played by the ever-steady Jeremy Shamos, that Julie is dying, but we do not know what that is about.  Heaven help us as they decorate the Christmas tree.  

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