In A.R. Gurney’s play, a visiting son tells his well-to-do parents he has written a play about them. As they await a delayed dinner (because “the maid doesn’t know how to cook a roast”), the time-honored cocktail hour stretches out, the alcohol consumption escalates, and the arguments intensify.
The play, set in an upper-class home in the 1970s, lampoons the comedy-of-manners form of play while getting in some witty licks at the expense of theatre and critics.
Janet Mitchko, TPT’s co-artistic director, said this play by Gurney is largely autobiographical. Gurney, who came from an upper-crust family in Buffalo, New York, writes principally about well-to-do WASP families in the Northeast. His father wasn’t pleased with his son’s exhibition of the family faults on stage, and he saw few of Gurney’s plays.
“We all want to be seen by our parents, and we want resolution with our parents,” said Mitchko. “Child or parent, you are going to get this play. It’s both funny and emotionally satisfying.”
The cast of “The Cocktail Hour” is a reunion at TPT for three of the four actors who were seen here in “On Golden Pond.”
Ellen Crawford and Mike Genovese (from NBC’s “ER“) are the husband-and-wife team who played Norman and Ethel Thayer. They will be seen as the father and mother, Bradley and Ann, in “The Cocktail Party.”
TPT has been an artistic home over the years for Crawford and Genovese, beginning with another A.R. Gurney play, “Love Letters.” Since then Crawford has performed here as Emily Dickinson in “The Belle Of Amherst.” Genovese appeared in TPT’s “Orphans.”
Playing John, the playwright who reveals to his family that they are the subject of his script, is Kyle Knauf. He was recently seen as Hamlet in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at the Hudson Guild Theater in New York City.
Appearing in the role of Nina, John’s sister, will be Beth Hylton, last seen at TPT as Chelsea in “On Golden Pond.” She recently completed a production of “Clybourne Park” and its companion piece, “Beneatha’s Place,” for Baltimore CenterStage that was filmed for PBS.
This perceptive comedy seamlessly blends humor with moments of affecting poignancy in what many critics call A.R. Gurney’s finest play.
The set for the play is a replication of a luxurious home. Mitchko said, “The audience will walk in and say, ‘Oooo, I want to live there.”
The Public Theatre launches its new season with the introduction of its PLAY PAL program for people who love going to the theater but can’t always find someone to go with. It will connect solo theater-goers with other solo theater-lovers when they attend the 3 p.m. Saturday matinee performance. They will be seated together and identified to each other, and they get a coupon for a free concession item plus a “getting to know you” game card offering a chance to win fun prizes.
Performances of “The Cocktail Hour” are Oct. 17-19 and 23-26. Thursday and Friday shows are at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., with an added matinee on Saturday, Oct. 25, at 3p.m. For tickets call 207-782-3200 or visit www.thepublictheatre.org. The Public Theatre is at 31 Maple St.