Advertisement

Theater Review:

Play takes apart class

April 10, 2008|By TOM TITUS

In the movie “The Philadelphia Story,” Jimmy Stewart, en route to an Oscar, remarked how much he enjoyed watching “the privileged class enjoying its privileges.”

“Class” isn’t something we on this side of the Atlantic are much concerned with, but playwright A.R. Gurney seems to be. He alluded to it quite liberally in “The Dining Room” and seems obsessed with it in “The Cocktail Hour,” the latest production at the Newport Theater Arts Center.

Gurney sets his leisurely moving comedy in a WASPs’ nest of overrated underachievers somewhere in upstate New York during the mid-1970s. The patriarch is a walking stereotype of patrician self-importance who’s upset to the point of fury upon learning his playwright son has based his new script on his own family experiences.

Advertisement

The son (obviously based on Gurney himself) makes it clear that he won’t publish the play if the old man objects — which he does in no uncertain terms, including writing the son a check for $20,000 to shelve it. Nerves have been touched, and calm must be restored.

While “The Cocktail Hour,” directed by David Colley, checks in at a little over two hours, it seems far longer, principally because its characters, interesting as they are, don’t seem to accomplish much of anything. Basically, they’re getting well oiled in the living room while the new cook (whatever her name is) struggles with dinner and the family struggles to connect with one another.

As the blustering father, Robert Kokol delivers an outstanding performance, touching on his character’s nuances as well as his outward angst. There is much cliched characterization in the role as written, but Kokol makes the old man a living, ranting human being whose cantankerous exchanges with his son solidify the character.

Frank Moran as the playwriting son thrusts and parries with his interpretation, never really deciding whether to play it for embittered resentment or relaxed irony. He’s quite effective when he vents his wrath early in the second act, but it’s a flash-in-the-pan emotional outburst, quickly salved. Behind all the friction, there lies a genuine familial love.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|