At The Beckett Theatre/Theatre Row, The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) is presenting “The Cocktail Party” written by T.S. Eliot – some sixty years ago. You are cordially invited to attend this most fascinating, fun and philosophical work. RSVP ASAP to the Box Office, Ticket Central or www.TACTnyc.org.
This excellent company of actors does exemplary work with forgotten classics and “The Cocktail Party” is no exception. Although long (almost three hours – three acts with one intermission) and written in verse – verse so well composed that it comes across as great dialogue, this is no ordinary comedy of manners in the style of Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde. It has more of an Edward Albee twist to it.
Starting off as a typically social if somewhat strange evening of cocktails in London, Mr. Eliot turns his party and ensuing play into an examination of the relationships of all who attend, putting their interwoven associations under the microscope of his keen eye which can sometimes lead to some preachy sermonizing. But it is worth being patient.
Edward and Lavinia Chamberlayne (a pensive Jack Koenig and a ravishing Erika Rolfsrud) are the hosts – only Lavinia has left her husband that morning after five years of marriage and he invents a story to cover her absence while Julia Shuttlethwaite (a delicious Cynthia Harris channeling Barbara Walters) tells amusing stories about nothing in particular, asking questions of the unidentified man sitting next to her (the mysterious Simon Jones who imparts Dr. Phil-like advice). We meet Peter (a serious and troubled Jeremy Beck ) a screenwriter and lover of the socialite Celia Coplestone ( an entrancing Lauren English) who has her own guilt ridden secrets and Alexander MacColgie Gibbs (a gleeful Mark Alhadeff) who insists on cooking for the left alone Edward. Will Edward and Lavinia reconcile?
All the characters have interesting back stories that slowly emerge during the intriguing evening. Most of the fun is in not knowing everything at once and discovering who has been sleeping with whom, the aftershocks and how certain people learn to cope, moving on with their lives with psychiatric help.
The cast couldn’t be finer. Even two minor roles are treated with due respect by Celia Smith and Ben Beckley. The ensemble cast has perfected the necessary style under the perceptive direction of Scott Alan Evans and wear their tasteful costumes provided by David Toser – right down to the stockings with seams and wonderful hats that adorn period hair styles for the females and formal attire and period suits for the men – with élan.
“The Cocktail Hour” has a smart and elegant look which fully complements a smart and elegant piece of writing.
www.tactnyc.org Photo: Carol Rosegg