Tag Archives: The Assembled Parties review

Vanya and Sasha and The Assembled Parties and The Explorer’s Club

So the better-half and I have been seeing plays this summer. (Thank you TKTS.) We have to do something while waiting for opera season.

I already wrote about Macbeth. The following week we saw Vanya and Sonya and Marsha and Spike. This before Sigourney Weaver left the cast. It was sit-com, and it wasn’t even great sit-com. David Hyde Pierce’s timing was precise. Kristine Nielsen managed to actually give a moving performance, no small feat when the script undermined her character by always going for punchline over feeling. We found Shalita Grant grating and her character bordered on some loyal servant/magical Negro stereotype. Billy Magnussen was over the top. Sigourney Weaver is greatly in need of a new action franchise. And whatshername who played whatshername was kind of forgettable.

What was most annoying was all the ways the play pandered to the audience and avoided challenging any of its expectations. First, if you get the Chekov references you get to feel smug, but if you don’t, you still get to enjoy the show as (too) much is explained. Second, there are cringy-knowing references including a line about the half-price ticket line. Third, there’s a rant about technology separating us spoken by a late middle-aged character. (It was soooo 2002) Get off Vanya’s lawn!

Our next dramatic excursion was to The Assembled Parties, which I wanted to see because of the participation of Tony award winner, Dame Judith Light, who I’ve admired since her days as doctor’s wife/belle de jour Karen Wollack. Light has made a career out of realistic portrayals of over-the-top characters including real-life husband and child poisoner, Marie Hilly in the made for TV classic, Wife, Mother, Murderer. But hers was not the stand-out performance. Jessica Hecht in the lead role was a revelation. We were surprised to read that Remy Auberjonois had only recently stepped into the role of Jeff as he not only played well with others, but seemed to own the part. Of course all the actors were upstaged by the 14-room Central Park West apartment in which the action is set. The play already closed, so if you missed it, you missed it, but if it comes back in some form, bring a hankie.

Last night we saw The Explorer’s Club at City Center. It was a very well done farce. What’s not to like? Nothing. Most critics have already written about the drinks being thrown around the stage and expertly caught. How do they do it? Who knows? Don’t go home and try it with your spouse. Don’t ask me how I know. The play wasn’t only written funny. It was played funny, and expertly. It’s hard to pick standouts when the entire cast shined. Tickets are cheap(er than Broadway), but if you go to the TKTS booth, bring CASH. Show closes August 4th.

Side note: I had never heard of David Furr before but after seeing his performance in the above, I came across his youtube series, Jersey Shore Gone Wilde, in which he and Santino Fantana recite dialogue from Jersey Shore in the style (and period costumes) of Oscar Wilde. Off-topic, but here’s a clip of that.

Next post will be on TKTS line a how-to primer, along with info on its particular annoyances and delights.

(Hey maybe you enjoyed this post. Or maybe you think I’m a snot-nosed know-it-all. In either case, the best way to say “thank you” or “screw you” would be by reading and then writing a customer review of one of my books.)