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Amamda Bearse

Party Face – A New (Black) Comedy


A party comprised of all women can swing radically either way, especially one given by someone just home from a psychiatric hospital having had a meltdown in the cereal aisle of her local market. Mollie Mae (Gina Costigan) is ostensibly celebrating the completion of her kitchen extension (tastefully designed by Jeff Ridenour) when actually looking for succor. Her wrist brace is a tip of the iceberg indicating recent events.

Hayley Mills and Gina Costigan

Guests include acidicly critical, uber-stylish mother, Carmel (Hayley Mills), cynical sister Maeve (Brenda Meany), new friend-from-the-ward, Bernie, who surreptitiously covers everything, EVERYTHING in cling wrap (Alison Cimmet), and obtusely self-centered neighbor Chloe (Allison Jean White), whom Molly can’t abide, while Carmel (who invited her) thinks  of the woman as “a fabulous little mixer” and “an example.” (Flamboyant, judgmental Chloe is allergic to just about everything including beige, which prevents her from sampling Molly’s humus.) The hostess’s children are at college, husband Allan, entertaining clients “no idea where.”

Molly would just as soon selected parts of her situation were up front. “Mummy” is in clip, determined denial. Maeve and Bernie are there to support. Alcohol is liberally consumed; history revealed, current secrets excavated. Catfights ensue; insults, pillows, and topiary genitals fly (you heard me.)

Chloe, odd woman out, despite bonding with Carmel, is oil on the burgeoning conflagration. Eurythmically gesturing, perpetually interfering “Can I just say…”, she gets away with controlling the evening way past a point one might think the others would allow. She is perhaps, the Leprechaun (mischief) in the room. (Yes, there’s comeuppance.)

Isobel Mahon’s play is fast, fierce, and entertaining even though less than “new” and sometimes unbelievable.

Hayley Mills, Brenda Meany, Allison Jean White

Of the able cast, Hayley Mills (Carmel) and Alison Cimmet, tonight’s substitute for absent Klea Blackhurst (whom one can easily imagine in the role) stand out. Mills, the former Disney Pollyanna is svelte, sharp, and immensely appealing. Character is recognizable from speech and expression through movement. ‘Well drawn and well played. Cimmet makes the quirky Bernie natural and likeable, which fits the playwright’s subversive suggestion she’s more grounded with all her neuroses than others in the room. Allison Jean White (Chloe) is over the top, but all of a piece and effectively infuriating.

Director Amanda Bearse knows how to punctuate emotion, integrate comedy (both verbal and physical) and stage her players. There are as many clever moments as eruptions. Tears feel less real. Pacing is excellent.

Costume Design by Lara De Bruijn is flat out terrific, every character in apparel – and shoes! indicative of who she is.

Photos by Jeremy Daniel
Opening: Allison Jean White, Brenda Meany, Hayley Mills, Gina Costigan, Klea Blackhurst

Party Face by Isobel Mahon
Directed by Amanda Bearse
New York City Center Stage II
131 West 55thStreet
Through April 8, 2018