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
Recently I wrote an article about movies with canine protagonists. This got me into trouble at home, where I am ruled by two tyrannical rescue kitties who were very displeased about my specie-est attitude. In order to smooth things over, then I’ve decided to give cinematic cats their proper due.
That Darn Cat! (1965) Based on the 1963 novel Undercover Cat, this comedy caper film stars mischievous Siamese DC (Darn Cat) who lives with two sisters, Inkie (Dorothy Provine) and Patti (Hayley Mills). One night when out on the prowl, DC follows a bank robber home where he and his partner are holding a bank employee hostage. The hostage manages to replace DC’s collar with her watch and a partial inscription calling for Help. DC makes it home, Patti discovers the watch, and FBI agent Zeke Kelso (Dean Jones) is called in. Wacky hijinks and romantic complications ensue. It was nominated by the Writers Guild of America for Best Written American Comedy, the cat playing DC received a rave review in the New York Times, and there was a remake made in 1997.
The AristoCats (1970) In this animated Disney classic, a feline family consisting of the elegant and refined Duchess (voiced by Eva Gabor) along with her three beautiful and talented kittens are set to inherit a fortune from their doting owner. But evil butler Edgar intent on getting the money for himself, drugs and kidnaps them. It is only with the help of street wise stray Tom O’Malley (voiced by Phil Harris) that these pampered pets can find their way back to their posh Parisian home, but Edgar has other ideas. Matters are further complicated by the growing romance between Duchess and Tom.
The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986) In this Japanese adventure-comedy-drama orange tabby kitten Milo (who’s a little curious for his own good) befriends pug Otis. One day Milo plays in a box on the river and is washed downstream and Otis runs after him. Along the way Milo has many escapades and meets such persons as Bear, Fox, Pig, Owl, and more. It was the highest grossing Japanese film produced that year and the third highest of all time, which prompted Columbia Pictures to release a shortened English language version narrated by Dudley Moore.
Puss in Boots (2011) In this spin-off sequel to the Shrek franchise, Antonio Banderas reprises his signature role as the dashing tomcat adventurer Boots. Having learned that outlaw couple Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris) have acquired the magic beans to access the giant’s castle with golden goose eggs, he hatches a plot to steal them with the aid of criminal mastermind and Puss’s former friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and street savvy Tuxedo cat Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). Needless to say things don’t all go according to plan. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a fresh rating of 84% and it grossed over a half billion at the Box Office.
African Cats (2011) This nature documentary film chronicles the dual narratives of a pride of lions and a family of cheetahs trying to survive on the African Savannah. Besides the incredible beauty, charisma, and magnetism of its subjects it also showcases some pretty majestic views of the surrounding countryside as well.
Top photo from Bigstock.