ABIGAIL’S PARTY now playing at 10th Avenue Theatre by Backyard Renaissance through March 19th offers you a chance to have some drinks and nibbles in a blast from the past play from across the pond. Based on the play and then immensely popular televised performance in 1977, this show is full of awkward silences, aggressive hospitality, and may prove that socializing with your neighbors is a potentially risky activity.
Beverly (Jessica John) and her husband Lawrence (Francis Gercke) are throwing a cocktail party. Angela (Liliana Talwatte) a nurse, and her husband Tony (Carter Piggee) who works in computers are coming over having just moved into the neighborhood. Neighbor Sue (Michelle Marie Trester), is also coming over as her daughter Abigail, is throwing the titular party that the audience can only hear but never attends.
John as Beverly is a free-wheeling (and free-drinking) party girl, while Gercke’s Lawrence is more uptight and has very different ideas of how this party should be going.
Talwatte’s Angela is a nurse who is keeping up with Bev’s endless drink pours and seems sweety oblivious most of the time. She does show the characters steel and focus during later events of the show. Piggee’s Tony is fairly quiet and uninterested in attending at first, but he does become more interested as the drinks flow and Bev’s flirting becomes more overt.
Trester’s Sue is over to give her daughter Abigail some space to have her party, and her subtle reactions are a nice foil to John’s brassy Bev.
This is a cocktail party cringe comedy about class and marriage. Depending on how you feel about parties this might even be a comedy horror, as you watch the characters behave badly. The dancing scene in the second act is incredibly (and deliberately) uncomfortable.
Beverly, Angela, and Tony are all more hard-working and hard-drinking working class, with accents that underscore their difference from the more upper-class Lawrence and Sue.
Lawrence tries to show off how cultured he is (especially to Tony) with his music to this leather-bound Shakespeare, and is disdainful of Bev’s taste in music and art. Poor Sue arrives with a bottle of wine and an empty stomach, possibly thinking this party would serve dinner, while everyone else had a big tea and proceed to drink enough gin and Bacardi to make the audience feel lightheaded.
The scenic design and props by Tony Cucuzzella bring the 70’s household gloriously to life in gold, green, and gold. Costumes by Jessica John are spot on and combined with the Lighting by Shelby Thach and sound by Patrick Duffy make this party complete.
Directed by Rosina Reynolds this play doesn’t just build from the written word but from the almost palpable tension that builds from the pacing and performances.
Like the pineapple and cheese appetizers, ABIGAILS’ PARTY may prove to be an acquired taste.
ABIGAIL’S PARTY is playing through March 19th BY Backyard Renaissance Theatre Co. at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center . Ticket and showtime information can be found at backyardrenaissance.com.
All patrons who attend the ABIGAIL’S PARTY will be required to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and present proof of vaccination or provide proof of the negative results of a COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of entering the theatre. Masks are required at all times while indoors.
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