The Assembled Parties – Family Matters

Jessica Hecht, Jeremy Shamos, Judith Light
Photo: Joan Marcus
by: Sandi Durell

You would think the Bascovs, living in a 14 room Central Park West apartment, had the perfect life. They’re a nice Jewish family celebrating Christmas in 1980 – Mom Julie (Jessica Hecht – A View From the Bridge) is busy in the kitchen cooking a goose and entertaining her son’s friend from college Jeff (Jeremy Shamos – Clybourne Park) who is enthralled with the whole scene and especially Julie, a former teen actress. He even tells his mother on the phone that “it’s like the sets of those plays you love . . . breezy dialogue . . . everybody’s unbelievably nice and, like, gracious and happy . . .”

In Robert Greenberg’s latest entry (Tony winning Take Me Out, and just nearby Breakfast at Tiffany’s), he’s hit the mark as this family comes together to celebrate the holiday. Julie is effervescent (now, she would have been a terrific Holly Golightly), with her smooth, ethereal style and elongated vocal pattern, with an understanding demeanor and free style, looking at life with the glass always more than ½ full. She’s the opposite of her sister-in-law Faye (Judith LightOther Desert Cities), a liberal, depressed, complainer – kvetch, who is seriously funny spewing Jewish witticisms as she talks a blue streak about women’s lib and life.

Faye is married to Mort (Mark Blum) who is trying to blackmail Julie’s husband Ben (Jonathan Walker) and extort a family heirloom ruby necklace. But that’s just a side story! Faye and Mort have a simple-minded daughter Shelley (a very amusing Lauren Blumenfeld), whose aspiration is to make sure she continues to get her weekly paycheck working at Alexander’s.

Ben and Julie have two sons, Scotty (Jake Silbermann), who isn’t sure what he wants to be, maybe a teacher, while his friend Jeff is hard at work studying law, and little brother Timmy (Alex Dreier), presently in bed with the flu.

Each of the characters is someone we know. This is not unlike watching a Neil Simon play, except with more laughs. Santo Loquasto’s turntable luxurious set brings reality to a sprawling 14 room apartment.

Twenty years can make a big difference as Act 2 shifts to the same day, the year 2000, the apartment a bit shabbier (a one dimensional long view), as the characters’ lives have dramatically transformed. Ben, Mort and Scotty are gone, Julie is ill, and Faye is still feisty and complaining with a new sense of freedom. Julie is as lovely as ever, and Jeff, still infatuated with her, is a bit gray and older, taking charge of family matters. Scotty’s younger brother is now 24 years old (also played by Silbermann), Scotty having died of an undisclosed illness.

The standouts are Jessica Hecht – lithe, charming and, yes, breezy, especially in long monologues. And she wears the most delicious throwback outfits (kudos to Jane Greenwood, costume designer)! Judith Light is always impressive, her timing impeccable.

This Manhattan Theatre Club production is a play that sheds tears, yet leaves you with a sense of optimism. It is currently at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, lovingly directed by Lynne Meadow, extended thru July 28th  www.manhattantheatreclub.com

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