Leesa Beck, Don Margolin, Matt Cooper, and Kathy Marden celebrate happy hour family style in A.R. Gurney's <em>The Cocktail Hour</em>.

Courtesy Photo

Leesa Beck, Don Margolin, Matt Cooper, and Kathy Marden celebrate happy hour family style in A.R. Gurney's The Cocktail Hour.

The Cocktail Hour at Circle Bar B

Gurney Comedy Takes on Family, Theater, and Booze

What are the three things every playwright knows best? Answer: family, alcohol, and the theater. But A.R. Gurney’s The Cocktail Hour is more than a big theatrical in-joke; it has moments of warmth and tender vulnerability, despite the family’s best attempts to keep emotion drowned in drink. Jim Sirianni is the director of Circle Bar B’s production, and his cast is well equipped to handle the humor and hold their alcohol.

Matt Cooper plays John, the middle-aged black sheep of the family who returns home to ask his father’s permission to produce a new play he has written, which is also called The Cocktail Hour and is about his family. The looming threat of John’s “spilling the beans,” whatever those beans may be, makes his father’s answer a resounding “Not until I’m dead.”

Don Margolin plays Bradley, the patriarch of the house who knows golf, literary references, and most of all, a good scotch. If passive-aggressive remarks aren’t enough, he won’t hesitate to write a large check to keep his wayward writer of a son from “fouling his own nest.” Ann (Kathy Marden) is the vodka martini to her husband’s scotch. Clear-eyed and sharp-voiced, Marden brings fresh laughs every time she slurs for “another splash, just a splash.” But in between eager sips, she offers glimpses of a woman who has done more than get the roast to the table on time every night. As Nina, Leesa Beck is the emotional version of her mother—she has to hold her posture to hold it together. It’s apparent that Marden and Beck know how to make the most out of their thirsty characters, and they deserve all of the many laughs they get.

Every character in A Cocktail Hour knows critics aren’t infallible, but I’ll tell you that like a good drink, this show promises a good time, and might give you the courage and humor needed to love the nest you came from, no matter how many times you’ve been stung.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Carousel House Now for Rent

The iconic octagon is available for parties and classes.

‘Fess Parker’ Name Dropped from Santa Barbara Waterfront Hotel

Change to Hilton Santa Barbara said to help the hotel reach a broader demographic.

Nicholas Kristof Hashes Out How To Help

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author joined local nonprofits to talk global development.

Pile Burn Season Raises Alarms

Uptick in citizen emergency calls upon viewing smoke and fire.

Jon Peterson Departs Habitat for Humanity

Takes a post with Covenant Trust Company of Chicago.