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.