While the setting of A.R. Gurney’s 1988 comedy The Cocktail Hour—upper-class New York WASP society—may be on the fast track to oblivion, the tradition it celebrates, in which the members of a family relax in the early evening with their choice of strong spirits, is not going anywhere. Wherever adults visit their parents, the cocktail hour is likely to be observed. Whether it involves genteel sips of chardonnay or thirsty gulps of ice-cold gin, the cocktail hour has ingrained itself in American life, licensing millions of otherwise circumspect people to raise their glasses and lower their inhibitions.
For Gurney, stereotypical Northeastern uptightness has proven to be a theatrical goldmine. In his numerous plays, Gurney has revealed the sharp wit that sometimes lurks behind the lockjaw, and created a fabulous and satisfying alternate reality for the stage out of something that more or less resembles actual life. The Cocktail Hour shows the reactions that a playwright confronts when he reveals that his new play—conveniently also called The Cocktail Hour—is based on the behavior of his hard-drinking familial clan. Director Jim Sirianni has assembled a stellar cast that includes Matt Cooper as the playwright; Don Margolin as Bradley, his stuffy Republican father; and Kathy Marden as his mother, Anne. The show kicks off this Saturday, September 18, and runs through Sunday, October 31. Here are three reasons to make this cocktail hour a part of your schedule.
1. “Nobody Goes to the Theater Anymore”: This classic piece of structural irony first became popular when spoken by Bradley, the complacent Republican daddy of the budding playwright. It’s funnier here than in any of its other incarnations, and Margolin is certain to take the famous line for a giddy joy ride.
2. That ’70s Thing: The Cocktail Hour is set in the 1970s, and although the family in the show resist the popular fads of the decade with all their might, hilarious traces of the “Me Decade” keep wafting through the script and cracking everyone up with their unacknowledged lunacy.
3. This Cocktail Hour Comes After Dinner: Shows at Circle Bar B don’t start until everyone has eaten a delicious tri-tip barbecue, so relax: You won’t be watching people drink on an empty stomach. Circle Bar B is located at 1800 Refugio Road, Goleta. For reservations, show times, and information, call 967-1962 or visit circlebarbtheatre.com.