To Jeff, visiting from somewhere-not-New York City, the Bascov family is the epidemy of urban sophistication with their witty conversation, an immense, tastefully decorated apartment on Central Park West, and a whiff of celebrity. (Julie Bascov was a child movie star.) But best of all, the Bascov life is just so lovely, to use Julie’s favorite word. Jeff is practically giddy at being invited to spend the holidays in the charmed circle.
The fact that the family is not all that lovely gives Richard Greenberg’s latest play, The Assembled Parties, its momentum. But even in less than lovely moments, the Bascovs express themselves with rapid fire repartee that is a throwback to an earlier generation of theater. The chief charm of this play is the delicious dialogue.
The play is set on Christmas Day 1980 and 2000. The principal players are Julie Bascov and her sister-in-law Faye, brilliantly played by Jessica Hecht and Judith Light respectively. The stage is sprinkled with other characters, but the evening belongs to the two ladies. Julie is breathy and affected. Faye is brittle, put-upon, and gets many of the best laughs. (An acquaintance with the more popular Yiddish expressions is helpful here.)
The plot is a little overwrought– secrets, sickness, scandal! but the pieces come together (rather conveniently) in the end.
The play happily reminded me of Other Desert Cities in which Judith Light had a creamier but not dissimilar role.
I loved this play, but one of my companions fell asleep during the first act!
The Manhattan Theatre Club production closed on July 28, but given the popularity of revivals, it may be back in a few short seasons. I can’t imagine the play without Hecht and Light, but no doubt two other talented actresses will inhabit the roles as memorably.