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Bowie Community Theatre The Cocktail Hour

By • Apr 7th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
The Cocktail Hour by A.R. Gurney
Bowie Community Theatre
Bowie Playhouse, Bowie, MD
Through April 16th
2:30 with one intermission
$17/$12 Seniors and Students
Reviewed April 3rd, 2011

The Cocktail Hour is a drama by A.R. Gurney. John, a struggling playwright, has written another play. This time he thinks he has a winner because he bases it on his own family. But when he comes home his family’s reactions are not what he expected. This performance by the Bowie Community Theatre was a deep show with touches of humor, but mostly an uncovering of past secrets and feelings of hurt and abandonment by the playwright towards his parents.

Terry Averill played John, the son who has come home to get some feedback on his play. You could see the distance he kept from his father. The two always sat on opposite ends of, not only furniture, but also politics, current events, plays, and family. Averill seemed to be the outsider. He and his father Bradley (played by Bill Jones) spent most of the evening trying to figure each other out. Not sure how much headway they made in one hour. Bradley seemed uncomfortable around John, as if he were talking to a stranger. His face lit up and it was obvious to everyone that his love was for the out of town son, Jigger. It was obvious that John just did not fit in. Jones’ character seemed to have big ideas which he was not afraid to share, but a differing opinion instantly ended the conversation. Averill’s John was quite softspoken, and we did see the change that the alcohol had on him late in the play.

Like Bradley, Ann (Nancy Linden) also would much rather their son write a book instead of a play. A book you can bury, but a play gets a publisher and the cat is out of the bag. Ann was mostly upset because it did not paint her in the best light. Averill and Linden had a really well done scene together when he confronted her about his feelings of feeling left out and unloved. The family secrets they discuss make you wonder what really happened. Both Linden and Jones made a nice couple, but did not appear as old as the script apparently called for (70’s?) as they were scripted in the production.

Their daughter Nina (Jo Sullivan) was a real spitfire. Probably the most honest of the family, Nina was miffed at John for making her such a minor character in his play and let him have it. Brother and sister had an easy if somewhat strained relationship over John’s play. Sullivan was a strong character and gave an enjoyable performance.

The set for The Cocktail Hour was polished, and the space at the Bowie Playhouse did not feel cramped. Set Designer John Mecholsky created a set that was refined and even a bit stodgy. Light Designer Garrett Hyde created an upper crust feel with the lighting that continued the atmosphere of distance.

Bowie Community Theatre’s The Cocktail Hour is a solid production that will cause you to evaluate your family relationships.

Director’s Notes

I like to think of myself as a young, cool, hip kind of guy. (I’m not really, but I’m not above lying to myself.) I like theatre that’s edgy and new, provocative, challenging, visceral, argumentative, potentially offensive, and plays that seldom satisfy everyone with a happy ending.

So why do I always end up coming back to Gurney? I don’t think of him as a playwright that’s edgy, provocative, challenging, or even cool. He seems to be very much an old school writer-one whose characters say what they’re thinking. the endings of his plays always wrap themselves up nicely, and are almost always satisfying, if not always happy. Why would plays like that appeal to me?

I met Gurney many years ago in New York. He was the guest of honor at a convention of the American Association of Community Theatre, and I had recently joined their Board of Directors. Gurney, whose friends call him Pete is a very kind and pleasant man who is a great friend of community theatre, which has been the primary source of his income over the years, and he graciously met with anyone who wished to talk with him.

At the time, I was preparing to direct one of his lesser known one-act plays called, The Open Meeting, for a festival that summer. I introduced myself and told him I was going to be directing that show, and that it seemed strange and out of character for his work, with an almost surreal farcical quality to it. He agreed with me that it was somewhat different from most of what he wrote, but that he always liked it for that reason, and that he was glad someone else liked it, too. Then he said: I think it’s a little long, though. You should cut it.

For a playwright to say that is unusual, to say the least. I’ve communicated with him a couple times since then and always found him to be amazingly intelligent and self-aware. He understands what it takes to put on a play, and seems to think of the production first, rather than the writing.

This play, The Cocktail Hour, is about him. It’s probably his most autobiographical play, and the interesting thing about it is that it’s kind of edgy and challenging. Old school or not, it speaks to me on different levels about struggling with one’s past. It says something about relationships within a family that is being forced to change with the times, and desperately trying to hold onto what brings them comfort. It’s about learning to deal with all the things that drive a family apart in our modern world, and learning how to love each other anyway. It’s also really very witty, funny, intelligent, well-spoken, and more than a little bit sweet an charming. I guess that’s why I keep coming back to Gurney. I may tend to underestimate his work, but he always manages to surprise me by being one of the great playwrights of our time.

Scott Bloom, Director

Cast

  • Bradley: Bill Jones
  • John: Terry Averill
  • Ann: Nancy Linden
  • Nina: Jo Sullivan

Crew

  • Producer: John Nunemaker
  • Director: Scott Bloom
  • Stage Manager: Rae Wein
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Bernadette Arvidson
  • Stage Crew: Bridget Arvidson
  • Light Designer: Garrett Hyde
  • Sound Designer: Kaeti Bradley and Scott Bloom
  • Technical Director/Set Designer: John Mecholsky
  • Set Construction Crew: Joanne Bauer, John Nunemaker, Estelle Miller, Fred Bentley, Cynthia Bentley, Rae Wein, Greg Anderson, Lauren Van Blarcum, Duane Rouch, Ken Kienas, Bob Whetzel, Walt Kleinfelder, Garrett Hyde, Patrick Ready, Ed Zadjura, Michael Fawcett, Rich Fogg, Al Chopey
  • Set Painting: Joh Nunemaker, Lauren VanBlarcum, Estelle Miller, Rae Wein, Joanne Bauer
  • Set Dressing: John Nunemaker
  • Properties: Debbie Samek
  • Costume Designer: Jane Lecher
  • Master Technician: Garrett Hyde
  • Theater Technicians: Walter Kleinfelder, Al Chopey
  • Mailing Administrator: Galen Menne
  • Photographer: Connie Carter
  • Videographer: Mike Dunlop/Dove Video
  • Graphic/Program Designer: Debbie Samek
  • Advertising/Publicity: Estelle Miller
  • Webmaster: Myron Cramer
  • House Manager: Joanne Bauer
  • Lobby Design: John Nunemaker

Disclaimer: Bowie Community Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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