Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 16, $67-$120
Throughout Richard Greenberg’s splendid new play, The Assembled Parties, characters comment on how easy it is to get lost in the Bascovs’ fourteen-room Upper West Side apartment. It is also easy for the audience to get lost in Greenberg’s compelling story and well-drawn characters as the Jewish clan celebrates Christmas first in 1980, then twenty years later, with things having substantially changed. Jessica Hecht (A View from the Bridge, After the Fall) is captivating as the family matriarch, Julie, speaking in an elegant, drawn-out voice that instantly reveals her character’s unique take on the world. As the play opens, she is joined by Jeff (Jeremy Shamos), her son Scotty’s (Jake Silberman) college friend, who appears smitten with her as he helps chop vegetables in the kitchen. Soon Julie’s older sister, Faye (Judith Light), arrives, with her gruff husband, Mort (Mark Blum), and their somewhat simple daughter, Shelley (Lauren Blumenfeld). “What is all this goyisha hazarai?” Faye declares upon seeing the spread in the living room, firmly establishing her character in a mere six words. As Santo Loquasto’s superb revolving set roams from room to room (to room to room), Faye tries to set Jeff up with Shelley; Jeff throws around a basketball with Scotty while discussing Scotty’s gorgeous, unseen girlfriend; Faye demands a pill from Julie to help her get through the evening; Jeff can’t break free of the telephone-umbilical cord, obsessed with calling his mother; and Mort has quite a surprise for Julie’s husband, Ben (Jonathan Walker). “God is bogus,” Julie says over dinner, “and religion a scourge. Still, I believe in something, though I’m not sure what.” Twenty years later, things are vastly different, the only constant being Jeff’s unending dedication to Julie. Although so much of the story is built around Julie and her Jewish family, the centerpiece of the story is really Jeff, who serves as the onstage proxy for the audience. He interacts with all the characters but often does so from an observational distance, so glad to be among such unique and intriguing people. The audience is likely to feel the same way, glad to be among such unique and intriguing characters in Greenberg’s highly entertaining and extremely clever play.