Long play--but funny. Rowdy house. Buffet: two thumbs up.
So went the reviews at Scott's Seafood Bar & Grill on Friday after South Coast Repertory's season-opener, "A Chorus of Disapproval," by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn.
It was almost 11 p.m. when the first theatergoers marched two-by-two through the restaurant's doors (just up the street from SCR) and into the rooms and adjoining terraces reserved for them.
A pianist cranked out Scott Joplin rags as the first lines formed at the buffet and bar and the tiny cocktail tables filled with the theater's faithful. Within minutes it seemed every perch in the gridlocked salons was taken, including the cold stone ledge around the fireplace (Trudy Bracken and her mother Emily Rudiger landed there, balancing their buffet plates on their knees).
"Funny," said Rudiger, of the play.
"Mmmm," said Bracken, digging into her hors d'oeuvres.
For nearly two post-premier hours, guests sipped champagne and Scott's own Chardonnay and helped themselves to a spread that included crab and shrimp in puff pastry, clams casino, salmon mousse in cherry tomatoes, prosciutto on melon and chilled prawns.
Much in demand was David Emmes, SCR's producing artistic director as well as director of the Mainstage production of "Chorus," who attended the party with his three daughters (one of whom, Deirdre, is a naval aviator stationed in Norfolk, Va.).
In a moment between posing for pictures and schmoozing with major donor types, Emmes named a few of the characteristics that drew him to Ayckbourn's comedy.
"It deals with important concerns, such as venality, lack of ethics, means justifying ends--and that made it seem very timely in its way," he said, naming a few recent news makers of questionable ethics. "I also like it because it's the kind of play that celebrates the theater. It's overtly theatrical."
Among the mingling cast members were Anni Long and Jarion Monroe. As Long declaimed (with an actress's charm and overtheatricality): "Jarion is my husband in life and my husband in the play-- where does reality begin?"
Surveying the party, actor Hal Landon Jr. noted that premiere performances aren't always top bill with actors.
"This show is sort of for the big donors," he said, choosing his words v-e-r-y care-fully, "and while we love them dearly, they're not always our best audience. They tend to be a little subdued, a little quiet out there."
Landon smiled. "Not tonight, though. They were really getting into it tonight."
Long agreed. "This was a rowdy house," she said, beaming.
Also attending the party were the show's lead, Joe Spano, with his wife, Joan Zerrien; subscribers Sam and Marianne Rodriguez, Barbara and Bill Roberts, Donna and John Crean, Bonnie and Peter Kremer, Susan and Donald Smallwood, and Lydia and and Kenneth Himes.