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'Cocktail Hour' Mixes Familiar Family Issues

March 02, 2001|JANA J. MONJI

After a long day, adults used to wind down at home with a martini in hand. A.R. Gurney's comedy "The Cocktail Hour" is a salute to this waning ritual. The cast of the Colony Theatre's revival makes the four characters complex and sympathetic, even when the conceit of the script wears thin.

A playwright, John (David Carey Foster), has returned to the family home, the set of which is shared with the Colony's main-stage production, "The Man Who Came to Dinner." John has just completed a play titled "The Cocktail Hour." It's about his family, mostly centering on his father, with tangents about sibling rivalry and unsettled issues. He asks his father, Bradley (Chip Heller), for permission to produce it. The meta-theatrical aspects are a bit belabored, foreshadowing scenes of sibling discontent and confrontation with the parents.

Director Robert O'Reilly paces the piece well, bringing out nuanced performances. Sandra Kinder as John's mother and Heller's Bradley give the feeling of an old couple grown almost too accustomed to each other's habits. Kinder's mother has an acerbic edge softened by affection. As John's sister, Ruth Crawford shows both the anxiety and anger of a sister being marginalized by John's rivalry with his unseen brother.

As Gurney indicates through his alter ego, it is a satiric play "infused with warmth." O'Reilly's version of this imperfect family is firmly based in reality, reflecting dynamics that can be all too familiar.

*

* "The Cocktail Hour," Colony Theatre Company at Burbank Center Stage, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank. Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends April 7. $10. (818) 558-7000. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

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