"The Assembled Parties" Review- A warm and witty winning play now in production by The Raven Theatre Company

The Raven Theatre Company is currently presenting Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties” through March 25, 2017 at the Raven Theatre Center, 6157 N. Clark St, Chicago. Tautly directed by Cody Este with terrific stage crafting by Jeffrey D. Kmiec, especially well collected costumes by Theresa Ham, subtle lighting by Nick Belley, and with original music and sound design by Eric Backus, the play takes place in a commodious apartment on Central Park West in 2 scenes on 2 Christmas days 20 years apart.  This performance features a more than capable group of actors, starring Niko Kourtis in an agile double role, Loretta Rezos as the woman you wish you could hate but love instead, Christopher Peltier as the college friend who came to visit  and became part of the family, and JoAnn Montemurro, as the kvetch with the heart that's bigger than her mouth. There is a  strong supporting cast, consisting of Joe Mack and Chuck Spencer, whose mutual smarminess nonetheless includes the desires to protect their wives, and especially Marika Mashburn, as the nerd who stole the show.

Chuck Spencer, JoAnn Montemurro, Loretta Rezos, Christopher Peltier, Marika Mashburn, Niko Koutis, Joe Mack

  It’s a fine play, beautifully written and with very funny and very realistic Yiddish-sprinkled dialogue; it is filled with shifting moods and well-defined, well-delineated characters. Premiering on Broadway in 2013, it received 3 Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Play, and was recognized with other nominations as well. The mounting of this play at the Raven is likewise worthy of respect and kudos; at 2 hours running time, interest never flagged and delighted laughter rang out loudly and repeatedly.

Christopher Peltier, Niko Kourtis and Loretta Rezos

 

The plot reveals itself in excellent dialogue. A non-observant Jewish family celebrates Christmas in the home of a former teen star and her philandering husband, with their two sons and the older boy’s friend.  The husband’s sister with her own husband and daughter arrive. The brothers-in-law confront each other in a blackmail attempt over a family heirloom. The older son and his friend fail to admit their love affair while seeming to discuss a girlfriend and career choices. A socially awkward cousin flusters. The younger boy is in bed with the flu.

 

Loretta Rezos and Joe Mack

After the intermission, it is two decades later. The family is decimated. Both brothers in law have died. The older son has perished of Aids; his lover has returned from a failed legal career to support Teen Queen Perfect Mom in the throes of her final illness and financial crisis. He becomes a hero, aided by the formerly kvetching sister-in-law, now turned helpmeet, who also reveals the truth about the necklace.

 

Niko Kourtis and Loretta Rezos

The above description, however, doesn’t begin to plumb the truths about the human spirit that emerge in these 2 acts. That is because it is the dialogue and personality of the persons involved that tells a larger set of stories, about the importance of tradition, of compassion, and of family and other loyalties that transcend material possessions and circumstances.

Niko Courts and Loretta Rezos

 

This is an endearing and very witty homage to relationships that endure despite-or because of- the passage of time and position. It’s highly recommended.

 

For information and tickets on “The Assembled Parties” and all the finely staged works at The Raven, go to www.raventheatre.com

 

All photos by Dean La Prarie

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