Theater Review: 'The Assembled Parties' -- 2.5 stars
The Assembled Parties
Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties,” which is receiving its world premiere on Broadway in a production helmed by Manhattan Theatre Club artistic director Lynne Meadow, is a slow, aimless drama devoid of any real conflict.
Greenberg rose to prominence a decade ago with the baseball drama “Take Me Out.” Since then, there have been many productions of his plays, including, most recently, his lackluster adaptation of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
But despite its problems, “The Assembled Parties,” which observes a well-off, secular Jewish family living on the Upper West Side, is that very rare kind of play where Act Two is substantially better than Act One. In other words, do not leave at intermission, no matter how much you may want to.
Act One, set in 1980 on Christmas Day, serves mainly to introduce the family tree, which includes former film actress Julie (Jessica Hecht), her husband Ben (Jonathan Walker), their college-age son Scotty (Jake Silberman) and younger, bed-sick son Timmy (Alex Dreier).
That night, the family is paid a visit by Ben’s colorful sister Faye (Judith Light), her shady husband Mort (Mark Blum), their slow-witted daughter Shelley (Lauren Blumenfeld), and Scotty’s pal Jeff (Jeremy Shamos).
The very intricate set is spun around multiple times in order to display the characters in private moments throughout the expansive 14-room apartment. But by the end of Act One, nothing has really happened except some intrigue about a valuable family necklace.
Act Two, set 20 years later, observes how Julie, now a widow, is being looked after by Faye and Jeff, who both have money to spare, care about Julie deeply and want to preserve her innocence.
These interactions are portrayed with rich sincerity by Hecht, Light and Shamos, and it is here that Greenberg’s empathetic approach to playwriting really pays off.
“The Assembled Parties” plays at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through June 2. 261 W. 47th St., ManhattanTheatreClub.com.