The Cocktail Hour

B Street Theatre

2711 B St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 443-5300

Rated 4.0

The plays of A.R. Gurney are populated by affluent, connected, liberal Republicans from the northeast whose children go to private prep schools and earn Ivy League degrees. The Cocktail Hour, a semi-autobiographical comedy from 1989, fits the mold. Set in a gracious home in upstate New York circa the 1970s, it’s about a retired couple whose son, John, works in the publishing industry. John has written a play, modeled on his difficult relationship with his father. John is asking permission before the script is staged.

That upsets the daily cocktail hour in a jiffy. Father (veteran actor David Silberman, who’s very good at playing grouches) fumes about the indignity of being dissected on stage during his waning years. Mother (actress Sands Hall) gamely suggests John channel his thoughts into a book, which would generate less notoriety. And then she has John fetch another cocktail. The libations flow freely throughout.

Good daughter Nina (Amy Tribbey) also intervenes. She’s upset with her brother but mostly frustrated with her own life, and eventually confesses that she wants to go to Cleveland to train Seeing Eye dogs.

Gurney’s comic dialogue is nimble and never too harsh, director Jerry Montoya’s timing is adept, and the scenic design by Robert Walker is suitably overstuffed and old school. The surprise is Hall, an artist we usually associate with “serious” work. Dressed in a wig and playing a character significantly older than herself, Hall shows a comic range we haven’t seen from her before, and she looks like she’s having a blast.