Start a tab for laughs, it's time for 'The Cocktail Hour'

Millions of people like to share a cocktail now and then. Fortunately, San Diegans can now partake in a special cocktail hour when the North Coast Repertory Theatre opens its 35th season with A.R. Gurney's witty comedy of manners "The Cocktail Hour."

The play premiered in 1988 at The Old Globe Theatre, but director Rosina Reynolds believes it still resonates with the societal changes this long-established family goes through.

"Gurney weaves the play together with witty observations and family dynamics, but without establishing a recognizable plot; and then that very point becomes the plot by the end of the play," Reynolds said.

The New Yorker praised Gurney's "The Cocktail Hour" as "the best play he has done." It is also considered his most personal play. The focus is on a New England couple who is not only privileged, but has passed that baton onto their adult children.

"When son John arrives for dinner at his parent's home, he brings along a provocative tell-all script he has written about their family," Reynolds said. "But the rest of the family does not like the idea. We are watching the remnants of the post-war years disappearing with the approach of the late '70s, which is when the play is set, with the next generation moving forward."

One can imagine the laughs that come out of a cocktail hour with friends or family. Yet one reviewer mentioned this play needs actors with serious comedic chops. Reynolds said she's very pleased with her cast: J. Michael Flynn, Chris Petschler, Cristina Soria and Shana Wride.

"Obviously I wanted this to look like a real family, which I believe I have accomplished," she said. "Because the play is made up of comedy and drama, the cast had to be equally talented and able to deal with human frailties. The play's structure is clever and the language is diligent."

The production team includes Marty Burnett (Scenic Design), Matthew Novotny (Lighting), Melanie Chen (Sound), Elisa Benzoni (Costumes), Andrea Gutierrez (Props) and Peter Herman (Wig & Hair). Aaron Rumley is the Stage Manager.

Reynolds sees the story as very relevant to families today, in how some children are not overly affectionate with their parents and unaware of their parents' prime years, which are now fleeting.

IF YOU GO: "The Cocktail Hour" runs Sept. 7-Oct 2 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. Tickets from $39. (858) 481-1055 northcoastrep.org

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