(Boston) — A host of favorite Huntington Theatre Company artists return for a new stagging of A.R. Gurney's American comedy of manners The Cocktail Hour. Maria Aitken (Betrayal, Private Lives, and Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps at the Huntington) directs the company that features James Waterston (Private Lives and Ah, Wilderness!) as John, the young playwright that reveals to his familuy members that they are the subject of his newest play. Richard Poe (The Taming of the Shrew) plays his father Bradley, Tony Award nominee and renowned Gurney interpreter Maureen Anderman (Becky Shaw and Third) plays John's mother, Ann; and Pamela J. Gray (Present Laughter and Butley) plays Nina, John's sister.
Gurney's play is a window into a stalwart element of WASP culture: the pre-dinner cocktail hour. A revered ritual in John's parents' elegant home, all semblance of calm demeanor dissolves when he announces over martinis that he has written a play about his family. As the drinks flow, so do the revelations and recriminations, both funny and poignant, in this heartfelt comedy about the ties that bind. Performances begin November 15 at the Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre.
"We have been talking a revival of The Cocktail Hour for several years now," says Artistic Director Peter DuBois. "When we knew Maria Aitken was available to direct it, our cocktail was complete!"
"The idea of a year going by without working at the Huntington was so stressful that I sought solace in the occasional martini while working elsewhere," confesses director Maria Aitken. "I was filled with joy when the opportunity arose to return to my favorite theatre in America to direct The Cocktail Hour, for I was already in training in the cocktail department."
The Cocktail Hour is one of my Gurney's most autobiographical plays. "Despite its post-modern tone, it is probably the most personal thing I had written up to this time," he recalled. "Because the details are so close to home, I promised my family not to let it be produced in Buffalo, my home town, until after both my parents were dead. I personally don't feel that it's terribly rough on either one of them, but the world I grew up in treasures its personal privacy and doesn't enjoy being displayed on stage. And, of course, that's the big issue in the play."
About the Artists
The ensemble cast includes:
- Maureen Anderman (Becky Shaw, Rabbit Hole, and Sisters Rosensweig at the Huntington, Gurney's Later Life and Ancestral Voices Off Broadway) as Ann;
- Pamela J. Gray (Present Laughter and Butley at the Huntington and on Broadway) as Nina;
- Richard Poe (Taming of the Shrew in the Huntington's first season, M. Butterfly, The Pajama Game, and Journeys End on Broadway) as Bradley; and
- James Waterston (Private Lives, Ah, Wilderness!, and Gross Indecency at the Huntington, An Enemy of the People on Broadway) as John.
A.R. Gurney's plays include The Cocktail Hour (Lucille Lortel Award), The Dining Room, Sylvia, Love Letters, Scenes from American Life (Drama Desk Award), Children, The Middle Ages, Richard Cory, The Golden Age, What I Did Last Summer, The Wayside Motor Inn, Sweet Sue, The Perfect Party, Another Antigone, The Snow Ball (adapted from his novel), The Old Boy, The Fourth Wall, Later Life, A Cheever Evening, Overtime, Let's Do It (a Cole Porter musical), Labor Day, Far East, Darlene and the Guest Lecturer, and Ancestral Voices. The Dining Room is the second play ever produced by the Huntington (1982), which also produced The Snow Ball in 1991. He wrote the libretto for the opera Strawberry Fields with music by Michael Torke. His other novels include The Gospel According to Joe and Entertaining Strangers. He is the recipient of the 2011 Drama Desk Special Award, a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Body of Work, and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, and New England Theatre Conference, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Maria Aitken has credits that include the Olivier and Tony Award-winning production of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps which she directed at the Huntington Theatre Company as its American premiere before its Broadway and Off Broadway runs. Ms. Aitken also directed Bedroom Farce, The Seagull, The Cocktail Hour, Betrayal, Private Lives, and Educating Rita at the Huntington. Her other credits include Heartbreak House (Delaware Resident Ensemble Players), The Cocktail Hour (Guthrie Theater), Sherlock’s Last Case (UK), The Gift (Geffen Playhouse and Melbourne Theatre, Australia), the Tony Award-nominated Man and Boy (West End and Broadway), As You Like It (Shakespeare Theatre Company), Quartermaine’s Terms (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Japes (Bay Street Theater), Noël Coward’s Easy Virtue (Chichester Festival Theatre), Lady Bracknell’s Confinement (Vineyard Theatre NYC), School for Scandal (Clwyd Theatr Cymru), As You Like It (Regent’s Park), and many others. As an actress in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and in the West End, her leading roles included Hay Fever, Blithe Spirit, Bedroom Farce, Travesties, Waste, Private Lives, and The Vortex, among others. Her film credits include A Fish Called Wanda for which she was nominated for a BAFTA. Ms. Aitken is a visiting teacher at the British American Drama Academy, The Juilliard School, Yale School of Drama, New York University, The Actors Center in New York, and the Academy for Classical Acting. She is the author of two books, A Girdle Round the Earth and Style: Acting in High Comedy. In 2012 she became a trustee of the Noël Coward Foundation.
(As of September 2016)
Scenic design by Allen Moyer (Betrayal and Private Lives at the Huntington, Grey Gardens on Broadway); costume design by Candice Donnelly (Private Lives at the Huntington, Our Country's Good and Fences on Broadway); lighting design by Paul Palazzo (Twelve Angry Men on Broadway); and sound design by John Gromada (Betrayal and Educating Rita at the Huntington, The Trip to Bountiful on Broadway). Production stage manager is Emily F. McMullen. Stage manager is Jeremiah Mullane.
- Grand Patron: Boston University
- Season Sponsors: J. David Wimberly, Carol G. Deane
About the Huntington Theatre Company
Recipient of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award and named Best of Boston 2013 by Boston magazine, the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston's leading professional theatre and one of the region's premiere cultural assets since its founding in 1982. Bringing together superb local and national talent, the Huntington produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current to create award-winning productions, runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso and in residence at Boston University, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form. For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.
PRODUCTION CALENDAR AND RELATED EVENTS
Post-Show Audience Conversations
Led by members of the Huntington staff. After most Tuesday — Friday, Saturday matinee, and Sunday matinee performances throughout the season. Free with a ticket to the performance.
35 Below Pre-Show Meetup
- Friday, November 15 at 6:30pm
Mingle with Huntington staff and other 35 Below theatregoers at a special pre-show event hosted by Five Napkin Boston, featuring free food and cash bar.