Maria Aitken Brings Family Fun To The Cocktail Hour

by:  Thom Dunn at 07/31/2013

Our relationship with director Maria Aitken goes back to 2007 with her production of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, which moved on to Broadway and ran for nearly 800 performances. Fortunately she appears to reciprocate our love, and we've since brought her back to the Huntington for critically acclaimed productions of Educating Rita (2011), Private Lives and Betrayal (2012). At the first rehearsal for Private Lives, Maria even quipped that she "might as well toss a mattress in the corner of the rehearsal room and stay here for a while*." We're ecstatic to welcome her back to our stage once again to present A.R. Gurney's The Cocktail Hour this season.

Outside of her work as a director, Maria is an accomplished comedienne, having appeared in more Noël Coward plays than any other actress, and we're excited to have her bring that unique sensibility to The Cocktail Hour. The play tells the story of a playwright named John, who interrupts his parents' daily cocktail hour ritual to announce that he has written a pseudo-autobiographical about the family. Naturally, this news is received with mixed reactions — and lots of alcohol. The play is a thinly-veiled allegory for playwright A.R. Gurney's actual relationship with his family, to the point that he promised them that as long as they were still alive, he would never, ever let the play be produced anywhere near the Buffalo near (where they resided). And if that uncomfortably-close-to-home-meta-ness weren't enough, the character of John mentions at one point having had a play produced at...the Boston University Theatre.

It might sound a little heavy — and there is certainly some drama! — but we actually like to think of The Cocktail Hour as an American comedy of manners. It has much more in common with Noël Coward than Arthur Miller, but whereas Coward's characters and worlds are distinctly British, Gurney's play takes place right here in the Northeast. Plus, John's upper-class family happens to be avid theatregoers, so we think our audience will enjoy seeing a version of their own lives portrayed on stage. Allegorically, of course. Unless the lampooning hits too close to home, in which case it was entirely coincidental. We swear. 

Here's Artistic Director Peter DuBois discussing the show, and gushing even more over the wonderful Maria Aitken:


*In reference to the fact that rehearsals for Betrayal would be starting just over six months later. Also, just to be clear, we do in fact provide our visiting artists with more than just a mattress in the corner of the rehearsal room. Unless that's something they specifically request, of course.


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About me

Thom Dunn is the Web & New Media Manager at the Huntington, meaning it's his job to play around on the Internet and make things cool. He handles all of the video content and social media as well, and has the biggest computer monitor in the office. Like, ginormous.

Outside of the Huntington, Thom is a writer, musician, and homebrewer. It's all pretty cool. You can find out more about it at


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