There is yet another theatrical party occurring on stage at City Center developed by Isobel Mahon and billed as the new comedy entitled “Party Face.” This soiree is celebrating the newly designed kitchen by the absentee husband of Mollie Mae (played with distinct dismal despair by Gina Costigan), who has just been released from the psychiatric ward after having a nervous breakdown in the middle of the cereal aisle at the grocery store. The first guest to arrive, complete with gourmet nibbles to replace the chips and hummus, is her widowed mother, Carmel, a hard-hitting social hurricane from the suburbs (portrayed with radiant energy and devious charm by the wonderful Haley Mills).
Next to arrive is staunch sister Maeve (characterized by Brenda Meaney, capturing the honest and forthright Irish woman with precision). Appearing fashionably late, clad in trendy designer duds, is the supercilious neighbor Chloe, (an exasperating characterization, spewing potent pretention by Allison Jean White). The absurd gathering could not be complete without the appearance of OCD psychiatric ward roommate Bernie, who is eclectically clad, complete with survival fanny pack concealing her roll of protective plastic wrap (and carefully constructed with realistic and honest integrity by Klea Blackhurst).
Unfortunately this party is too predictable and plays more like a simple sitcom sans substance or stability. Basically everything goes wrong. The script undermines the important relevant core issue of survival and diminishes significant topics such as infidelity, abuse, alcoholism and mental illness with contrived absurd humor.
Director Amanda Bearse moves the action along at a steady clip but can do little to overcome the pedestrian script which deteriorates quickly. The cast tries incessantly to wear their best party face but nothing can mask the lackluster and uninspired festivities. What should have been a play that embraced the power and courage of women dwindles to a light fluffy comedy of no consequence.
The cast of “Party Face” features Klea Blackhurst, Gina Costigan, Brenda Meaney, Hayley Mills, and Allison Jean White.
The creative team for “Party Face” includes Jeff Ridenour (scenic design), Lara De Bruijn (costume design), Joyce Liao (lighting design), and Damien Figueras (sound design). Melanie T. Morgan serves as production stage manager. Production photos by Jeremy Daniel.
“Party Face” runs at New York City Center Stage II (131 West 55th Street) through Sunday April 8, 2018. For the schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.partyfaceplay.com/. Running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Photo: Hayley Mills and Gina Costigan in “Party Face.” Credit: Jeremy Daniel.