(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 4/24.)
The title of Richard Greenberg's new play, The Assembled Parties (Friedman Theatre), carries multiple meanings. Its "parties" are a pair of Christmas dinners, occurring 20 years apart, and also the oddly assorted individuals who gather for them—members of a single family (plus one outsider) but oddly assorted nonetheless.
Though they are indeed assembled on Christmas, the Bascovs and their in-laws, the Rapoports, are Jews, one generation removed from the shtetl, and not particularly big on Christmas spirit. Julie Bascov (Jessica Hecht), whose cooking and passion for domesticity hold the clan together, calls Christmas "a lovely, lovely season" except for Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas"—"a tiny acoustic rape every time you leave the apartment."
The apartment, a sprawling 14-room epic on Central Park West, is where these celebrants collect, hosted by Julie and her husband, Ben (Jonathan Walker), an affluent practitioner of some unspecified business. Ben's sister, Faye (Judith Light), and her husband, Morty (Mark Blum), a prosperous "fruiterer," brave the holiday traffic from Long Island to be there. The two occasions we see, occurring in 1980 and 2000, seem as strangely perfunctory as the family connections. A tree is decorated, apathetically; presents are a rarity; Yiddish words are flung about, especially by Faye and Ben. Dinner, constantly postponed, seems almost an afterthought. The event that Christmas commemorates is only referred to once, when someone trying to get a repairman to fix a leaky pipe offers to pay a "Nativity surcharge."