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NY1 Theater Review: "The Assembled Parties"

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Tony Award winner Judith Light returns to the Broadway stage in the new play "The Assembled Parties". NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

Richard Greenberg's "Assembled Parties", focusing on an Upper West Side Jewish family, is the kind of play that features an irresponsible 20-something character who describes himself as "feckless". Elevated vocabulary, to be sure, but I'm willing to bet audiences will find this tragic-comedy an ultimately moving experience in the end.

Julie Bascov's got a million of them, but this hyper-articulate woman, played to eccentric perfection by Jessica Hecht, is no show-off. Language is how she breathes, and she speaks in $10 words of wisdom.

A former actress, she now lives in a 14-room Manhattan apartment with her husband Ben and two sons - Scott, in college, and Timmy, not yet in kindergarten. The setting is Christmas Day 1980. Though Jewish, they gather for the holiday with Ben's neurotic sister Faye and her husband, the crass Mort, and their developmentally-challenged daughter Shelly. Also visiting is Scott's college friend Jeff.

Without giving away too much, the intricate plot jumps ahead 20 years and it details the way family dynamics, despite the best laid plans, tend to warp and weave in the most profoundly unexpected ways.

Greenberg's characters, sprinkling yiddishisms here and there, are very real people, and he's blessed with a superlative company wondrously interpreting every word and trait.

Guided by Lynne Meadow's sensitive direction on Santo Loquasto's exquisite rotating sets, the production hits home. Besides Hecht's bravura work, Jeremy Shamos shades Jeff with fine dimension, and the impeccable Judith Light peels away layers of nuance and humor to emerge a bittersweet butterfly in the end.

"Assembled Parties" brings to mind a time when smart, witty plays were de rigeur, but the best of them - and this is one of them - dig beneath the fancy dialogue, transporting us to places that words alone can't possibly convey.

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