Toasts of the Town

Both The Weir and The Cocktail Hour are, well, intoxicating

Michael Hall has expressed an affinity for Gurney's work, and it certainly shows here. As usual Hall's direction is deft and clear, though perhaps too genteel: Some moments of potentially messy emotions get glossed over, and the resolution seems altogether too pat. Gurney's play is essentially a traditional drama, in a long line of father/son confrontations that echo O'Neill, Miller, Shepard, and many other American playwrights. But to this, Gurney adds a postmodern twist. The play John wrote appears to be identical to the larger play we are watching, and since Gurney's own life tends to replicate the central situation, there's a triple-entendre to all this that adds some zest to the rather shopworn story structure.

Written in the late Eighties, the play holds up well overall. Both his central characters show considerable depth: John is the hero and Bradley his antagonist, but neither is purely good or evil. Bradley's personal anguish is genuinely affecting, his self-importance forgivable. John's career aspirations, like those of his siblings, often come off like narcissistic navel-gazing.

The cast is in fine form, especially Steve Pudenz as family patriarch Bradley. With an upper-class drawl and fussy mannerisms, Pudenz absolutely nails his character. Bob Rogerson, who is a very busy leading man these days, is solid as John, the frustrated, put-upon son who never gets a break from his father. Jayne Heller as the conflicted Ann and Jacqueline Knapp as her equally conflicted daughter Nina also are quite fine.

The cast of The Weir loses track of time
The cast of The Weir loses track of time
The cast of The Weir loses track of time
The cast of The Weir loses track of time
The cast of The Weir loses track of time
The cast of The Weir loses track of time

It may just be coincidence that these two productions, as well as several others now running, offer superior acting, directing, and production values. But it may just as likely augur something more significant: Superior theatrics are fast becoming the rule in this region, not the exception. Sure, fundamental problems remain (which will be the subject of a future article), but when I compare this area with others I know well -- Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis -- South Florida holds up very well indeed. And we can all drink to that.

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