Cheers! Alhadeff, Koenig, Beck, Smith, Jones, Harris Open Eliot's Cocktail Party Off-Broadway

News   Cheers! Alhadeff, Koenig, Beck, Smith, Jones, Harris Open Eliot's Cocktail Party Off-Broadway
TACT/The Actors Company Theatre's revival of T.S. Eliot's The Cocktail Party, featuring co-artistic directors Cynthia Harris and Simon Jones, under the direction of their co-artistic director Scott Alan Evans, opens March 17 after previews from March 7 at Off-Broadway's Beckett Theatre.
The Cocktail Party stars Cynthia Harris, Simon Jones and Jack Koenig
The Cocktail Party stars Cynthia Harris, Simon Jones and Jack Koenig Photo by Stephen Kunken

Joining Harris and Jones for the rare New York City revival of the play (running to April 10 at the Beckett in Theatre Row on West 42nd Street) are TACT members Mark Alhadeff and Jack Koenig and guest artists Jeremy Beck, Ben Beckley, Lauren English, Erika Rolfsrud and Celia Smith.

TACT is billing the presentation as the 60th anniversary production of the "profound exploration of self-deception and redemption."

The Cocktail Party was first produced in 1949. In the play, "Edward and Lavinia Chamberlayne are throwing a party at their fashionable London flat. The guests arrive only to discover that their hostess is nowhere to be found and a rather strange man [played by Jones], unknown to all, acts right at home. Ruthless, compassionate and funny, this 'Cocktail Party' embodies the day-to-day struggles of domestic life while turning the classic 'drawing room comedy' on its head."

TACT is "dedicated to presenting neglected or rarely produced plays of literary merit."

Director Evans told, "The Cocktail Party, on its surface, explores the unhappy results of an unfaithful marriage, as Eliot refracts his unique viewpoint through the lens of the typical drawing room comedy. Beneath the surface, however, Eliot explores the very nature of love and how we connect to one another and to the universe. It's smart, complex, insightful and somewhat mysterious. You can be sure that in his beautiful, mysterious, very witty and metaphoric way Eliot has a lot to say — about marriage, fidelity, psychiatry, spirituality. Eliot's influence on modern playwriting can certainly be seen in the works of Albee, Beckett, Pinter and Mamet, to name a few." *

The creative team is comprised of Andrew Lieberman & Laura Jellinek (sets), David Toser (costumes), Aaron Copp (lights), Jill BC Du Boff & Daniel Kluger (sound), Joseph Trapanese (original music) and Lily Fairbanks (properties). Meredith Dixon is production stage manager.

According to TACT notes, "After its debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 1949 with Alec Guinness in the role of the unidentified guest, The Cocktail Party premiered on Broadway on Jan. 21, 1950, at the Henry Miller's Theatre and ran for 409 performances." The Broadway run starred Guinness as the mysterious stranger. It received the 1950 Tony Award for Best Play. The play also ran in London with Rex Harrison as the mysterious guest. A revival opened on Broadway in fall 1968 at the Lyceum Theatre and ran for 44 performances. The Chamberlaynes were played by Brian Bedford and Frances Sternhagen. Guinness returned to the role of the "uninvited guest" at the Chichester Festival under his own direction in 1968, taking the production to London later in the year.

Eliot was an American-born English poet, playwright and literary critic. His first notable publication, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," begun in February 1910 and published in Chicago in June 1915, is regarded as a masterpiece of the modernist movement. It was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language: "Gerontion" (1920), "The Waste Land" (1922), "The Hollow Men" (1925), "Ash Wednesday" (1930), "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" (1939) and "Four Quartets" (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and The Cocktail Party (1949). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Order of Merit in 1948.

Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre is at 410 W. 42nd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.

The Cocktail Party plays Monday, Wednesday-Friday at 7:30 PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM; Sunday at 3 PM. Tickets are $36.25-$56.25 and are available 24/7 through Ticket Central or noon–8 PM daily at (212) 279-4200.


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