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  A CurtainUp Mini Review:

Absent Friends

When introduced during the 1990 season of the Manhattan Theatre Club, Alan Ayckbourn's tea party from hell was extended twice. This season Ayckbourn's sad/funny sextet of middle class men and women has been given a limited run production by Perkasie Productions. The comedy drama takes place on a single afternoon during which the personal miseries and relationships of the players are peeled away layer by layer. The tea party at the home of Di and Paul is occasioned by the death drowning of the fiancee of Colin. Nobody in the group has seen or heard from for three years and one has in fact never met him. As it turns out, each member of the assembled group, is in need of consolation for their lost dreams and and disintegrating marriages. More so than Colin who has the kind of innocence that probably attracted Alan Ayckbourn to P.G. Wodehoues's "Jeeves" stories (a musical version written by Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber and directed by Ayckbourn is Broadway bound). What's more, his rose-colored view of life and loss exacerbates their own miseries, causing the most fragile member of the group to descend to the very brink of madness. Tony Cormier brings the necessary "other worldly" goofiness to the part of Colin and Janice Hoffman portrays Di with the proper degree of tension pushing its way through a smiling facade. Yet, neither Cormier or Hoffman, or the other competent players, are able to turn the evening into a memorable one. The timing is too often off. The set is too chintzy, lacking even one prop to suggest the home of a couple who are thriving financially but failing miserably in every other way. Don't count on extensions with this production which closes November 10th! Meisner, 164 11th Avenue

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