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Primary Stages Presents A. R. Gurney's "Black Tie"
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Primary Stages Presents A. R. Gurney's "Black Tie"

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Primary Stages Presents:
Black Tie

By A.R. Gurney
Directed by Mark Lamos
Primary Stages
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street

Ari Brand, Daniel Davis, Gregg Edelman,
Carolyn McCormick, Elvy Yost

Set Design: John Arnone
Lighting Design: Stephen Strawbridge
Costume Design: Jess Goldstein
Original Music and Sound Design: John Gromada
Prop Supervisor: Faye Armon
Production Stage Manager: Matthew Melchiorre
Production Supervisor: PRF Productions
Casting: Stephanie Klapper Casting
Director of Marketing: Shanta Mali
Associate Artistic Director: Michelle Bossy
Press: O&M Co.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 4, 2011

When I checked my Playbill notations, I had drawn stars all over Daniel Davis’ listing. And, a star he is, actually in the image of a ghost named Curtis, as the grandfather in black tie (now known as tuxedo), who inhabits his grandson’s wedding hotel. One would expect a New York black tie event to occur at the Plaza or Waldorf, but, no, we are witnessing a family scene in a somewhat seedy Adirondack hotel, near Lake George. Curtis’ son, also named Curtis (Gregg Edelman), sees his image in the mirror, as he adjusts his bowtie, that is, he sees his deceased father, and they’re dressed like twins. Curtis Sr. proceeds to inhabit the bridal “suite” with non-stop, elegant repartee, replete with aristocratic aura. Curtis Sr. disapproves of the entire event, from “rehearsal dinner”, to newly created vows, to his grandson’s request for casual attire, to the notion that his grandson’s fiancée is of mixed breeding, now called multi-racial. The latter revelation is almost too shocking for Curtis Sr. to fathom. Curtis Jr. is eager to fill his father’s shiny black shoes and welcome “Maya” (who remains an offstage character) to the brood.

The groom, Teddy (Ari Brand), is torn between tradition and modernity, whether to accept his father’s formality or force his fiancée’s informal approach. Teddy also has last minute cold feet, as he brings his parents news of a pre-marital blow-up, mainly related to the generational divide. And, the canapés are being served! Mimi (Carolyn McCormick), Teddy’s mother, seems to live in both worlds, classy/casual – adaptable/avant-garde. Mimi wants her husband to be his own man, as she’s still brooding over Curtis Sr.’s intractable influence, and, with Curtis Sr. witnessing the related exchanges, he adjusts his own leverage to keep his family harmonious. That includes his grand-daughter, Elsie (Elvy Yost), and the unseen bride-to-be. Elsie’s exuberance and sarcasm add to the humor of those resilient exchanges, as this family keeps its impulses in tow. That is, except for Teddy’s one attempt at shock effect. Mr. Edelman is calmly engaging throughout, ever the temperate persona, and Ms. McCormick keeps the banter enticing. Ms. Yost and Mr. Brand are both in fine form, as the heirs to good grooming and the will to transform. But, it’s Daniel Davis who steals the show, with his cheerful charisma and fashionable witticisms.

John Arnone’s set for this intermission-less play is just as I would imagine a longstanding Lake George hotel, with a touch of log cabin panache. Jess Goldstein’s costumes reflect the dichotomy of black tie and blue jeans, and Mark Lamos directs with an intent toward detail, both gestural and expressive. Kudos to A.R. Gurney for this fantastic new play.

Ari Brand, Carolyn McCormick, Elvy Yost,
Gregg Edelman, Daniel Davis
in Primary Stages' "Black Tie"
by A.R. Gurney.
Courtesy of James Leynse

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