Feature

Black Tie

A.R. Gurney's latest play is a “tender, funny comedy” revolving around the run-up to a wedding-rehearsal dinner.

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A.R. Gurney has spent more than half a century “dramatizing with bittersweet acuity the demise of Waspus Americanus,” said Jeremy Gerard in Bloomberg. The latest in the Pulitzer-nominated playwright’s canon is a “tender, funny comedy” revolving around the run-up to a wedding-rehearsal dinner. The groom’s decorous father, Curtis, who insists on the necessity of calling pants “trousers,” finds he must come to terms with the complexities in the world of his children’s generation. “Yearning for paternal advice” on how to deal with his own son’s wedding, Curtis is visited by an apparition of his deceased father, a dapper gentleman who offers a tutorial on old-world propriety.

The conversations between father and grandfather provide the play its “funniest and most appealing scenes,” said Charles Isherwood in The New York Times. As the ghost, Daniel Davis gives “a suave comic performance,” embodying “a certain class of man from the early-to mid-20th century.” Davis’s old man is flabbergasted when Gregg Edelman’s Curtis explains the particulars of the occasion—that the bride is “part African-American, part Vietnamese, and part Peruvian”; that there is a need for kosher menu options; and that a gay comedian will perform a dinner routine. Unfortunately, Gurney’s attempt to “gin up the drama” between Curtis and his son by adding a climactic argument feels forced. It is a weak spot in what is otherwise one of the playwright’s “most enjoyable plays in years.”

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