Acrosstown throws ‘The Perfect Party’ starting Friday


“The Perfect Party” features, from left, Tiffany Jakowczuk as Sally, Sally Kimberly as Wilma, Malcolm Sanford as Wes and Chuck Lipsig as Tony, at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre starting Friday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 12:55 p.m.

In the comedy “The Perfect Party,” perfection becomes an obsession for an American studies professor. And mayhem is imminent.

Facts

‘The Perfect Party’

What: A.R. Gurney comedy about an English teacher who plans to throw the perfect party and invites a New York City critic to review it
When: Opens Friday with a preview performance at 8 tonight, showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through June 30
Where: Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, 619 S. Main St.
Tickets: $12, $10 for students, seniors, educators and military personnel; tickets are half-price for tonight’s preview.
Info: 505-0868

“He [had] tried to teach the perfect class and ended up scaring students out of it,” says Chuck Lipsig, who plays the perfectionist, Tony, in a new production of the play opening Friday at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre.

So Tony leaves academia to become a celebrity party planner, and his preoccupation with throwing the perfect party leads him to invite a prominent New York critic, Lois, to review it.

In the opening scene of “The Perfect Party,” written by the award-winning playwright and novelist A.R. Gurney (“Love Letters,” “Sylvia”), Tony tries to convince the critic after she has arrived that his party will be worth her time to review.

“A perfect party has a perfect shape,” Tony says to the skeptical critic. “It starts, it builds, it crests, it explodes, and when it finally subsides, everyone involved — he who gives it, she who attends — is bathed in the pleasant afterglow of sweet remembrance,” Tony says. “You make it sound vaguely sexual,” Lois responds.

The guestlist of Tony’s party includes his best friends and neighbors down the street, Wilma and Wes Wellman, who arrive inappropriately dressed for the party in their bathrobes.

“This is announced to be a perfect party, and it’s too much pressure for us,” says Sally Kimberly, who plays Wilma Wellman. “We’ll only come if we can dare to fail, (and) we go back home and change because Tony agrees that we don’t have to be perfect.”

Both Kimberly and Malcolm Sanford, who plays Wes Wellman in the play, are no strangers to A.R. Gurney’s work; both appeared in a recent production of Gurney’s play “Sylvia,” about a couple that adopts a dog played by a human.

“People can relate to this just like they can relate to a dog coming home,” Sanford says about “The Perfect Party.” “Plays are all about tension...if everyone was doing OK then you wouldn’t have a play.”

Tony’s wife, Sally, played by Tiffany Jakowczuk, is not enthusiastic about the party, and the growing tension is destroying their marriage. Sally is “long suffering,” Lipsig says. “She’s putting up with the situation but doesn’t like it.”

His plans for the perfect party go awry when the critic decides not to review the party, however, because it lacks a sense of danger. So Tony transforms himself into his mischievous twin brother, named Todd, in a desperate attempt to add an element of danger to the party.

Lois decides to stay and meet his evil twin brother who turns out to have a full beard and a fake Italian accent. Tony is “nutty most of the time and naughty in one scene,” Lipsig says.

Director Jerry Rose, who also has directed such Gurney plays as “The Dining Room,” “Love Letters” and “Sylvia,” saw his first work by Gurney, “The Dining Room,” in 1995 and has since directed about 40 plays in New York and Florida.

“I like the intimacy of the theater,” Rose says. “You don’t need microphones to be heard.”

The simple idea of thinking one could create a perfect party, and then go on to become a celebrity party planner, which is Tony’s ambition, just comes off as ludicrous, Lipsig says.

“The play is a fun farce, and I hope the people who see it have a good time,” he says.

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