Sept. 13 2016 06:06 PM

Spirits high in North Coast Rep’s ‘The Cocktail Hour’

J. Michael Flynn (left) and Chris Petschler in The Cocktail Hour
Photo courtesy of North Coast Repertory Theatre

It's hard to get too jacked up about the squabbles among a privileged northeastern family. Yet that's what we're asked to do by playwright A.R. Gurney in his autobiographical The Cocktail Hour. Struggling part-time playwright John (Chris Petschler) shakes up a family reunion that's missing only its favorite son by announcing he's written a play about them all. Of course this pisses off everybody, especially the all-eyebrows-and-irascibility patriarch Bradley (J. Michael Flynn), who is the center of both John's play and this one. The booze flows (though none of the characters ever seems very smashed), as do the passive-aggressive quips, put-downs and resentments.

North Coast Repertory Theatre's production directed by Rosina Reynolds begins as overly chatty and overly quippy, though palpable tension builds as these silver spooners reveal themselves to each other. John likes to say "penis," by the way—that's pointed out by his snarky sister Nina (a quite funny Shana Wride). The chief question at hand is whether Bradley, who's put the kibosh on the play, and son John will ever come to an understanding. Given their mutual self-absorption, you wonder why they would care.

The Cocktail Hour runs through Oct. 2 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $43-$50; northcoastrep.org

****

Sweet Charity debuted on Broadway 50 years ago, with Gwen Verdon in the role of a dance-club hostess (with benefits) who dreams of a better life, or at least of true love. You may remember its signature numbers "Big Spender" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now." Seen today at the Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido, it's a total throwback to the "swingin'" '60s, with an ensemble dancing the frug (look it up) and an Act Two opener featuring gyrating tie-dyed hippies ("Rhythm of Life"). Hokey as all this sounds—maybe it was in 1966—Sweet Charity had some heavyweights behind it, including Bob Fosse (the choreography), Cy Coleman (the music) and Neil Simon (the book). Welk's production directed by Ray Limon is a star vehicle for the versatile and adorable Natalie Nucci, whose comic timing and song-and-dancing are top shelf. In fact, the whole show's as nimble and good-natured as Charity Hope Valentine herself.

Sweet Charity runs through Nov. 30 at the Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. $49. welkresorts.com

Opening:

Manifest Destinitis: Set in 1800’s Alta California, this world-premiere satire is about a crazed Don Aragon, who’s trying to marry off his daughter, but little does he know she’s in love with (gasp!) a guapo Americano. Written by Herbert Siguenza, it opens Sept. 15 at the Lyceum Space in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org

Dangerous Obsession: A disturbed man obsessed with the death of his wife terrorizes a married couple. Directed by Jay Mower, it opens Sept. 16 at PowPAC Community Theatre in Escondido. powpac.org

13: Teen and young adults make up the cast of this musical about teens and young adults in small-town Indiana. Presented by STAR Repertory Theatre, it opens Sept. 16 at the Thomas and Pearl Martinez Auditorium in Escondido. starrepertorytheatre.com

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