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The Perfect Party. Tony, the protagonist, is a middle-aged professor, steeped in American history and literature. He has quit his job in pursuit of a single overwhelming passion -- to host the perfect party -- and has invited Lois, a critic from a "major New York newspaper," to witness and review this triumph. Impossibly slender and stalking her way across the stage in piercingly high heels, Trina Magness's Lois is a pen stroke, a black-and- white sketch, a New Yorker cartoon come to life. She's also hard and armored, ambitious, narcissistic and irrational -- doubtless playwright A. R. Gurney's revenge not only on every critic who ever panned his work, but on the very function of criticism itself. Gurney weaves together literary references, comments on the history of theater and its conventions, and socio-political analogies; he utilizes absurdism, genteel comedy, melodrama, farce and serious analysis, occasionally flashing a Wildean epigram. Although this production feels flat in places -- partly the fault of the script, and partly because director Brenda Cook and her cast haven't fully taken control of it -- the play's best scene, and certainly its most raucous, could have come straight from an old Peter Sellers movie. Presented by the Playwright Theatre and Spark Theatre Works through March 17, the Playwright Theatre, 2119 East 17th Avenue, 303-499-0383, Reviewed February 22.


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