What is the spiritual inheritance that children receive from their parents?
In Richard Greenberg’s new play, “The Assembled Parties,” an Upper West Side Jewish family sees its wealthy assimilated lifestyle destroyed by infidelity, heartbreak and loss. Lynne Meadow directs a star-studded cast, which features Judith Light, Jessica Hecht, Jeremy Shamos, Jonathan Walker and Mark Blum. The play opened this week at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
Greenberg’s earlier plays include the Tony Award-winning “Take Me Out,” about a gay Major League Baseball player; “The American Plan,” about Holocaust survivors in America; and “Three Days of Rain,” nominated for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. His adaptation of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” opened last month on Broadway and the musical theater version of the 2002 film, “Far From Heaven,” for which he wrote the book, debuts in May at Playwright’s Horizons.
In “The Assembled Parties,” the Bascovs, who live in a 14-room apartment on Central Park West, gather for Christmas dinner in 1980, and then again exactly three decades later. While Julie (Hecht) and her sister-in-law, Faye (Light) seem to have everything in hand, a house guest (Shamos) who is a college friend of Julie’s son, stumbles upon family secrets that revolve around a mysterious ruby necklace. By the turn of the millennium, the family has become unglued, and it will take great ingenuity to meld the pieces back together.
In an e-mail, Meadow told The Jewish Week that Greenberg’s new play is about “the intricacies of families, both the ones into which we are born and those that we choose to create. It’s about aspiration, which is put upon and felt by youth, but is often compromised in later life.” By following the same characters over the course of decades, Meadow noted, Greenberg is able to comment on “how impossible it is to predict what will happen to us in our lives — the reversals, the transformations, the unexpected twists and turns.”
Greenberg is often drawn to Jewish themes, Meadow pointed out, especially those connected to secular New York Jews — people who, “as they have prospered, have strayed from being observant in the traditional ways.” But the play also deals, she said, with the “eternal human concern of how we deal with the beginning and ending of life — of our own, and of those we love.”
“The Assembled Parties” is at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St.. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. There are also Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. For tickets, $67-120, call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com.