Mini-review – Abigail’s Party – Wyndham’s Theater

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When “Abigail’s Party” was playing at the Menier this winter, I was torn about going. “Oh, a Mike Leigh play!” said the angel; “Arrgh, it’s set in the seventies and seems to be celebrated as much for its canapés as anything else.” In the end it sold out and that determined it for me; no luck getting $15 tickets like I could have for Pippin!

But then it was transferred to Wyndham’s, and while tickets seemed too expensive ($35!) a friend who needed cheering up wanted to go, and I thought, hey, an actual Mike Leigh comedy, let’s do that – plus it’s just around the corner from work, and a short play, so perfect for working girl me.

Well. I’m not sure how I missed this in all of the Twitter commentary, but in addition to being a play that features horrible 70s clothing (and canapés), Abigail’s Party has to be one of the unfunniest plays ever. It’s light hearted on the face – our hostess just wants everyone to have a good time – but she’s going to steamroll everyone into doing it her way. Meanwhile the one decent character is regularly humiliated (and kept from leaving!), and we get to watch two married couples bicker with each other horribly and very realistically to the point that I wanted to leave, too. The audience, however, was laughing fit to burst – I can’t help but think it’s because they were finding watching people be made uncomfortable and degraded struck them as great good fun.

As a record of life in the English suburbs in the 1970s, there’s no doubt that this is a very accurate play, and the acting was really very good from everyone, but I have just had enough with Mike Leigh setting up these parties in which miserable people make other people miserable. I don’t understand why other people find this so damned hilarious, either. I was barely able to keep my companion there through the second act (it now runs with a break, so 7:45 to 9:45) and only because I think this play is a British classic; but it’s one I won’t be revisiting. If only I could have actually been to a play about the real Abigail’s party, which was supposed to be taking place next door; I’m sure they were having a much better time.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, May 28th, 2012.)

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4 Responses to “Mini-review – Abigail’s Party – Wyndham’s Theater”

  1. thelondonbluebird Says:

    Abigails Party is a satire of suburban lower middle class manners, and although the audience were laughing, they were not laughing at the nature of the cruelty Beverley inflicts on her guests, nor because they find degradation amusing, but rather at the crassness of the somewhat banal Beverley, and the somewhat grotesque elements of her social aspirations. It is a comedy of manners, and one of Britain’s finest.

  2. Advice Please Says:

    Hi there. I’ve never seen Abigails Party before and was wondering on the suitablitity for youngish teenagers. Are there crude jokes and conversations of an adult nature? Thanks

    • webcowgirl Says:

      Yes, all sorts of crudeness and adults behaving badly. I’d consider it probably rather better than most kids deal with on a daily basis at school but you may be uncomfortable watching it with them.

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