Susan Granger’s review of “Party Face” (City Center Stage II – Off-Broadway)
Oscar-winning actress Hayley Mills (“The Parent Trap,” “Pollyanna”) stars in Isobel Mahon’s Irish comedy about a festivity that’s full of surprises.
Set in the newly remodeled kitchen of a flat in Dublin, Mollie Mae (Gina Costigan) is hosting her first cocktail party after spending three weeks in a psychiatric hospital. Mollie’s husband left her six weeks earlier after 16 years of marriage, causing her to suffer a nervous breakdown in the cereal aisle of a supermarket.
Melancholy, morose Mollie’s guests include her elegant mother, Carmel (Hayley Mills), her acerbic sister Maeve (Brenda Meaney), her obsessive-compulsive psych ward roommate Bernie (Klea Blackhurst) and her slyly nasty neighbor Chloe (Allison Jean White).
Shallow, status-conscious Carmel arrives first, clad in pink silk capri pants and high heels, taking a quick look around and immediately undermining Mollie, noting: “Lovely flowers…in my day, you never saw a lily outside of a funeral parlor, but, sure, that’s progress…”
While critical, controlling Connie holds center-stage throughout most of the forced gaiety that includes a conga line, the guest mix and mingle, trading barbs about men, marriage, mental health…and an unusual topiary.
Now almost 72 years old, beguiling Ms. Mills deserves a better vehicle than this trifling two-act, occasionally clever cluster of clichéd canapes, directed by Amanda Bearse, designed by Jeff Ridenour, lit by Joyce Liao and costumed by Lara de Bruijn.
“Party Face” plays at Stage II, New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, until April 8.