Is Love on the Rocks? - THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY Review

Los Angeles

Richard Bekins, Wendie Malick, Bella Heathcote and Jonah Platt | Photo: Jeff Lorch

Alan Koolik
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October 18, 2023 10:27 AM

In The Engagement Party, a new play by Samuel Baum now open at the Geffen Playhouse, a uniformly talented cast of actors guides the audience through a searing comedy that masterfully exposes old wounds and tests the limits of best friendships.

The story centers around Katherine and Josh, a pair of newly-engaged Upper East Side yuppies, living in a Park Avenue penthouse at the brink of the 2008 financial crisis. Setting the play in 2007, Baum portends not only global calamity, but divisions and conflict that will arise between the couple and their circle. Portraying the central characters with nuance and depth are Bella Heathcote and Jonah Platt. Heathcote brings vulnerability and emotional nuance to her character, making Katherine’s journey particularly compelling. Platt's portrayal of Josh showcases his charm and complexity, and the chemistry between these two actors is palpable, adding to the play's emotional resonance.

Lauren Worsham, Bella Heathcote, Jonah Platt, Richard Bekins, Wendie Malick and Mark Jacobson | Photo: Jeff Lorch

Wendie Malick and Richard Bekins take on the roles of Gail and Conrad, Katherine's parents. Their presence in the narrative provides a generational contrast and adds family dynamics. We learn through the evening that Josh knew Conrad before college, having worked at his financial company for a summer.

Rounding out the cast are a group of Katherine and Josh’s friends: Johnny (Brian Patrick Murphy), Josh’s best childhood friend from Canarsie; Alan (Mark Jacobson), a bookish Columbia professor who eschews material possessions; Haley (Lauren Worsham), Katherine’s freshman roommate at Harvard; and Kai (Brian Lee Hyunh), her husband. These four bring a fresh young vibe to the party and precipitate much of the excitement of the evening.

Jonah Platt and Richard Bekins | Photo: Jeff Lorch

As Darko Tresnjak's nimble direction leads the characters through the evening, a spilled glass of wine serves as a catalyst for a series of revelations and emotional confrontations. These moments allow the characters to reveal their insecurities, vulnerabilities, and long-buried issues, creating a web of tension and authenticity that keeps the audience engaged.

The Engagement Party masterfully explores the fragility of human relationships and the hidden complexities that lie beneath seemingly perfect lives. It reminds us that even the closest friendships can be tested by concealed emotions and unspoken truths. Tresnjak's skillful direction blends humor with profound introspection, offering a well-rounded theatrical experience that will leave audiences reflecting on their own connections and the unpredictability of life long after the final curtain falls.

The Engagement Party is playing at the Geffen Playhouse until November 5. For tickets, click here.

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Alan Koolik

Alan is currently a student at UCLA School of Law. Prior to this, he was an analyst for Jujamcyn Theaters and an off-Broadway producer. While an undergraduate at Columbia University, he was on staff for the student newspaper, the Spectator.

Los Angeles
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