The Engagement Party is a riveting piece of work that delves into the trappings of wealth that is commonly called the “root of all evil”.
Katherine (Bella Heathcote) and Josh (Jonah Platt) are celebrating their engagement at their Penthouse apartment in New York. They are hosting Katherine’s parents, their college classmates and Josh’s long-time pal who is schlepping through the cold in order to make it on time.
Josh is a top executive at his hedge fund, who grew up in New Jersey, while Katherine comes from money which is evident by her red bottoms that flash under her custom-like black sheath dress.
The wealth amassed by Josh and Katherine is jaw dropping as you are immersed in their elegantly designed home by Alexander Dodge (lighting by Matthew Richards), which allows it to take center stage as a character of its own. The high ceilings, minimal furniture, paintings adorning the walls, every inch of the home screams the wealth one attains having graduated from Harvard.
On the other hand, their friends are not so well off.
Johnny (Brian Patrick Murphy) grew up with Josh and is in the service. He’s dressed casually and could be considered “underdressed” for the occasion. They are both Jewish and have known each other since they were toddlers but continue to refer to a secret that Josh has yet to tell Katherine.
Harvard friend Alan (Mark Jacobson), is a Columbia University philosophy professor who finds wealth so morally unconscionable that he makes a donation to Oxfam as their engagement gift.
Kai (Brian Lee Huynh) works for Josh and his wife Haley (Lauren Worsham), is a medical researcher struggling with depression before and after motherhood. Kai then attempts to enlist Josh’s help with securing her an interview at a company where Katherine’s dad is a member of its board of directors but is rebuffed.
Conrad (Richard Bekins), Katherine’s investment banker dad, and Gail (Wendie Malick) round out the eight member cast that manage to keep the audience engaged throughout the 80 minute performance.
After everyone arrives the focus of the night becomes Katherine’s exquisite, custom-designed engagement ring that cost Josh $300,000. As the hint of jealousy fills the air – Josh received a $2 million bonus and Kai received donuts, the unthinkable happens – the ring goes missing.
What transpires is the second guessing of friendships, Katherine’s not so surprisingly cavalier attitude that the “ring will be found” to Josh fretting over which one of his friends took it – this play will take you on a roller coaster of emotion in a modern day “who done it” scenario.
All the while the biggest gotcha moment isn’t the missing ring but the hidden secrets between Josh and Conrad.
Overall, Samuel Baum’s The Engagement Party is a delightful way to spend an evening at the theater. The writing is superb, the storyline isn’t too cliché and leaves you wondering should one put their money to better use.
‘The Engagement Party’ is playing now at the Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave. through November 5.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays to Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 5
Tickets: $39 to $129 (subject to change)
Info: (310) 208-2028 or www.geffenplayhouse.org