Theater: Puzzle Box the Perfect Party

by A.R. Gurney Jr.

Playwright A.R. Gurney Jr. is a cocktail party charmer--funny, deft with words, genially self-mocking and ever ready to step in before the discussion gets too heavy. His best plays, The Dining Room and The Middle Ages, have been set at social events and have had the rambling, episodic quality of witty but wayward conversation. Not surprisingly, a fiftyish college professor who fancies himself capable of shaping an ideal evening is at the center of Gurney's sprightly new puzzle box of a play, The Perfect Party.

Outwardly, the show, which opened off Broadway last week, is a farce. In pursuit of his...

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