The Engagement Party – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

No life is without its complications, the happy joys and occasional sorrows that mark each of our days. Hopefully the joys far outnumber the sadnesses, but there is no guarantee. For example, imagine an engagement party where favorite friends and loving family are gathered to celebrate an upcoming marriage.

While everyone is drinking toasts and exchanging good wishes, the bride to be’s wedding ring goes missing, a diamond worth $300,000 that is not yet insured.

Until Sunday, February 3, the Hartford Stage will welcome you to the world premiere of Samuel Baum’s funny, mysterious and tragic ”The Engagement Party.”

Beth Riesgraf’s Katherine and Zach Appelman’s Josh are happily in love, until they aren’t. When her ring appears to disappear, their stylish revolving contemporary home, created by designer Alexander Dodge, suddenly turns into a crime scene.

Who could have a motive for theft? Josh quickly has his suspicions on best friend and college classmate Kai (Brian Lee Huynh) who moments before had asked him to do a favor for Kai’s wife Haley (Anne Troup), by approaching Josh’s prospective father–in-law (Richard Bekins) to help Haley secure a new medical position. Josh refuses.

Soon the floodgates open and revelations and accusations pour out. Ugly truths and secrets are exposed and longstanding friendships shatter. Could the thief be Josh’s oldest childhood pal Johnny (Brian Patrick Murphy) or Alan (Teddy Bergman) tight from college days. Josh even has questions about his in-laws to be, not Kat’s mom Gail (Mia Dillon) who is bravely battling cancer, but her husband who has a disasterous history with Josh. More secrets to be let out of the box owned by Pandora.

This 85 minute no intermission play is fraught with tensions, kept tightly under control through Darko Tresnjak’s careful direction. While trust can take years to build, it can be undone in seconds. The strong acting keeps you guessing until curtain and beyond.

For tickets ($25-90), call the Hartford Stage, 50 church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m

No need to bring a gift for Kat and Josh as their hearts threaten to be broken by accusations and deceptions as orange blossoms wither right before your unbelieving eyes.

Don’t waste a moment. Make plans to see two wildly different but highly entertaining theatrical mysteries.

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