Carolyn McCormick | BLACK TIE Carolyn McCormick and Gregg Edelman
Credit: James Leynse

Black Tie

There’s a Leave It to Beaver-like sincerity and an aw-shucks charm to Black Tie, A.R. Gurney’s breezy new generation-gap comedy playing at Off Broadway’s Primary Stages. Holed up in the Adirondack Mountains in the hotel that time forgot — a study in plaid and paneling, and a dead ringer for my parents’ family room, circa 1985 — straitlaced Curtis (Gregg Edelman, the picture of the clean-cut American dad) summons the spirit of his ultra-straitlaced father (Daniel Davis) for speech-writing tips. The occasion? The wedding of Curtis’ son, Teddy (Ari Brand), to a quarter-black, quarter-Vietnamese, half-Peruvian divorcée, whose arrival probably would have killed Teddy’s super-WASP grandpa…if he hadn’t, of course, already been dead. (She never actually turns up in the production.)

Much of the story centers on Curtis’ obsession with wearing his dad’s tuxedo — sorry, evening clothes! — to the rehearsal dinner. ”’Tuxedo’ sounds slightly below the salt,” sniffs Curtis’ father, who then goes on to explain ”below the salt” — an expression from the Middle Ages — and the origin of the word tuxedo. (Gurney gets a lot of mileage out of these cocktail-party trivia tidbits, which Davis delivers with zest and the plummy inflections he honed for years on The Nanny.) Curtis’ wife, Mimi (Carolyn McCormick), is forced to deliver one too many I-can-sense-your-father-in-the-room kind of lines, and their daughter (Elvy Yost) is saddled with the unfortunate name Elsie — Mimi, Elsie, and Teddy?!? — but that’s simply part of Black Tie‘s old-fashioned sitcom-style appeal. B

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Black Tie
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