Maryanne Renzetti, Sebastien Archibald; photo by Shanna Venor

It seems fitting to mount Stewart Lemoine’s 1986 Cocktails at Pam’s as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the unofficial end of America’s Age of the American Dream. Just as chaos ensued on November 22, 1963, Pam Cochrane (Maryanne Renzetti), a Jacquelyn Kennedy wannabe, is finding herself in a world she cannot control.

Pam’s soirée should be perfect: she’s provided trays of trendy appetizers to be washed down by hip offerings of innovative cocktails devised by her husband Julius (Sebastian Archibald). Her house has been decorated in a way that renowned hostess Perle Mesta would have approved of.

Production designer Lauchlin Johnson nails the look and feel of the chic early sixties. His set seems to be lifted straight from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens or perhaps Playboy Magazine circa 1962. The selection of recordings by Dean Martin, Dionne Warwick, and a young Tom Jones, played as the audience is seated, establishes the appropriate reference point.

Yoshie Bancroft, Brent Hirose; photo by Crystal Cook
[Yoshie Bancroft, Brent Hirose; photo by Crystal Cook]

Pam’s guest list seems to contain just the right number and makeup, including a Stratford actress (Yoshie Bancroft) to ensure an evening of witty repartee followed by hugs and kisses as her impressed visitors take their leave.

Think Camelot-era JFK. What could possibly go wrong?  

Edmonton-based playwright Lemoine takes the best and the worst of polite middle class manners and pretension and throws them into an emotional vortex of giddy expectation and sobering regret. 

No dark villain such as Oswald appears to spoil the party, but the party unravels nevertheless. Maybe it was that Julius’ alcoholic concoctions were laced with stupefying amounts of absinthe but guests start getting out of line nearly from the get-go.

Dan Deorksen, Liz Kirkland, Anousha Alamian, Brent Hirose, Shauna Johannesen, Sebastien Archibald; photo by Crystal Cook
[Dan Deorksen, Liz Kirkland, Anousha Alamian, Brent Hirose, Shauna Johannesen, Sebastien Archibald; photo by Crystal Cook]

Whether acting out sexually as pseudo-beatniks (dressed in black from head to toe) or just being rude, annoying and even nit-picking at length, the canapé offering the dream night turns to nightmare. Even an ad hoc game of Charades degenerates to a charade.

This writer has witnessed wonderful plays from Mr. Lemoine. The Exquisite Hour (2002) comes top of mind. In this Staircase Equity Collective production (with a cast of 11 and clocking in at 70 minutes), no actor role is given enough time nor lines to develop in any satisfying way. Pam’s breakdown at denouement seems contrived to a fault. The fact that no other character seemed to care seemed right however.

That said, several audience members seemed to enjoy their evening, exiting the theater on a positive note. Unlike the aftermath of JFK’s assassination however, Cocktails at Pam’s will not have any long-term consequences methinks. 

Cocktails at Pam’s continues at Studio 1398 until November 30.

About Our Contributor Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini enjoys Vancouver's vibrant theatre scene and has taken in many productions over the years. He holds a BA in Sociology from Simon Fraser University. Larry is financially involved with the film Eadweard Muybridge, produced by Josh Epstein, directed by Kyle Rideout, and starring Michael Eklund.

1 Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.