Nights at the Algonquin Round Table
There’s nobody here but a roomful of my peers.
~ Alexander Woollcott
What fresh hell is this?
~ Dorothy Parker
If you ever wondered what it would be like to go be in a roomful of witty, literary rock stars, the members of the Algonquin Round Table is the best place for it. But be careful, praise can turn into dangerous jabs in an instant. So, make sure you have the thick skin that can with stand the biting pokes. Novice writer Jack Beck (Christopher Tedrow) drove from California to New York City to make it as a writer and to meet the famous Algonquin writers. He meets with Sally Ardath (Erin Jo Harris) a waitress at the Algonquin Hotel. She’s not impressed. “They’re unemployed scribblers,” she informs him while getting the table ready for members of the vicious circle. Sally doesn’t see the big deal in meeting Dorothy Parker (Roz Stanley), George S. Kaufman (Chris Gooch), Robert Benchley (Nicholas Daly Clark), Franklin Pierce Adams (Craig Win). Jack keeps talking about the writers as if they were literary gods with one goddess. Sally continues to set up the table half listening to Beck.
Beck first meets an inebriated Dorothy Parker. She keeps calling him Lawrence and creates a backstory for him. And strongly suggests he get a new name. Soon, Benchley, Woollcott, Kaufman and eventually FPA joins them. Jack makes a memorable impression by fainting. The writers look in horror before leaving.
Sally has the task of waking Jack up. She takes a liking to him, despite her better judgment. She teaches him how to do the black bottom, while singing in such a heartfelt, rich voice. As the unlikely duo gets closer, Jack side-steps Sally for Dorothy Parker who casually strolls in. She tells Jack that the men plan to have their nightly card game and he should join in. She advises Jack on how to handle them. As the game gets more intense, surprisingly, Jack wins the first and second hand. After that, the game goes south and Jack puts up his farm as collateral. He loses that too, but, as a consolation prize he spends the night with the acerbic Parker. Beck never does become a member of the elite crowd and decides to leave New York. Poor bastard! It’s all good,though. He eventually finds fame and success. Ever heard of the writer John Beck? Just sayin’. Piano player Richard E. Harris sits in the shadows playing but pays attention to what’s going on with the guests.
Writer Steven Vlasak did an excellent job in capturing the high life of the roaring 20s and how valuable the literary world encapsulated the soul and fire of that decade. Each writer has their own story worth knowing. Roz Stanley was wonderful as the sharp-witted Dorothy Parker who founded the Algonquin Round Table. Members have come and left, but it’s Parker, who’s most remembered for her humor, charm and biting tongue. She is the glue that holds this motley bunch together, for better or worse. Tedrow and Harris play the potential sweethearts with a lot of charm. It reminds me of the pairing of William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man film series. Like the Charles’, Sally and John have colorful banter, they joke and laugh and develop a true respect for each other. They don’t overshadow Parker and her cohorts but, compliment them in a behind the scenes kind of way. Nights at the Algonquin Round Table was another successful show at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, that extended their stay. I can only hope that this production returns soon and fast.