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Party Down Recap: Welcome to the Thee-Uh-Tuh

The theater can be pretty ridiculous. Just ask anyone who’s ever sat through a Meisner exercise (like an extended game of “why are you hitting yourself” but without the game), warmed up their voice by reciting a nonsense poem beginning with the words “bee ba!” or offered to “strike” anything. Community theater, while noble, can double down on the absurdity, allowing marginally talented types the coveted opportunity to hide in wardrobes and speak in Old English. It can be, as delusional sci-fi screenwriter Roman DeBeers declares, “a delusion of a delusion.” But, hey, nothing on TV does delusion better than Party Down!

“Not on Your Wife Opening Night” lovingly skewers the, as Steve Guttenberg put it last week, “THEE-UH-TUH” in a way that only a bunch of recovering drama geeks can. Beginning with the closing moments of a “delightful little farce” being staged by the decidedly not-ready-for-prime-time-and-by-prime-time-we-mean-Broadway Lyre of Orpheus playhouse, the episode quickly descends into its own pitch-perfect comedy of errors, the kind that's undoubtedly funnier to those of us on the outside than those on the inside, getting maced or forced to wear a gorilla mask during sex. In fact, the only person who seems to enjoy himself at all this week is the usually taciturn Roman, who begins by mocking the sort of self-important postshow self-congratulation that’s been making backstage techies gag for centuries: calling absolutely everything “magnificent,” an overuse of the word “nay,” etc. But soon enough, he changes his tune, thanks to the brilliant duo of The State’s Kerri Kenney-Silver (in an Amelia Earhart costume) and Human Giant’s Rob Huebel (in an exploded white tuxedo). The two are clearly having a blast being basically every actor we’ve ever met — dropping their Hs, saying things like, “Where would you even begin to find a sense memory to build a performance … ?” and getting super, super wasted. “In the theater, the writer is God!” they bellow and, soon enough, Roman is wearing a Bacchus-like crown, shouting about “pan-sexual frenzy” and letting Huebel nibble on his bare shoulder.

Elsewhere, the farce spins madly on as Henry and Casey — back to bantering about how a new prohibition would finally eliminate “all of the annoying flapper people that are everywhere these days” — madly make out in a dressing room after Casey puts on a hot pink burqa and tempts Henry with her “crudely wanton ankles.” Lydia sees this, but thinks it’s the lead actress still in her I Dream of Jeannie getup — the lead actress who is married to Leland Cork, the veddy British theater director (delightfully played by Christopher Guest regular Jim Piddock), but actually is having an affair with Marguerite, a lesbian high-powered producer (the great Rachael Harris) who has a thing for Casey. Oh, and in order to save the THEE-UH-TUH from going under, Leland has asked “thatch-headed wastrel” Kyle, a veteran of the Lyre of Orpheus, to sleep with Marguerite in order to procure the necessary $10,000 to keep the whole thing afloat. Of course, Kyle accidentally seduces an actress who was playing a character named Marguerite who then makes out a check for $50 in exchange for the privilege of making Kyle put on the aforementioned gorilla head and then riding him ragged while beating him with a fake sword. Phew.

Got that? And this is all without mentioning how Ron thought Lydia had a thing for him because she admired his choice of bathroom reading (Management Secrets of the C.I.A.) and was staring at his ass (because he had cake frosting on it, natch). Sick of being lonely, Ron tries the “direct approach” with Lydia, which results in her macing him “directly” in the eyeballs. Poor Ron! But also poor Lydia: She’s been having a tough time with online dating since she fundamentally misunderstands what a “cougar” is and has been requesting the company of “bears,” thus resulting, according to Casey, in “ten blind dates with gay guys who look like Rob Reiner.”

All comes to a hilarious conclusion when ... actually, no, it doesn’t. The theater is seemingly out of money and Lester’s marriage is irrevocably broken, mostly owing to his inability to figure out when, exactly, ladies karaoke night became ladies scissoring night (!). Farces, it seems, don’t work nearly as well in real life as they do on the stage. As Kyle puts it, with typical deep awareness, “It’s like all these little misunderstandings adding up to this tragic ending.” For them, maybe. But for us, we agree with Roman, the spectacularly soused “God of Wine”: magnicifent! [sic]

Photo: Starz