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Friday, 5 of March of 2021

Party Down – “‘Not On Your Wife’ Opening Night”

But fuckin’ community theatre? It’s like a delusion of a delusion.”

I adore a well-done farce. All the running around, the mistaken identities, the uptick in speed as the script hurdles towards its climax. It’s all great fun. (And one of the reasons I enjoy both Frasier and The Nanny.) But it takes a great deal of things for a farce to work, including a cast that is on their toes, a quick script, and smart director. Even if one of those things is only slightly off, the entire thing crumbles.

Thankfully, this is not the case in Party Down‘s “‘Not On Your Wife’ Opening Night.” Indeed, the show’s stab at farce never lets up, not even for a moment. And as much as I loved “Steve Guttenberg’s Birthday Party,” I think this episode is the best of the season thus far.

Part of the reason to enjoy the episode is its willingness to start paying off its big seasonal arcs, specifically the tension between Henry and Casey and then the dynamics between Ron and Lydia. The latter has been an issue for me through much of the season. Both Ron and Lydia have been fairly aimless in episodes, struggling to interact with the rest of the ensemble, or sometimes even feel like parts of the ensemble.

Some of is this just Ron’s general arc: he’s been struggling to find his way since losing his girlfriend and his Super Crackers franchise, and since he’s not the Party Down team leader, he doesn’t seem sure on how to interact with his fellow co-workers, especially Henry. But the show hasn’t given him much of a chance to interact with Roman or Kyle this season, putting Ron on his own (e.g., getting stoned in a coffin for instance) or with vague situations with Lydia (e.g., making sex sounds in a catering tent).

Lydia, on the other hand, has never felt fully integrated into the ensemble. Her attempts to connect with Casey are supposed to fall flat, Casey’s not interested in talking to her, but that she’s failed to find a niche with the ensemble is frustrating still. But she and Ron seemed to have been dancing around one another, comedically, and to have them engage in romantic misstep due to Lydia staring at cake frosting on Ron’s ass and Ron, not knowing of the cake frosting, assumes Lydia is interested. Farce! And wonderfully played. That Ron seems so used to the pepper spray is too funny for words, and that Marino deadpans the entire thing is even better. It’s the first truly funny thing from either of them all season.

But Henry and Casey have been dancing around each other all season, too. And while they had their moment in the hot tub last week, a fall out was needed, and here is that fall out. Their desire to keep it a secret from the rest of the crew means being careful, so careful that they make out while Casey is wearing a pink burka used in the titular play. Lydia spies them, assumes that Henry is actually making out with the actress who was in the burka during the play (who happens to be the wife of the director and operator of the theatre). Farcical hijinks ensue as everyone keeps the secret of who is necking with who.

That the show, organically, allows Casey and Henry to begin working through their issues is a sign of just how well crafted this show. That they shift from apology to “schtick” so quickly shows just how much of a rhythm the two are able to find within each other. And while I would’ve liked these moments a bit more time to breathe, I suspect that next week’s episode, which marks the return of Kristen Bell’s Uda, will give us just that.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Roman getting hammered behind the bar and engaging in a mild orgy with two of the play’s actors would make Nick DiCinto so upset that he wasn’t there.
  • This was the first episode of the series not directed by Fred Savage or Byran Gordon. David Wain kept the pacing of the cuts and the direction very quick and sharp.


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