Abigail’s Party

A videotaped version of a Mike Leigh stage play (1977) that is one of his most scathing and extreme works, aptly described by one commentator as a cocktail party from hell. A highly insensitive, aggressive, and garish housewife (Alison Steadman) entertains three neighbors (Janine Duvitsky, John Salthouse, Harriet Reynolds) while bickering with her uptight husband (Tim Stern). (The title party isn’t her own but that of the teenage daughter of one of the guests; we hear it off-stage but never see it.) A ferocious portrayal of the English middle class, this might be termed Leigh’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; it provides an interesting contrast to his other TV films by showing how his dramaturgy works onstage. Highly recommended, but you should go prepared to squirm along with the host, hostess, and guests. (JR)

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