Marlo Thomas worked the homey sitting room at East Hampton's Baker House on Saturday night: her husband Phil Donahue, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin, Bob Balaban and Lynn Grossman, Jordan Roth, his mom Daryl Roth, Blythe Danner and others ate sandwiches served on a silver tray by party planner Peggy Siegal. This was opening night of Joe Pietro's play Clever Little Lies at Guild Hall, under David Saint's fine direction. When we meet her in the living room of a suburban home, Thomas' character Alice grouses about adorning the windows of her bookstore with copies of the sexually charged 50 Shades of Gray. By contrast, Alice's family, including husband Bill (Greg Mullavey), son Billy (Jim Stanek), and daughter-in-law Jane (Kate Wetherhead) have other volatile issues. Nobody deploys the word, but "adultery" resonates, and compared with the sex in the best-selling book, the extra-marital sort seems genteel indeed. Son Billy has delusions of love-- with a gym trainer--and plans to take off with her to Hawaii. Mom saves the day by coming clean about her own past, and dad well, Bill Sr. notes ruefully, "Someone always gets hurt."
Marlo Thomas, with comic timing in her DNA, deploys hilarious split-second grimaces; Alice fusses busily serving cheesecake. The next iteration of That Girl, Thomas, the daughter of Danny Thomas, teaches a life-changing lesson in the memoir, Growing Up Laughing: if you want to laugh, hang with funny people: Don Rickles, Joy Behar, Joan Rivers, Jerry and Ben Stiller. Funny spreads to CLL's stage family. Billy is a fount of rationalizations including, you can get away with telling lies if you're smart. This line was added in this incarnation of the play, says Jim Stanek, who sports deep dimples, an asset for acting the role of a coddled child man. "Yes, I had them put in just for the show," he quips but adds, when he is not working in East Hampton, he's a family man living in a 450 square foot upper West Side Manhattan apartment with his wife and 3 sons: "I'm not that guy. I'm a good guy."
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