By Peter McDermott
Hayley Mills played not just one but two children in the film “The Parent Trap.” In the play “Party Face” at City Center Stage II beginning tonight, she will be the mom, Carmel, while Gina Costigan will be her daughter. Costigan’s own real-life mother Maria McDermottroe played the role of Carmel in the Irish production and Isobel Mahon, who wrote the comedy, was the daughter. Confused yet?
Costigan isn’t, of course, but she does find it “exciting and super intimidating” that she’ll say the lines the playwright wrote for herself and acted on stage back home in Dublin.
“She’s been so kind about it,” she said.
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That character is Mollie Mae, who, according to Costigan, “has recently been having a hard time, and so her mother makes her throw a party to show off her extension [to her house].”
To Carmel, it’s the perfect solution. In addition, she brings the food and also someone she wants to be Mollie Mae’s new best friend. But soon, the “party face” of the title begins to crack and secrets are spilled.
Directing the fun is Amanda Bearse, who was for many years Marcy D’Arcy in the hit Fox sitcom “Married…with Children.”
“She’s the comedic expert and has been whipping us into shape with that,” Costigan said. “It’s been interesting. It’s an awful lot more technical that straight acting. When they say comedy can be more difficult, I do understand that.
“And the writing is absolutely hilarious,” she said.
One interesting aspect of the production against the current tumultuous backdrop in show business is the fact that it has an all-female cast. “And an all-female crew, except for Ben, the intern,” Costigan said.
“I’ve enjoyed that process. There’s a different energy, and every voice is being heard,” she said. “We’ve been working well together.
“This is women’s to shine,” she said. “I hope down the line that there will be a level playing field.”
Costigan reported that she had previously performed a work of Mahon’s. “A one-woman show. She let me put it on here,” she said, adding that the playwright has been very supportive of her career.
Mahon came to prominence in Ireland as the long-running character Michelle in the TV series “Glenroe” and later was a writer on another, “Fair City.” After a successful national tour of “Party Face” in Ireland, her next project represents something of a change of pace – the script for a horror film called “Bogman.”
Brenda Meaney, Mollie Mae’s sister in “Party Face,” is another cast member who grew up in a show-business family and then went on to forge an illustrious career in her own right. Her dad is film star Colm Meaney, and her mother was the late actress Bairbre Dowling.
And Mills, daughter of John Mills and sister of Juliet, comes from one of the most famous acting families in film history.
Costigan, who is the daughter of the former director of Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre John Costigan, told the Echo in 2016 that her parents might have preferred if she had chosen any other career other than acting.
An early credit for Costigan was playing the teenage girlfriend of a gangster (Ciaran Hinds) in the 2003 film “Veronica Guerin.” More recently she has been winning great reviews for her work on the New York stage, such as in Honor Molloy’s “Crackskull Row.”
Once it was clear she was committed to acting, her parents were fully supportive and, as with every one of her opening nights, her mother will be in the audience tonight. “I’m really looking forward to that,” Costigan said.
“Party Face,” by Isobel Mahon is playing through Sunday, April 8, at City Center Stage II, 131 West 55nd St. It stars Hayley Mills, Klea Blackhurst, Gina Costigan, Brenda Meaney and Allison Jean White and is directed by Amanda Bearse. For more information go to partyfaceplay.com and origintheatre.org.