Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.

"You've been at a cocktail party and said 'Excuse me. I want to get a drink," and you never come back. Well, I'm the guy you were talking to," said Eli Wallach, characterizing his role in "Absent Friends," which opened Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center.

Wallach and his costar (and wife), Anne Jackson, were guests of honor at a post-opening party given by Rick Hutto and Steve Eilins, two young Carter White Hosue staffers, in their 15th Street NW apartment.

The party got under was almost before one of the hosts made it home with the food. The downpour caught him on Connecticut Avenue, where he had to abandon his car in the deluge. He got home within minutes of the 80 invited guests, including the Kennedy Center's Roger Stevens, presidential assistant Hugh Carter, Deputy Director of ACTION Mary King, Jimmy Carter's adviser Peter Bourne, and Deputy Chief of Protocol Dot Padgett.

If the party started off earlier than anyone expected because of a 7 p.m. curtain, it didn't end necessarily early. Among the late arrivals were the President's two sons, Chip and Jeff, with their wives, Caron and Annette.

Wallach and Jackson met Hutto, who is appointments secretary to the Jim Jensen. And there was one thing Wallach wanted to ask Hutto.

"Tell me, how do you manage to keep all of those appointments straight?" Wallach asked.

Hutto smiled knowingly.