BWW Reviews: Nostalgic, Entertaining and Unexpected, TRP's MORNING'S AT SEVEN
It's intermission of Theatre in the Round Player's Sunday matinee performance of MORNING'S AT SEVEN, and as I sit eating a cinnamon cookie in the lobby, I overhear a conversation already in progress.
Nearby, two women are openly and loudly discussing the show thus far.
"How do you think it's going?" the first one says. "You never know what you're gonna get with theater."
I nod silently. I agree.
"Well, I think they're doing a wonderful job. I can't wait to see how it ends," the other says.
I nod again. It's true.
These are common discussions you hear when seeing live performance, only they don't always end so favorably.
Last weekend, Theatre in the Round Players opened the latest installment in their season. It's the story of four sisters and their eccentric families in a Midwestern town during the 1930s, and until this Sunday, I had never even heard of it.
Paul Osborn's MORNING'S AT SEVEN is interesting. I wish there were a better word to describe it, but it's the only word that feels right. I could say it's lively, endearing, or funny (which it's all of those things) but for some reason "interesting" is the only word I can produce.
A product of the 1980s, many of my friends and I have no recollection or idea of the 1930s. Everything we know came from a history book. This play could be wrong on so many levels, but I would never know the difference. The costumes, the language, the recreation of the era and the overall production could be all wrong--I'll never know. What I do know is that from the very beginning of this production, I was hooked. I wanted to know each of these people and their individual stories. I forgot where I was, what I was doing, and just enjoyed the show.
The plot in a nutshell is as follows: Aaronetta Gibbs (Jean Williamson) has lived with her sister Cora (Robin Johnson), and her husband Thor (John Adler), for the past fifty years. But, Cora has decided that she and her spouse need a little time together to just be a couple. Fair enough. Cora has decided that she would like to live in the house that her sister Ida's husband Carl (Jean Shore & Dann Peterson), a man prone to random "spells," has promised to give to his son Homer (Alex Brightwell), whenever he finally takes a wife and moves out. Still with me? Unbeknownst to them, Homer shows up with his fiancé Myrtle (Abby DeSanto) in tow, to meet his parents, for what everyone can only imagine is a marriage proposal. Wait, there's more. The final sister, Esther (Jan Arford) lives down the block with her husband David (David Rinzema), who naturally finds them all to be morons and discourages his wife from visiting and dishing the latest gossip. Over the course of this two-plus-hour production events transpire that will shake up everyone's life and living arrangements. There you have it. If none of that made sense, you'll just have to see it to understand.
Theatre in the Round Players and director, Craig Johnson, have done an impeccable job of casting this story. Each of the actors is believable in their respective roles--playing with all the varying dynamics (sibling and siblings, parents and children, husbands and wives), it all makes sense. Even still, among the talent Williamson brings home the award. Her emotional journey from start to finish is really something spectacular. When she cries, you want to cry for her. When she laughs, you want to laugh with her. She is this story's sweetheart and to continue using cliches, she's quite a joy to watch.
Now back to those lovely ladies during intermission--noticing my very apparent eavesdropping, woman one says to me, "well what do you think?"
"Um...I think it's great. I don't know much about the 1930s but it's really interesting," I mumble having been caught off guard by her question.
Without hesitation the second woman turns and says, "I just celebrated my 93rd birthday, and this play reminds me of the 1930s and my family. This is spot on."
So, while the seats inside the theatre may have been uncomfortable, and the parking situation a little more than frustrating--hearing those words, I knew--Theatre in the Round Players had something special. They may have be able to fool me, and my band of 80s cohorts but they would have never been able to fool this woman. With a stamp of approval from the woman, who I later learned was named Myrtle (what a coincidence?!), and a stirring round of applause from a less than sprightly bunch, this production proves it's worth the price of admission.