Mint Theater's A PICTURE OF AUTUMN Will Feature Jonathan Hogan, George Morfogen and Christian Coulson
Mint Theater (Jonathan Bank, Artistic Director) today announced the cast for the American Premiere of A Picture of Autumn by N.C. Hunter, directed by Gus Kaikkonen.The Mint production will run from May 23rd until July 14th at its home (311 West 43rd Street). Opening Night is set for Monday, June 10 th.
Featured in the cast will be Helen Cespedes, Curran Connor, Barbara Eda-Young, Katie Firth, Jonathan Hogan, George Morfogen, Paul Niebanck, Jill Tanner, and Christian Coulson who gained worldwide attention for his role as Tom Riddle in 2002's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
This production reunites Hogan and Morfogen who starred together in the Mint's production of The Madras House by Harley Granville-Barker, also directed by Kaikkonen. A Picture of Autumn will have set design by Charles Morgan, costume design by Sam Fleming, lighting design by William Armstrong, sound design by Jane Shaw, and prop design by Joshua Yocum.
A Picture of Autumn is a sensitive, intelligent and comic depiction of one family's attempt to grow old gracefully. Autumn tells the story of Charles and Margaret Denham, living in disarray in the decaying ancestral home with ancient Uncle Harry and senile Nanny. Their son Robert returns to England after several years abroad and finds that both the house and its occupants have faded from past glory. When an opportunity to sell the burdensome property arises, Robert leaps at the chance to help his parents downsize.
A Picture of Autumn made its debut on February 11, 1951 in a one-night 'try-out' performance presented by the Repertory Players, at the Duke of York's Theatre in London. The Repertory Players offered new plays on Sunday nights; by the time they presented Autumn, they were "the oldest and most successful of the surviving Sunday play-producing societies" having staged over 190 plays, 62 of which were picked up and produced elsewhere - 32 on the West End.
The Times applauded A Picture of Autumn: "Mr. Hunter treats us to some shrewd observations on character and to some delicately exciting scenes perfectly timed and exactly calculated to inspire sensitive actors." The Stagewas equally enthusiastic: "Mr. Hunter's treatment is ingenious, his characterization clear and firm, and a mood of far-away things kept alive in memory well conveyed." However, Hunter's comedy was not picked-up after its try-out.
Although no West End production of the play followed, Hunter's Waters of the Moon was produced two months later, having been serendipitously picked off the top of a rejected scripts pile in the office of producer Binkie Beaumont by the great British actress, Dame Edith Evans. Another nuanced portrayal of faded gentility struggling for survival, the play opened at the Theatre Royal in London with a cast that included Dame Sybil Thorndike along with Evans. The production ran for 835 performances making its author a household name for a few years.
N.C. Hunter (1908-1971) was one of the leading English dramatists of the 1950s and early 1960s. As theatrical revolution - spearheaded by John Osborne and his school of "angry young men" - exploded around him, Hunter kept his head down and provided moving portraits of a people questioning their own purpose in chaotic post-war England. Norman Charles Hunter was born on September 18, 1908 in Derbyshire. Originally intending to follow in the footsteps of his father, a decorated Lieutenant Colonel, Hunter was educated at the Royal Military College. In 1930 he was commissioned in the Dragoon Guards but relinquished his position three years later, deciding to devote his life to literary pursuits. He found a day job on the staff of the BBC and began writing. In the years prior to World War II, Hunter produced six plays and four novels. Hunter returned to playwriting in 1947 after having served with the Royal Artillery during the war. Over the next four years, Hunter continued to develop his craft, eventually acquiring a reputation as the "English Chekhov". Waters of the Moon brought Hunter to prominence. It was followed by A Day by the Sea, which opened in 1953 and ran for 386 performances starring Dame Sybil Thorndike, Irene Worth, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson. In New York, A Day by the Sea opened in 1955 with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn headlining Hunter's only Broadway production. In reviewing A Day by the Sea, Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times called Hunter "a writer with a lot of charm, skill and taste" and went on to acknowledge that
"To call a playwright 'Chekhovian' today is to utter opprobrium and to consign him to the doghouse. For 'Chekhovian' has become a synonym for preciousness and languor... But the word is not applied to him maliciously in this column. For he is a reflective writer in his own right. The dawdling pace, the improvised narrative, the characterizations of people who associate but never blend, the random remarks - are methods that become him. They result in a subtle, civilized comedy."
Hunter's restrained naturalism fell out of fashion as playwrights like Joe Orton introduced flamboyance and controversy into the British theatre. In Great Writers of the English Language, William Tydeman praises Hunter's "careful characterizations and finely orchestrated dialogue, his immaculate control of exposition and dénouement, his overall craftsmanship," and predicts that "Hunter's work may yet receive that fuller appraisal its quality still merits." Hunter enjoyed great success as his plays dominated the West End throughout the fifties, but A Picture of Autumn, the play that introduced him as "a writer who brought a new tone and unfamiliar nuances into the English theatre" gathered dust - until now.
"The Mint does for forgotten drama what the Encores! series does for musicals, on far more modest means" (The New York Times). The Mint was awarded an OBIE for "combining the excitement of discovery with the richness of tradition," and a special Drama Desk Award for "unearthing, presenting and preserving forgotten plays of merit." Ben Brantley, in The New York Times Arts & Leisure hailed the Mint as the "resurrectionist extraordinaire of forgotten plays."
Performances will be Tuesday through Thursday at 7 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $55. Special added performances on Wednesday June 5th and July 3rd at 2pm. All performances will take place on the Third Floor of 311 West 43rd Street.