Review - Mint Revives Touching 'A Picture of Autumn'

To the modern eye, English playwright N.C. Hunter's bittersweet 1951 Chekhovian drama, A Picture of Autumn, might be seen as a metaphor for his type of traditionally-crafted middle class post-war theatre that would soon give way to the angry young men who took over the British boards.

But if the popularity of the West End scribe has faded into obscurity, the figurative pile of dust gathered atop this early effort makes it a perfect choice for those hidden treasure hunters at The Mint Theater Company.

Director Gus Kaikkonen's warm, funny and touching production is mounted on set designer Charles Morgan's impressive rendering of a drawing room in the nearly 200 year old Winton Manor, which, like its occupants, shows signs of aging despite its stateliness.

One of the delights of the evening is that four well-seasoned actors take center stage for the main roles. Sir Charles Denham (a sweet, if oblivious Jonathan Hogan) seems content to live out the rest of his days in his 14-bedroom family mansion with his wife, Lady Margaret (a kind, sensible Jill Tanner) and older brother, Harry (zestful but absent-minded George Morfogen). Their needs are supposedly tended to by their aging, and somewhat dotty, nurse (adorable Barbara Eda-Young), but it's Lady Margaret who does the bulk of the housekeeping and cooking, and at her age just maneuvering her way through the spacious building is too exhausting.

When Charles and Margaret's son, Robert (Paul Niebanck) finds a buyer who would pay a substantial sum for the home and then have it remodeled as a student dormitory, it seems the logical thing to do. But emotions aren't always logical and the decision of whether or not to sell, plus the question of where they would now live, is debated through nostalgic memories and hopes for the future.

While the plot does move slowly - and just when you may think the story is done, there's more - Hunter's elegant language and warm humor, and the lovely pathos provided by the sterling ensemble, make the evening worth savoring. And as the issue of how to best care for elderly parents is unlikely to go away soon, A Picture of Autumn will certainly hit home for many.

Photos by Richard Termine: Top: Jonathan Hogan and Jill Tanner; Bottom: Barbara Eda-Young and George Morfogen.

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