Author of the beloved Winnie the Pooh Books, Alan Alexander Milne also wrote verse, essays and two dozen plays. The Lucky One had little success on Broadway in 1922, but retitled Let’s All Talk About Gerald, fared better on The West End six years later. Skill in depicting societal expectations, relationships, and moral quandaries later embodied by forest creatures is here showcased with insight.
Michael Frederic, Wynn Harmon, Robert David Grant, Mia Hutchinson-Shaw, Andrew Fallaize, Cynthia Harris
This weekend’s house party at Sir James Farringdon’s country estate consists of favored son Gerald (Robert David Grant) and his newly minted, family-loved fiancé, Pamela (Paton Ashbrook), friends Henry Wentworth, a lawyer (Michael Frederic), public school mate Thomas Todd (Andrew Fallaize) and Todd’s ever chipper girlfriend Letty Herbert (Mia Hutchinson-Shaw). Hosting the group’s endless golf before a local tournament are stolid, conservative Sir James (Wynn Harmon), his status conscious wife, Lady Farringdon (Deanne Lorette) and Sir James’s patrician aunt (Cynthia Harris): “I don’t know anything about golf, but I think doing anything in-one is marvelous!”
Gerald Farringdon, who’s a rising star at the foreign office, excels at simply everything; encouraged and celebrated throughout a charmed life. His older brother, universally referred to as “poor old Bob (Ari Brand), runs a perpetual second place. “Whatever the elder one does, the younger one does a jolly sight better.” An unhappy banker, Bob has a chip on his shoulder the size of Trafalgar Square.
Robert David Grant and Ari Brand
“What’s the family creed? I believe in Gerald. I believe in Gerald the Brother. I believe in Gerald the Son. I believe in Gerald the Nephew. I believe in Gerald the Friend, the Lover, Gerald the Holy Marvel.” Bob
The pastoral weekend is interrupted by Bob’s frenzied appearance. Taking Gerald aside, he admits that being “helpless with figures” has allowed his partner to embezzle funds and flee. The young man is sure of prosecution and scared out of his wits. In the predictable manner of someone who’s never known difficulty, Gerald assures him that “people don’t get thrown into prison if they’re innocent.” Unfortunately, he can’t make it to town to help his brother for 4-5 days because of the golf tournament. Not to worry.
Robert David Grant and Paton Ashbrook; Paton Ashbrook and Ari Brand
Bob is arrested, convicted and sentenced. Everyone seems more concerned about reputations than the incipient convict. Before he goes to prison, we learn that Pamela was his friend, “my only friend,” when introduced to, then courted by Gerald. Clearly jealous and enamored, he begs her not to marry until he’s released so that he doesn’t have to return to Gerald’s wife. She agrees to wait. Two month pass. And then…
There you have it. Except nothing’s as cut and dry as it seems. Brakes screech, people rethink, things change.
In addition to spot-on golf repartee, wonderful pieces of dialogue include Gerald’s cheery, obtuse suggestions for Bob’s productively occupying himself in prison – learning French or to stand on his head, for example, and the brothers’ eventual confrontation. The latter contains the lucky one’s unexpected and illuminating rebuttal to Bob’s grievances.
Most secondary characters, though credible, act as wallpaper. Thomas Todd and Letty Herbert are sheer, drawing room clichés. (Nonetheless well manifest by Andrew Fallaize and Mia-Hutchinson-Shaw.) Only the family Aunt, here a thoughtful, patrician Cynthia Harris, has her own distinct character. Still the piece holds one’s attention, not the least because of actor Robert David Grant’s vivid performance.
Robert David Grant and Cynthia Harris
As Gerald, Robert David Grant conjures unflagging ego and blithe insensitivity. He vibrates with energy and good will. When the character’s internal ballast is shaken, difficulty in processing is evident. Testimony to suffering then arrives with incredulous strain but no real explosion. A believable portrait.
Ari Brand seems almost as nervous as Bob, an unfortunate observation. The actor plays his character too one-note and doesn’t come into his own until a final scene. With glimpses of skill, one hopes this will iron itself out.
Paton Ashbrook lacks grounding, as if she hasn’t decided what Pamela is thinking and feeling. Both the character’s lack of sureness about Gerald and decisions that subsequently arise from it read as surface display. Only when Ashbrook is dealing with friends and family does she come across as whole.
Pamela Ashbrook and Robert David Grant
Director Jesse Marchese uses her stage with aesthetic and dramatic skill. Pacing is good. It would have served the piece to find some personal definition in minor characters.
Vicki R. Davis offers a minimal, yet evocative set build around a fabulous, double stairway. Young photos of the boys – perhaps of Milne and his brother – are a redolent touch.
Martha Hally’s pale Costumes are flattering and accurate to class and period. Love the golf clothes. Wigs and Hair by Robert-Charles Vallance are enviably attractive.
Also featuring an excellent Peggy J. Scott as Mason, the boys’ old nurse.
Photos by Richard Termine
Opening: Robert David Grant and Ari Brand
The Lucky One by A. A. Milne
Directed by Jesse Marchese
Mint Theater Company
410 West 42nd Street
Through June 25, 2017