Morning Sun – Three Generations of ‘Ordinary’ Women

The play gets its title from Edward Hopper’s Morning Sun whose image, like much of the artist’s work, is both familiar and utterly bleak. Its main protagonist has a particular affection for (identifies with) the painting.

We’re in a threadbare, dun colored Greenwich Village walk-up, so sparsely furnished one wonders at first whether someone is moving in or out. (Design by dots.) The apartment is shared over time by three generations of women: Claudette McBride (Blair Brown), who arrived in New York in 1947, her daughter Charlotte/Charley (Edie Falco), the play’s nucleus, and Charley’s daughter, Tessa (Marin Ireland).

Each of the able actresses also plays friends, lovers, husbands and narrator. It takes a beat to grow accustomed to fluid switching of unidentified characters. The players are deft.

Claudette is married to Harold, whose brother Stanley is also in the picture. Her story is less immediate than the others; history and personality are exposed in parental exchange. As a child, Charley’s best friend Casey (Ireland) provides some of the liveliest interaction. Using recognizable touchstones, changes in eras are reflected in conversation throughout the play. Charley gets pregnant and at the last minute decides to keep Tessa. An unexpected schism occurs.

Morning Sun by Edward Hopper – Wiki Gallery Public Domain

Contentious relationship grows between Charlotte and her daughter. Everyone wants the next generation to do better in accordance with their own unrealized dreams. Later, Charlie will almost repeat the exercise with Tess. Despite being shy, Charlie reaches for company (always, in credit to Falco, a surprise), securing successive men whose choice would not seem obvious. We hear about varied work situations. None of the women are artistic or ambitious. Satisfaction is elusive or judged. Life and death (each of the latter described) proceed apace.

Bored? There’s no question that acting is skillful. Parenthetically a vignette comes to life we wish would expand and continue, then narrative sinks back to a kind of overall hum. The playwright’s disjointed structure keeps us from more than fleeting attachment. At 90 minutes without intermission (the current trend), it also seems overlong.

Aside from drinks of tea, alcohol and vacuuming up a smashed potted plant, Director Lila Neugebauer gives the actresses no stage business. Gestures are natural, but pacing across the all but empty stage takes on a technical quality.

Perhaps you should first determine whether you’re an Edward Hopper fan.

Opening Photo: Edie Falco, Marin Ireland, Blair Brown (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Manhattan Theatre Club presents
Morning Sun by Simon Stephens
Directed by Lila Neugebauer
City Center Stage I    
131 West 55th Street

About Alix Cohen (1190 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.