Its debut in 1939 garnered Mornings At Seven only 44 performances, yet year after year the play is revived all over the country. There’s good reason for this. The piece requires ensemble work often featuring veteran actors who work together with infectious pleasure and skill. Family issues are universal and handled with low key comedy until undercurrents rise to reveal truths and evoke changes. Even then, Osborn keeps things – gentle.
Dan Lauria, Alley Mills
Two Victorian houses share backyards. Harry Feiner’s aptly weather-worn buildings are period perfect and solidly evocative. James E. Lawlor III’s lighting airbrushes time of day. Music/sound by Quentin Chiappetta completes the faded valentine effect.
One house is occupied by Cora (Lindsay Crouse), her husband Thor (Dan Lauria), and her sister, Arry (Alley Mills, last minute replacement for Judith Ivey who, alas had an accident). Cora and Thor are affectionate and comfortable without being demonstrative. Both actors offer unquestioned credibility, with Crouse eliciting poignancy while seemingly doing little. Arry, who has lived with the couple since they married, is nervous and gossipy. Mills is just a bit over the top.
Next door are Ida (Alma Cuervo), her husband Carl (John Rubinstein), and their almost 40 year-old son, Homer (Jonathan Spivey). Ida is what many used to call a hausfrau, uncomplicated; dedicated to domesticity and family. Cuervo is well grounded. Carl has “spells” in which he questions his life path, grows confused and runs off. Everyone is acclimated, solicitous. Rubinstein is better when not being overtaken by symptoms which arrive less organically than one might wish. Timid Homer is afraid of almost everything. No one can imagine his having sex, let alone marrying. As inhabited by standout Jonathan Spivey, he’s a whole person.
Tony Roberts, John Rubinstein
Cora, Arry, and Ida’s older sister, Esther (Patty McCormack), live up the hill with Esther’s husband David (Tony Roberts). David is a snob, holding the others in low esteem. Esther has to sneak out to visit – and does. McCormack is splendid. Every emotion lands without falsity. Her character modestly takes flight. We silently cheer. Roberts manifests a stubborn, egotistical, educated man with seemingly little effort (or personality).
The entire family is excited that Homer is finally bringing home Myrtle, his girlfriend of 12 years. Actress Keri Safran is a find. Mercurial feelings flit across her face and penetrate even stillness. One feels with the character.
In the better neighborhood, up the hill, Carl built Homer and Myrtle a house which they visit but which remains empty as he can’t seem to propose. In a way, it’s this house that causes seismic shift. Plans and threats are made and broken, secrets revealed, allegiances shift and reform. The ending is droll and ultimately believable.
Jonathan Spivey, Keri Safran
Director Dan Wackerman moves his players realistically and with finesse. There’s next to no small stage business, though a bit with a banana works well. A little might be welcome. Pacing is excellent.
Costumes by Barbara A. Bell are right, contributing subtly to character and overall to stage aesthetics.
Photos by Maria Baranova
Opening Photo: Alley Mills, Lindsay Crouse, Patty McCormack, Alma Cuervo
The Peccadillo Theater Company/Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre present
Mornings At Seven by Paul Osborn
Directed by Dan Wackerman
The Theatre at St. Clements
423 West 46 Street