Octogenarians Sir Charles Denham (Jonathan Hogan), his wife, Lady Margaret (Jill Tanner) and his often vague, eccentric brother, Harry (George Morfogen), live in an 18 bedroom estate house in England. The three are “attended to” only by hard of hearing, somewhat addled “nurse” (Barbara Edna), who remains, making interminable pots of cocoa despite the family’s two adult sons having long ago left. Unable to afford the many servants with which they were raised, Margaret does most of the housework. Complaining is like breathing.
Home from ten years in Africa, dull, stiff-backed son Robert (Paul Niebanck), his wife Elizabeth (Katie Firth,) and teenage daughter, Felicity (Helen Cespedes), come to visit. Having received a series of exhausted, unhappy letters from his mother, Robert, a take-over kind of guy, assumes the family would be better off downsizing and has found a buyer for the house and land. “It’s time to take action!” His brother, Frank (Christian Coulson), something of a charming n’er do well, is also in temporary attendance. (One wonders why theatrically.)
Sir Charles and Margaret eventually seem to allow for the possibility of relocating, but Harry’s another matter. After years of traveling the globe, he again sleeps in his childhood bedroom and is happy. It seems age has separated us from the adult world, just as childhood did. Felicity and Harry start a lovely (nothing illicit) relationship. She appreciates that which her father wants to move away from and wants to return.
The estate has grounds, a guest house, stables…what’s falling apart? What’s salvageable? What will have to be done to make the main house habitable for a school? Where will the Denhams go? What will they take or sell? What will happen to nurse? A lifetime’s worth of memories, many that to us evoke Masterpiece Theater, is not an easy thing to leave behind. We know what’s going to happen, but relationships manifest by terrific acting keep one interested.
There isn’t a company member who doesn’t look just as his or her character might be best imagined. Jonathan Hogan and Jill Tanner are a graceful, clearly bred to the bone couple from bearing to compatible coping mechanisms. George Morfogen’s sympathetic Harry, given most of the droll lines, delivers all deadpan with expert timing and credibility. A wonderful turn. Barbara Edna’s off-key singing and fltting presence creates a fully formed nurse.
As Robert, Paul Niebanck is believably a product of British public schools where strong character is stressed over culture or sensitivity. As his wife, Katie Firth embodies the can-do attitude of post war brides who settled and make the best of things.
Direction by Gus Kaikkonen is so natural, it makes one feel like a fly on the wall.
Charles Morgan’s wonderful Scenic Design creates the era and graciousness of environs.
Costumes by Sam Fleming are perfectly apt.
A call-out is due to inspired casting by Judy Bowmer.
Also featuring Mark Emerson
Photos by Richard Termine
Opening: Jill Tanner, George Morfogen, Jonathan Hogan, Paul Niebanck, Katie Firth
A Picture of Autumn by N.C. Hunter
The Mint Theater
Directed by Gus Kaikkonen
Originally produced live in 2013, Streaming Free April 19 – June 13