Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
The old guard do an old play justice: Morning’s at Seven at Sierra Madre Playhouse
I have had a long affection for Paul Osborn’s oddly comic “Morning’s at Seven.” The portrait of a wonderfully dysfunctional family’s innate bonds becomes a celebration of the mellowed passions of old age and the wisdom to be found in patience. It also provides an opportunity for actors no longer young to get their teeth into complex or quirky characters without vying with the young for focus.
At the Sierra Madre Playhouse some of that company’s most recognizable long-time performers have come together in a production of this gentle, funny play. Directed by another SMP veteran, Bob Hakman, this rendition displays the roots of this theater, and a reminder to those who pass through the area that they stand on a solidly local foundation. It’s also a lot of fun.
It is 1939 in a small midwestern town. There, a family of four sisters live in close proximity: Cora and Ida living next to each other, Aaronetta living with Cora, and Esther living a few blocks away. Esther’s pompously intellectual husband David pushes her to stay away from sisters he regards as intellectual inferiors, to no avail. Cora longs to get her husband Thor to herself and find busybody Aaronetta her own home. Ida’s husband Carl upsets her regularly with “spells” of existential angst. This while Ida’s son Homer finds home so appealing he won’t marry Myrtle, his fiance of many years and move into the house his father built for them, a healthy walk away. Virtually all of these tensions are about to come to a head. We get to watch.
All four of the SMP sisters have acted or directed or both at this theater for years. Roxanne Barker makes Cora fussy and determined. Gloria Denison’s Ida putters about almost constantly on the verge of tears. Jinny Wilcott’s practical Esther needs a different hair cut, but is otherwise the catalyst of calm wisdom and wry humor which unites the scene. Sandra Hakman’s comparatively restrained Aaronetta creates a needed chemistry which powers the comedy.
Perhaps it’s the beard, but Don Savage, as the pompous David, does his best and most polished performance in some time. Guy Crawford makes an endearingly literal and unflappable Thor. Jack Chansler finds the delicate balance between creating an out of control character and chewing the scenery as the angsty Carl. Robert Kerr’s neatly underplayed Homer is very funny indeed, and Patricia Wylie oozes earnestness to the point of disquiet as the eternally affianced Myrtle.
Cheers also go to director Hakman for the delightful set. I am increasingly impressed with how much folks have managed to put on that little bitty stage without making it feel overcrowded.
In a period when the majority of SMP’s shows are filled with young talent from all over the Southland looking for a showcase, it is a treat to see the old guard out in force again. And, frankly, they have been challenged to keep up with their competition at this venue. This has been good for both them and the theater.
The show is an old play – a three-act one – and may feel a little long to some. Still, the majority of the real comedy (and it is very funny indeed, if gently so) appears in the third act. Be sure to stick around for it. You’ll leave with a smile, and appreciation for long relationships, even ones lived a bit askew.
What: “Morning’s at Seven” When: Through May 12, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays Where: Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. in Sierra Madre How Much: $25 general, $22 seniors/students, $15 children under 12 Info: (626) 355-4318 or http://www.sierramadreplayhouse.org