Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Morning's at Seven"

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Note: Entire contents copyright 2004 by A. S. Waterman


Who Knew that America's Backyard Could Be So Much Fun?

Reviewed by A.S. Waterman

Written by Paul Osborn
Designed and Directed by Ed Shea

Thor........Tom Roberts
Cora........Lynne Collinson
Aaronetta........Isabel O'Donnell
Ida........Trisha McManus
Carl........Anthony Pesare
Homer........Wayne Kneeland
Myrtle........Laura Sorensen
Esther........Joan Batting
David........Bob Colonna

What's more delightfully American than a dysfunctional family at a backyard gathering? This heartwarming and hilarious summer offering at Rhode Island's 2nd Story Theatre.

2nd Story's production of Paul Osborn's 1939 comedy makes the most of this very funny play's oddball characters, wacky relationships and quirky intrigues, all in 2nd Story's unique and intimate style. 2nd Story first evokes a lively mood with some Glenn Miller tunes while letting the audience admire a set that's unusually elaborate for 2nd Story: two back porches of facing houses, each looking very nearly alike, painted in the same colors with only minor variations in style and upkeep, giving hints of what is to come. Then the characters emerge, and the fun begins.

The play revolves around the current crises of four middle-aged sisters -- Cora, Aaronetta, Ida and Esther -- who have never lived more than a couple of blocks apart in their entire lives. Their issues seem simple: Will mama's boy Homer ever marry his fiancee of seven years (and would he know what to do with her if he did)? Who will get to move into the new house? Did one sister really have an affair with another sister's husband? And, of course, what's for breakfast? The interplay is constant; when a door closes in one house, it opens on the other, and characters pop in and out in perfect timing like a cuckoo clock, or like the precision developed over some 50+ years of proximity.

In a way, these folks are in an enviable situation. In this era where "I'm moving across the country" has taken the place of "I'm moving down the block" (or in quarreling Esther and David's case, "I'm moving upstairs, thankyouverymuch!"), they're a refreshing reminder that blood is thicker than ... something. Yes, the characters are stereotyped -- sharp-tongued sister Aaronetta, wise sister Esther, control-freak brother-in-law David, vapid fiancee Myrtle. And yes, their conflicts are contrived -- frantic Ida's wimpy husband Carl is having an identity crisis, made worse by David, as Carl tries to figure out not who but where he is, knowing only that "I'm a plumber" doesn't answer the question. Long-suffering Cora just wants to spend a small part of her life alone with her husband Thor, and move out of the house they share with Aaronetta, but everyone is aghast that she could deprive Aaronetta of the only family she has known since her parents died. Myrtle wants to make sure that she can continue to tell her friends about her future marital home, even if she and Homer never move into it. But all these interchanges are hysterical and the portrayals excellent. Throughout the performance, each actor is given his or her chance to shine, and each of them does.

It's fun trying to figure out what the family secrets are -- many thanks to 2nd Story for choosing a play that isn't well known, so most people won't know what will be revealed. Somehow the mood suggests that all will turn out well, but it gives few hints as to how -- and, indeed, the ending packs quite a few surprises. Above all, in making the audience privy to an intimate conversation that has been going on for some 50 years, the performance revels in the family's affection that triumphs above all -- and this, along with lots of laughs, makes for a simply marvelous time.

MORNING'S AT SEVEN is the first of a series of three plays described as "backyard summer classics," and if this first offering is any indication, the entire series is likely to be a must-see. Treat yourself to this delightful show -- but to make it a truly blockbuster evening, have a fine dinner first in the downstairs Bistro (don't be afraid to try some of the more adventurous-sounding specials -- the Cajun crawfish lasagna was excellent). On Friday and Saturday nights, also stay around for the Cabaret afterwards to hear the 2nd Story players unleash their impressive singing voices in some beautifully arranged numbers. This wide array of talents, from the culinary to the theatrical to the musical, combine to show us what a rare gem 2nd Story really is.

Laughter, song, good food and good fun -- isn't that what American summers are all about? Don't miss this one.

MORNING'S AT SEVEN runs through July 17. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Reservations are strongly recommended for the Bistro, show and Cabaret.

"Morning's at Seven" (23 June - 17 July)
28 Market Street, WARREN, RI
1 (401) 247-4200

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide