Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mornings at Seven"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Christopher Harding

"Mornings at Seven"

Reviewed by Christopher Harding

Most of us have a kooky cousin or unpresentable uncle lurking somewhere in our family tree, but the thoroughly delightful "Morning's at Seven," currently running at the Lyric Stage, reminds us how blessed we are have a family, gnarly though its twigs and branches may seem. Paul Osborn's sentimental comedy was written in 1939 – the golden year that saw the birth of other gems like "The Man Who Came to Dinner," "Life With Father" and "The Time of Your Life."

This valentine to Midwestern goodheartedness is set in adjoining backyards of two elderly sisters. The big news? Forty-year-old Homer Bolton is finally bringing his girlfriend Myrtle around to meet his parents… and inevitably, the assorted aunts and uncles who live next door. The women are the soul of politeness, exchanging all the cliches out of Emily Post, but Homer's father is having an identity crisis, and one of his uncle, a snooty intellectual, is banishing his wife to the second floor of their house for the "crime" of visiting her sisters. Poor Myrtle, it's a wonder she doesn't collapse from exhaustion dispensing effusive compliments or pretending to overlook this family's eccentricies… But then again the aptly named mama's boy Homer may well be strangest of the clan….

For his directorial debut at the Lyric, Eric Engel returns to a show he staged to much acclaim eleven years ago at the Nora Theatre and has reunited three of his four leading ladies who played the sisters at the heart of this sweet comedy: Eve Johnson (Esther), Mary Klug (Cora) and Deena Mazer (Arry). Aside from the fact that perhaps, Homer (Marty Barrett) is dressed a little too obviously like a geek, the production is managed with gentle subtlety…measuring out just the right amount of time for all the awkward pauses and suppressed sniffs of wounded dignity.

There's a serenity that underlies the surface daffiness of all the characters in Osborn's gallery of real nice folks that is ultimately deeply reassuring and comforting. In a culture that in so often youth-oriented "Morning's at Seven" rises up as triumphant reminder that now and again unglamorous lumpy seniors can win our hearts and teach us a lesson about where we are in life, just by being who they are.

"Mornings at Seven" (till 17 October)
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide