What would the theatre do without loony, dysfunctional families? Consider all the writers who wouldn't have gotten off the ground without them -- Euripides, Eugene O'Neill, Shakespeare.... Paul Osborn's Morning's At Seven, his humorous, old-fashioned tribute to pixillated family love and real estate, is a warmhearted addition to the genre.
The Gibb sisters and their men have been living a little too close to each other for about a half-century. They are the steady Cora (Judith Tsanos), married to the perennially jolly Thor (Victor Van Etten); the long-suffering Ida (Dolores Rogers), married to pathetic Carl (William Blanton); the nosy, flame-haired maiden aunt Aaronetta (Barbara Blomberg); and Esther (Jean Frances), the eldest, married an amazing 50 years to the priggish David (Ulises Giberga). When the play opens, Homer, the son of Carl and Ida, 40 years old and still living at home, is finally bringing his fiancee of seven years -- he'd been dating her, sort of, for 12 -- to meet the folks. The folks, of course, are thrilled, for nothing much has happened for decades. They are enchanted with Myrtle, and she with them.
So what's the problem? For one thing Homer, played with perfect, goose-necked dorkiness by Joe Gambino, has an appalling case of arrested pre-adolescence; the thought of sex so terrifies him that he can't believe his ears when Ida suggests installing a double bed for him and Myrtle. Myrtle, played by Merrill Vaughn, is also hardly more than a child; at 39 she gushes to one and all like a teenager with a crush. "I've never had so many people be so nice to me all at once!" she bubbles. But 24 hours with the Gibb sisters teach her that the men in the family can be rolled like dice; she has no problem taking advantage of Homer's ignorance of the facts of life. More complications ensue, but all's well that ends well, and the ending, indeed, has a delightful, laughable little twist.
After many Off-Off-Broadway productions where the scenery was left to the imagination, it was a joy to see a stage arranged with some real carpentry, artistry, and even subtle social commentary. The back porches of Cora and Ida's homes seemed identical at first, but designer Charles Pavarini III added a few touches. Cora's porch was well-scrubbed, twined with rambling roses and ivy. Ida's was shabby. Part of the door lintel was broken, there was clapboard missing, only a bit of ivy crept up the balustrade, the paint was a little worn, and when you looked through her window there was no cheerful wallpaper, as in Cora's home, but a drab wall, all of which quietly pointed out the differences in the status of the women's husbands. Kimberly Glennon's costumes were delicious. The women swanned about in frocks that brought out their matronly curves so charmingly as to raise the suspicion that underneath it all they were, alas, corseted and girdled. The men wore nicely fitting pinstripes and suspenders, though David's over-tailored suits said much about his educated boorishness. Josh Epstein's lighting evoked a warm Midwestern afternoon that shaded almost imperceptibly into twilight, then brightened into morning. The lighting reinforced the play's breeziness, as did Peter Flint's agile direction. The actors moved and spoke with a naturalness that felt familiar. Sure, the Gibbs are crazy, but, like Myrtle, the audience wanted to spend time with them anyway. Morning's At Seven was a lovely entertainment.
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Copyright 2001 Arlene McKanic