Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 17, 2008

Morning's At Seven

Suffield Players, Suffield, CT
through October 25, 2008
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

This love of a comedic drama shows off the ensemble acting skills of the venerable Suffield Players. Nine experienced actors extract every drop of humor from characters created by the honored playwright Paul Osborn ("On Borrowed Time").

In 1932, unless you were a daredevil, day-to-day domestic life was light years slower than now. Not everyone, even in cities, had telephones, and radio programming was in its infancy. Especially in small towns, family life – its joys and vicissitudes – was the anchor from which feelings flowed.

Homer Bolton (Stephen Grout) brings Myrtle (Karen Balaska) his fiancée of seven years home to meet his family. His aunts are all atwitter: Cora (Cynthia Lee Andersen), Arry (Jane H. Maulucci), Esther (Kelly Seip), but the fourth sister (Ida) is his mother, and she’s not sure Homer is ready for marriage. Cora’s husband, Thor (Bruce Showalter) is philosophical; Esther’s husband, David (Dana T. Ring) is supercilious, and Homer’s father, Carl (Konrad Rogowski) is having one of his spells: he sags, stares at nothing, rubs his forearm, and exudes a tragic air that would do Eugene O’Neill proud. "What’s it all about? Where am I in life?" The idea that the son might inherit his father’s malaise is dismissed. "Homer’s too lazy to have a spell. He doesn’t have the gumption."

The costuming by Dawn McKay is time perfect. The sisters wear ankle socks. The fiancée is appropriately up tight in a button down the front shirt dress that sports crocheted collar and cuffs. When David commiserates with Carl, their haphazard garb suggests a vaudeville team. Suffield’s theater, Mapleton Hall, boasts an elastic stage: its dimensions may be small but clever set designs (this time, Rogowski’s) accommodate the impossible: two backyards of two houses.

Director Rayah Martin has opted to quickly acknowledge reality before spraying the well-written script with laughing gas. Three acts cover high, infectious drama from afternoon until almost noon the following day. The audience responds with laughter, chortles, giggles, guffaws, and when needing to catch their breath, they simply smile.