Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 26, 2021

REVIEW: Great Barrington Public Theatre "Mr. Fullerton"

Great Barrington Public Theatre, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Great Barrington
through August 1, 2021
by Shera Cohen

Ever heard of Morton Fullerton? Neither did I. Is a play titled "Mr. Fullerton" enough to base a long two-act play on? Initially, I would have replied, "no". But the play's posters of a woman wearing Gilded Age garb, and mere mention of the name Edith Wharton were draws for me to see the premier of a play by area playwright Anne Undeland at the new Great Barrington Public Theatre.
One can learn about Edith at visits to the Mount, nearby in Lenox. which I highly suggest. At the very least, most are aware of Wharton's prolific and exemplary writing of novels and short stories. Realizing that at a certain age and pushed by her mother, it was mandatory that she marry, Teddy Wharton's money, charm, and good looks would be sufficient for the loveless match. It's no wonder that Edith had so much time to spew out novel after novel.
Yet, in mid-life she met the handsome, charming, and experienced lothario Fullerton. For a time, Edith put her writing career on hold; penning love letters and journals instead. The play has no buildup of  plot and dĂ©nouement but draws a segment of Edith's life that many readers have been curious about, but few knew. Undeland has filled in the blanks of Edith's love life, penning her play so purposefully that audience members would have no question between truth and fiction. 
Dana Harrison (Edith) and Marcus Kearns (Fullerton) create a flirtation and affair with fun and gusto. Harrison gives a quality performance that shows her school-girl giddiness growing into deep love, ultimately into betrayal. For a woman who was so bright and educated, Harrison’s Edith in this play is first a woman seeking love. On the other hand, our man with a past and the proverbial little black book, Kearns is not up to the standards of Harrison, partly because he has far less stage-time. 
Glenn Barret as the ever-present author and Wharton confidant Henry James adds comic relief. Yet, I would have liked to have seen the man who wrote great novels like "The American" with distinction, not as  comic relief. However, maybe that was James' personality and Barret did a tip-top job. My guess is that the playwright well-researched her characters, presenting the man who she assumed to be James.
In a four-character play, it is difficult to name one actor as “the star.” That said, Myka Plunkett, as Wharton’s maid Posy, stole the show. While never upstaging other actors, Plunkett sunk her smile, demeanor, and even calisthenics into the sprite Posy. Yet, Plunkett’s Posy is not all fun and frolic; the actress tells the audience a bit about the character’s unpleasant past. Posy became an extremely important character, segueing from background maid to Wharton’s dear friend.
Moliere-like quick comings and goings from one room to another on a small stage purposely styled the play as shorter than it actually was. Not a single word or action was overspent, unnatural, or unnecessary; all signs of an excellent playwright, director, crew, and cast.