MORNING'S AT SEVENy Paul Osborn
Directed by Kim Titus
Stage Manager – Sara Jones
Sound Design – Jason Rice
Lighting Design – Catherine M. Luster
Scenic Design – Edgar Hernandez
Costume Design – Sarah Eckberg Hearn
Properties Design – Terrie W. Justus
Hair and Makeup Design – Shanna Gobin
Light and Sound Board Operator – Kenneth Hall
Program – Carol M. Rice
Box Office – Kim Wickware
Show Logo – Nicole Neeley
Tree and Stump – Charles Welch
Theodore Swanson – Steve Roberts
Cora Swanson – Laura Jones
Aaronetta Gibbs – Ivy Opdyke
Ida Bolton – Glynda Welch
Carl Bolton – Joe Porter
Homer Bolton – George William Phillips III
Myrtle Brown – Jennifer Patton
Esther Crampton – Sally Soldo
David Crampton – Al Mayo
Reviewed Performance: 8/30/2019
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Morning's at Seven is quintessentially American, set in a Midwestern town in the 1920's. Four aging sisters, three of whom live in two next-door houses sharing a scenic backyard, grapple with the ripple effects of a decades' old secret. The nature of the secret emerges as an ongoing mystery. The lively sisters have a close relationship, geographically and otherwise, but fault lines exist beneath the surface. The powerful play reminded me of Tennessee Williams' family dynamics, crossed with Neil Simon levity. This play also answers the question: What was it like in the 1920's when none of your relatives had their meds?
The cast is first rate. Joe Porter as Carl Bolton is a stand-out crowd pleaser. Porter's Carl is a one-man answer for why valium needed to be invented. In real life, people who suck all of the oxygen out of the room (here the backyard) with their emotional incompetence are annoying and draining. But Porter makes Carl's comically well-articulated panic attacks delightfully funny. As his wife, Ida Bolton (Glynda Welch) does a great job with straight-faced references to the topic of Carl's panic, which has been besieging him episodically for years. It is a long lingering mid-life crisis somehow involving dentistry and a fork.
Welch's Ida is an interesting character vis-à-vis her complicated relationship with her adult son, Homer (George William Phillips III), who still lives with his parents notwithstanding the fully furnished house that his father built for him. At the beginning of the play, Theodore Swanson (played by a hilariously grousing Steve Roberts), his wife Cora Swanson (Laura Jones), and her sister Aaronetta Gibbs (Ivy Opdyke), are anxiously awaiting the arrival of nephew Homer and the woman he has been seeing for a dozen years, Myrtle Brown (Jennifer Patton). At the beginning, the play paints the picture of mid-twentieth century small town life. The Swansons and Aaronetta are waiting for a glimpse of Myrtle, but she is not even coming to their house; they know that she is a dinner guest at Ida and Carl's house. Sisters Cora and Aaronetta live in the house next door to sister Ida. Their shared yard apparently has no boundaries, and that "boundary issue" is the least of it.
Carl's panic attack has thrown Ida off her dinner hostess game, but the younger couple is too preoccupied with their own drama to care. Homer and Myrtle breathe new meaning into the word awkward. He is terrified of something, and she is desperate to the point of silliness to please, praising everything with the finest adjectives that come to mind. Patton's Myrtle is sympathetic for her naked vulnerability. At one point she realizes she keeps repeating the same compliment, and Patton shows us that Myrtle is frantic to win the family's affection.
In addition to the lurking family secret, one vein of dramatic suspense is whether Homer will finally marry Myrtle and inhabit the house that Carl has built for them. What is the nature of Homer's commitment issues? Welch and Phillips do a fine job with the twists and turns of their characters' mother-and-son interactions.
Cora wants that house, because she is sick of living with her sister, Aaronetta, who moved in with Cora and Theodore at a young age and never left. She also never found a husband of her own. Jones and Opdyke deliver finally calibrated dramatic performances, even when one is chasing the other around the yard. In one teary-eyed scene, Opdyke remarkably succeeds in changing our minds about Aaronetta, imbuing her with surprising sympathy.
The oldest sister, Esther Crampton (Sally Soldo), is struggling with her own boundary issues with her over-controlling, bullying husband David (Al Mayo). David thinks the family are all morons, which is also the opinion he held of the college President—before David lost his job as a Professor. While there is a hint that Esther looks down on the intelligence of her sisters, she still insists on seeing them, to David's increasing ire.
Esther has snuck out, but David finds her. Mayo's David is a hulking, intimidating presence, and he succeeds at being scary. He only respects Carl, whose midlife crisis is deemed by David to be a valid search for truth. Carl asks, "where am I?," but as for the rest of the family, "it doesn't matter much where they are, does it?" David explains. Carl gets roped into David's plan to separate the Crampton house so that Esther can be completely "independent."
Soldo is marvelous, and she brings gravitas to the role of the oldest sister of the foursome. Her Esther is a great listener, both logical and kind. She is also a treat to behold when ultimately standing up to the boorish David.
The production makes great use of the space. There is not a bad seat in the house. The scenery is picturesque and functional. Center stage is the porch to the Swansons' house, and the audience enters from the Boltons' house; there is even a family portrait on the way in. The period costumes compliment the characters' personalities, and the sound and lighting smoothly facilitate the drama.
My family and I thoroughly enjoyed this production, and the fine acting in particular. The quirky characters are entertaining, and the mysterious family dynamics hold the audiences' attention throughout.
August 29 through September 14; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday matinee at 3:00 p.m.
221 W. Parker, Suite 580
Plano, Texas 75023
For information and Tickets call (972) 849-0358 or go to http://www.roverdramawerks.com/.