As an exquisitely elegant prologue for the Purple Rose Theatre’s production of Paul Osborn’s Morning’s at Seven, actor Richard McWilliams strolls onto the stage and sits on one of the set’s porches to polish a pair of shoes, followed by fellow cast member Laural Merlington, who seats herself in a nearby chair to knit. The two exchange warm smiles, but they don’t say a word. Sharing a few moments of quiet together is enough.
Soon, the two actors stand and walk into the house, and then a Purple Rose apprentice appears in another part of the theater and asks us all to turn off our cell phones.
The irony isn’t lost on me, and I suspect that director Michelle Mountain pointedly intends for us to note that while we’re all now constantly overwhelmed by texts and alerts and messages – not to mention our own compulsive social media habits – the world of Morning moves at a slower pace. The play’s prologue helps transition us, in a sense, from hyperventilating to deep, full breaths. It tells us, “Like those two actors, we’re all just going to be here together for a while.”
Osborn’s family drama, set in a small Midwestern town in 1938 (the play premiered on Broadway in 1939), focuses on four sisters entering their twilight years: Esther (Susan Craves), who’s married to rigid intellectual David (Tom Whalen); Cora (Ruth Crawford), who’s married to Thor (McWilliams), and who’s housed the youngest, never-married sister, Arry (Merlington), in her home for decades; and Ida (Franette Liebow), who’s married to Carl (Hugh Maguire), and who has a 40 year old son, Homer (Rusty Mewha), still living at home.
The appropriately-named Homer is, in fact, what sets Morning’s plot in motion. When he finally brings his long-time fiancee Myrtle (Rhiannon Ragland) home to meet the family, Carl has one of his “spells” – a kind of existential un-spooling, wherein he walls himself off and questions the path he chose for his life; meanwhile, the nearby house that Carl built for Homer and Myrtle, which has been ready and empty for five years and counting, becomes the site of Cora’s hopes for living her last years with only her husband. READ THE REST HERE