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Morning’s At Seven by Paul Osborn at The Colony
Entertainment Today Review by Travis Michael Holder

Originally produced in New York in 1939, Paul Osborn’s comedy Morning’s at Seven was anything but a hit. But when revived on Broadway in 1980 and featuring Maureen O’Sullivan, Teresa Wright, Nancy Marchand and Elizabeth Wilson as the crazy Gibbs sisters, it was a huge commercial success, and the playwright won a Tony for it. This turnaround might have at least partially been due to the subsequent laundry list of Osborn scripts, including On Borrowed Time and The World of Suzie Wong for the stage, as well as screenplays for Sayonara, South Pacific, The Yearling, Madame Curie, Cry Havoc, John Brown’s Body, Portrait of Jenny, East of Eden and one of my favorite forgotten films, Wild River.

Perhaps the sweetly funny, gentle little saga of these four sisters and their quirky family, taking place in two rural 1922 backyards reeking of sappy Americana, was too close to home for theatregoers in 1939. The newly sophisticated audiences were reading daily about Hitler’s invasions of Czechoslovakia while flocking instead next door to see the denizens of a seedy San Francisco bar inhabiting Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life. But Osborn truly had the pulse of early American values and, by 1980, obviously America was ready to embrace — and even finally cherish — its simpler times and sensibilities. We long for a time chronicled in Robert Browning’s poem: "The year’s at spring / And Day’s at the morn / Morning’s at seven... / God’s in his heaven / All’s right with the world." Wouldn’t that be nice, fellow citizens of the ‘90s?

Mornings at Seven is definitely worthy of classic status, so what L.A. ensemble company would be a better choice to present it than the Colony? Now in its 21st year, the Colony brings something to L.A. no other company offers on a totally consistent basis: uniform excellence in the talent of its casts, uniform excellence in all its production values. This excellence has shined through every traditionally large-cast show I have ever seen presented by the Colony, from The World of Ray Bradbury to Candide to Guys and Dolls — and most certainly glowed white-hot through their last production, Incident at Vichy, which was ensemble playing at its finest.

Now Mornings at Seven can proudly join the Colony’s long list of memorable productions since 1975. Director Robert O’Reilly passionately understands the screwball Gibbs sisters and their equally screwball mates, and he understands the fierce ties of familial love and devotion that energize the insular world just below the surface of all Mr. Osborn’s people. As the four sisters, O’Reilly has drawn perfectly from the bottomless well of skillful and committed Colony talent: Jan Pessano as Cora, Ruth Crawford as Arry, Toni Sawyer as Ida, and most particularly, Sandra Kinder as the eldest, Esty.

I have long admired the work of Ms. Kinder and here she is at her very finest. As Esty, she is the anchor of the Gibbs sisters — and the anchor of the production. She views the convoluted proceedings around these two backyards with a constant sense of whimsy and appreciation which might easily be identified as the perspective — and voice — of the playwright. She even looks at the current strain in her own marriage with an uncanny combination of both distant sorrow and present amusement, as though saying just below the surface of each line: "With all the love this family has to give to each other, this too shall pass." Kinder’s is a tour de force performance.

The husbands are all played to the hilt by Kenneth Tigar, D. Ewing Woodruff and the ever-delightful Beans Morocco, a man who can make me laugh just by walking onto a stage (as he did many years ago when, as Dan Burrows, he was the most watchable and hilarious member of The Committee during my Bay Area year).

David Rose, who knocked me out as the psychiatrist in Vichy, is a brave man to take his Jonathan Rosepettle-esque Homer to such exaggerated extremes — as is Kimberley Messinger as his beloved Myrtle, who performs somewhat akin to Ed Grimsley in drag. But both succeed brilliantly because of the depth of their commitment to these wonderfully silly characters, making us believe these people exist whether we want to or not. Together this is a glorious blend of precision character work, never leaving us for a moment to think these are nine typically egomaniacal actors competing for the infrequent laurels that come from working one’s proverbial ass off on a Los Angeles 99-seat stage. These people are family, plain and simple, in the roles and as a unified ensemble of gifted artists determined to present a charming and uplifting slice of early American family life with honesty and understanding.

No matter how usually impressed I have been with other L.A. acting companies, never have I seen an actor in a Colony production who seemed even remotely less proficient or artistically empowered than any other castmember. This is more than a curious and somewhat unnerving coincidence, I suspect; it must be damned hard work to strive for such continuous symmetry of effort, not to mention result. I somehow think we can all thank the Colony’s co-founder and dedicated producing director, Barbara Beckley, for this theatre’s monumental consistency.
 
 

Copyright Entertainment Today 
Reprinted with Permission
Morning's At Seven at the Colony Theatre


 
 
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Morning’s At Seven by Paul Osborn at The Colony

ENTERTAINMENT TODAY
By Travis Michael Holder

 

Originally produced in New York in 1939, Paul Osborn’s comedy Morning’s at Seven was anything but a hit. But when revived on Broadway in 1980 and featuring Maureen O’Sullivan, Teresa Wright, Nancy Marchand and Elizabeth Wilson as the crazy Gibbs sisters, it was a huge commercial success, and the playwright won a Tony for it. This turnaround might have at least partially been due to the subsequent laundry list of Osborn scripts, including On Borrowed Time and The World of Suzie Wong for the stage, as well as screenplays for Sayonara, South Pacific, The Yearling, Madame Curie, Cry Havoc, John Brown’s Body, Portrait of Jenny, East of Eden and one of my favorite forgotten films, Wild River.

Perhaps the sweetly funny, gentle little saga of these four sisters and their quirky family, taking place in two rural 1922 backyards reeking of sappy Americana, was too close to home for theatregoers in 1939. The newly sophisticated audiences were reading daily about Hitler’s invasions of Czechoslovakia while flocking instead next door to see the denizens of a seedy San Francisco bar inhabiting Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life. But Osborn truly had the pulse of early American values and, by 1980, obviously America was ready to embrace — and even finally cherish — its simpler times and sensibilities. We long for a time chronicled in Robert Browning’s poem: "The year’s at spring / And Day’s at the morn / Morning’s at seven... / God’s in his heaven / All’s right with the world." Wouldn’t that be nice, fellow citizens of the ‘90s?

Mornings at Seven is definitely worthy of classic status, so what L.A. ensemble company would be a better choice to present it than the Colony? Now in its 21st year, the Colony brings something to L.A. no other company offers on a totally consistent basis: uniform excellence in the talent of its casts, uniform excellence in all its production values. This excellence has shined through every traditionally large-cast show I have ever seen presented by the Colony, from The World of Ray Bradbury to Candide to Guys and Dolls — and most certainly glowed white-hot through their last production, Incident at Vichy, which was ensemble playing at its finest.

Now Mornings at Seven can proudly join the Colony’s long list of memorable productions since 1975. Director Robert O’Reilly passionately understands the screwball Gibbs sisters and their equally screwball mates, and he understands the fierce ties of familial love and devotion that energize the insular world just below the surface of all Mr. Osborn’s people. As the four sisters, O’Reilly has drawn perfectly from the bottomless well of skillful and committed Colony talent: Jan Pessano as Cora, Ruth Crawford as Arry, Toni Sawyer as Ida, and most particularly, Sandra Kinder as the eldest, Esty.

I have long admired the work of Ms. Kinder and here she is at her very finest. As Esty, she is the anchor of the Gibbs sisters — and the anchor of the production. She views the convoluted proceedings around these two backyards with a constant sense of whimsy and appreciation which might easily be identified as the perspective — and voice — of the playwright. She even looks at the current strain in her own marriage with an uncanny combination of both distant sorrow and present amusement, as though saying just below the surface of each line: "With all the love this family has to give to each other, this too shall pass." Kinder’s is a tour de force performance.

The husbands are all played to the hilt by Kenneth Tigar, D. Ewing Woodruff and the ever-delightful Beans Morocco, a man who can make me laugh just by walking onto a stage (as he did many years ago when, as Dan Burrows, he was the most watchable and hilarious member of The Committee during my Bay Area year).

David Rose, who knocked me out as the psychiatrist in Vichy, is a brave man to take his Jonathan Rosepettle-esque Homer to such exaggerated extremes — as is Kimberley Messinger as his beloved Myrtle, who performs somewhat akin to Ed Grimsley in drag. But both succeed brilliantly because of the depth of their commitment to these wonderfully silly characters, making us believe these people exist whether we want to or not. Together this is a glorious blend of precision character work, never leaving us for a moment to think these are nine typically egomaniacal actors competing for the infrequent laurels that come from working one’s proverbial ass off on a Los Angeles 99-seat stage. These people are family, plain and simple, in the roles and as a unified ensemble of gifted artists determined to present a charming and uplifting slice of early American family life with honesty and understanding.

No matter how usually impressed I have been with other L.A. acting companies, never have I seen an actor in a Colony production who seemed even remotely less proficient or artistically empowered than any other castmember. This is more than a curious and somewhat unnerving coincidence, I suspect; it must be damned hard work to strive for such continuous symmetry of effort, not to mention result. I somehow think we can all thank the Colony’s co-founder and dedicated producing director, Barbara Beckley, for this theatre’s monumental consistency.
 
 

Copyright Entertainment Today 
Reprinted with Permission
Morning's At Seven at the Colony Theatre