Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
The entire play takes place in the adjoining backyards of sisters Cora Swanson and Ida Bolton. Cora lives in the house on the left with her sanguine husband Thor and her brash younger sister Aaronetta. Ida lives in the house on the right with her 40-year-old son Homer and husband Carl, whose existential crises and precarious mental state threaten to ruin their first meeting with Myrtle, Homer's fiance of seven years. Oldest sister Esther Crampton lives down the block, but can only come to the yard in secret because husband David had forbidden her from visiting the family he considers intellectually inferior.
Over the course of just two days, unexpected secrets and long simmering conflicts threaten to upend the status quo for the entire family. The story touches on timeless questions of love, disappointment, meaning and self-doubt, but never dallies in sentimentality or sinks into profundity. It certainly helps that Adams and her cast are brilliant at finding the humor in every sideways glance, awkward exchange, and philosophical declaration.
And what a sensational cast it is. Carla Belver is Esther Crampton, Alda Cortese plays Ida Bolton, Janis Dardaris appears as Aaronetta Gibbs, and Marcia Saunders is Cora Swanson. The relationships among these four are rich with all the complexity and passion of women who have been loving, hating, and taking care of each other for more than 60 years. When Saunders warns Dardaris not to go bother the neighbors or starts laughing uncontrollably on the back steps with Belver, it is with all the warmth and complexity of true sisters.
Three equally talented actors play the husbands. Peter DeLaurier is Thor Swanson, Graham Smith is a deliciously self-important David Crampton, and Stephen Novelli plays borderline neurotic Carl Bolton. Pete Pryor plays Carl's 40-year-old son Homer Bolton. One of my favorite moments has Bolton squirming with shades of embarrassment while Swanson transitions from total shock to baffled appreciation and outright joy.
Teri Lamm brings a painful yet endearing awkwardness to the role of Homer's perpetual fiancée, Myrtle Brown.
A top-notch production team backs up the impressive ensemble. Set designer Luke Cantarella has created a backyard green space that is as open and inviting as the real thing. With the assistance of Dennis Parichy's lighting designs, the entire stage takes on the feel of a warm summer day. Marla Jurglanis' excellent costumes are a boon to the production.
At its heart, Morning's at Seven is a pleasantly uncomplicated comedy about regular folks doing their best to take care of each other and be true to themselves. It is also hilariously funny and, at People's Light, as well acted as anything I have seen.
Morning's at Seven, through February 4, 2018, on the Steinbright Stage at the People's Light theater, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern PA. For information and tickets call the box office at 610-644-3500 or visit www.peopleslight.org.
*Member, Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors & Stage Managers