As the theater returns to New York City, one of this season’s must-see shows on many viewer lists is Paul Osborne. Morning is at seven o’clock, a small play that was first produced in 1939 and has had a surprising lifespan. It has been relaunched on Broadway twice and countless – believe me, I’ve tried to count them – regional productions.
At a time when prominence and its ugly relationship, self-importance, seem to be in high demand, Morning is at seven o’clock does not have an “important” line. Its plot is not very complicated: in a quiet small town in the Midwest, Homer, an eccentric son in his forties, shakes things up by bringing his longtime girlfriend home to meet his family, for the first time. There aren’t even many memorable lines in the play – one on a phone stands out – but it does have charm to spare and a bunch of meaty roles to keep the cast going. And this off-Broadway production features a Broadway-level cast.
This cast features nine actors, most of whom have graced the New York scene for decades, including stage and film veterans Lindsay Crouse, who received an Oscar nomination for Places in the Heart; Judith Ivey, Tony Award winner; Dan Lauria, best known for his work on the TV classic The good years; Patty McCormack, who has played for 70 years and is probably best known for playing the title role in Maxwell Anderson’s The bad seed on Broadway and in the movies; John Rubinstein, Tony Prize winner; Broadway forbiddenis Keri Safran; and Jonathan Spivey who was last seen on Broadway in The first page, which starred Nathan Lane.
Tony Roberts, who plays cranky David Crampton, began his acting career in 1963 and has since worked with some of the biggest names in film and theater, including Neil Simon, Woody Allen and Jerome Robbins. But his beginnings were not very favorable to say the least. Her first role was in Ernest Kinoy Something about a soldier, which closed after 12 performances.
And, Roberts said News week, “The wise men at the time told me it was the best thing that could have happened to me that she closed so early. And I said, ‘Why ?!’ And they said, “Because now you’re going to have to go out and find another job. And you will meet other actors and directors. And if things go well, you’ll be in four or five flops right away, “which is pretty much what happened.”
Things have improved a lot, with Roberts’ big break coming when he replaced Robert Redford in Neil Simon’s Bare feet in the park. “I was there for 18 months, which made up for a lot of the quick two-week back and forth I did. But it was the first time I had my name above the title. “
Roberts thinks the Morning is at seven o’clock is a deceptively simple piece that invites comparisons with Samuel Beckett. The show, which debuted a month after Roberts was born, “predated all the kinds of things Beckett got engaged with. Waiting for Godot and all about not knowing where you are. Not meaning lost on a road somewhere, but lost in terms of what your life was like and what it meant.
“And these ideas are, are, you know, spread everywhere [Morning’s at Seven] and sort of, I think, realized through my character, David, who seems to be the authority on everything and the most educated of all characters, but is somehow existentially perplexed and deranged that he doesn’t know where it is in life. “
Alma Cuervo, who plays Homer’s mother Ida, began her career playing Holly Kaplan in Rare women and others, the first and, by some estimates, the best play by Wendy Wasserstein. What Cuervo does in a climactic solo scene is memorable and touching, especially since she wasn’t far from college when she performed it. She’s come a long way from this ensemble piece to Morning is at seven o’clock.
For her, the demographics of the cast are special. The number of actors alone is unusual for coins these days where coins often exceed four or five. But the ages of the characters who are all at least 39 years old, Myrtle being the youngest, is virtually unknown in 2021.
Cuervo said News week, “We [in the cast] were talking about it. Usually if there is a part of this age [over 60] in the room, there’s one and maybe the spouse, and that’s it. “
And then, of course, there are the resumes of his fellow cast members: “What a business we have. I mean, every day I pinch myself a little bit. When I first heard that we were going doing it, I was just like, Oh my god, it’s amazing. And I can’t believe I’m going to be able to be a part of it. And every day we laugh. “
And if there aren’t any jokes per se in the play, there are laughs to be made, lots of them.
But there are also echoes of Anton Chekhov, which might not be obvious to American audiences, for whom Chekhov is often performed with a solemnity usually reserved for an Eugene O’Neill play or a press conference. by Kyrie Irving.
“Chekhov is very funny if it’s done that way,” said Roberts. News week. “He called them comedies. And I think originally they were larger and funnier. The Americans who made Chekhov made them into something much more solemn and resonating with a sort of existential angst. . “
On the whole, however, the productions Morning is at seven o’clock have always let humor shine through. But humor is outweighed by humanity, said Cuervo News week. “It’s human. I know the only important phrase I say in the whole room is, ‘Do you like him?’ I mean, that’s what it all comes down to. “
In its simple way, in context, this is a very important line.
There is nothing particularly flashy Morning is at seven o’clock. It is not a star vehicle; it is an overall part. Cuervo said News week, “It’s like everyone has their moment and you can help them play it. And yet, you know, you’ll have yours and they’ll do it for you when it comes. It’s the best. But the one. “Here it is, this one is so good. I mean from the first reading we did, we already knew this was just a gift.”
It’s also a welcome relief from the 24-hour news cycle, screaming heads and wall-to-wall hysteria that is 2021. “I think people need something like that right now,” a- she declared. News week.
Another from Morning is at seven o’clock charms is what it is to play, not a pending scenario or treatment for a video game. People talk a lot and often with a purpose. Often times with older pieces, which may seem wordy to the modern ear, cuts are made. But the game is tight. “It’s so well structured that at one point someone said, ‘Do you think they’re going to make cuts?’ And everyone turned: Like you weren’t kidding about it; they’ve thought about it all before. Now we don’t have to do it anymore. We don’t have to cut.
As for going back to the theater, some people, even big names in theater, have wondered whether to return to shows or even leave their homes. Cuervo said: “I think some people are more afraid of the transport to get in, but once you’re there, once you’re at the theater, I think you’re probably one of the safest places. . “
With Morning is at seven o’clock, it could be interpreted to mean physically and mentally.
Morning is at seven o’clock runs to the Theater in St. Clements, 423 West 46th Street in New York October 20 to January 9, 2022. For tickets and more information, visit MorningsAt7.com.