Morning´s At Seven
REVIEW by Willard Manus

LOS ANGELES -- The Ahmanson dipped into the Great American Songbook--make that Theatrebook--to launch its 2002-2003 subscription season. Paul Osborn's MORNINGS AT SEVEN was first produced in 1939 and has been regularly revived ever since, most notably two years ago by New York's Lincoln Center, at which time it garnered critical acclaim and three Tony Awards. The director and most of the same actors are responsible for the Ahmanson production, backed up by the Broadway creative team: sets, John Lee Beatty; costumes, Jane Greenwood; lighting, Brian MacDevitt. The result is a technically proficient production of a dated but still-amusing play.

Set in the backyards of two adjoining houses in a small Midwestern town, MORNING'S AT SEVEN deals with four aging sisters and their assorted kinfolk and friends, all of whom are deeply involved with each other in claustrophobic fashion. The comedy, which comes out of character differences and clashes, is of the lowkey, easygoing variety. Osborn is the opposite of such 1930's counterparts as Kaufman & Hart, Hecht & MacArthur. His dialogue isn't snappy or wisecracking, and he doesn't deal with politics or satire. Osborn looks at his plain, homespun characters with affection and respect, and pokes gentle fun at them.

The issues at stake aren't earthshaking either. Will mama's boy Homer (Stephen Tobolowsky) finally cut the silver cord and marry Myrtle (Julie Hagerty) after a seven-year engagement? Will Carl (Paul Dooley) leave Ida (Frances Sternhagen), his wife of many years, to live by himself in town? Are Aaronetta (Elizabeth Franz) and Theodore (William Biff McGuire) having a secret affair?

So it goes in insular, smalltown America.

Osborn's many gifts as a writer-- his skill at characterization, ability to write deft dialogue and rich subtext--help to keep MORNING'S AT SEVEN thin storyline together. While I was never deeply involved in the lives of these bumptious midwesterners, I did appreciate the work of the skilled cast (which included Piper Laurie and Buck Henry), Ditto Daniel Sullivan's exemplary direction.

(Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., LA, through Jan 26. Call (213) 628-2772 or visit