MORNING’S AT SEVEN is, at heart, a delightful comedy that shows an evening and morning in the lives of four sisters, three of whm live in adjoining ohouses (two houses because the maiden sister lives with a sibling and her husband).
We meet their husbands, where there are husbands, see one of their sons though we hear about another sister’s children, and watch as they go about a typical small-town day. Of course, writer Paul Osborn besets them with little household crises and family dilemmas. The three Osborn’s uses to propel his plot are the impending marriage of one son, age 40, to a woman to whom he’s been engaged for 14 years; the intense dislike one brother-in-law has to his wife’s siblings, so sharp he prevents her from visiting them, in vain; and the desire for the married sister who shares her house to reside, for once, with only her husband.
Abigail Adams’s production of this savory chestnut is a delight made more lovable by the casting of some of PL&T’s most dedicated stalwarts in the play’s nine roles. The sister are played by Carla Belver, Alda Cortese, Marcia Saunders, and Janis Dardaris. I would like to live as long in years as the count of occasions some subsection of this quartet performed together. By now, they know every trick of line delivery and characterization the other has. Even with Saunders, usually cast as the high-spirited loudmouth, practically whispering her lines at a calm, almost glacial, pace, you see favorites doing the Thespian skills that made you love them.
No local theater has been as successful at building or developing a core acting troupe as People’s Light’s. Some of the members of the PL&T have been working together in dozens of plays since 1978 when the theater moved to its Malvern site. Marcia Saunders and Janis Dardaris pre-date that. (Janis played the first lead I saw by People’s Light, in 1973, when they a Hedgerow offshoot and performing in Westtown; Marcia was an actor who doubled as administrator and PRperson who inveigled people to come out and see what was happening in a converted barn,)
Over and over again. Belver and company are sisters of sorts in the PL&T family, so when they come together as such, no script or direction can create the bond they show. I am partial to Belver’s eldest sister, who I think promotes needed changes in tone and mood, but all four of the Gibbs sisters are grand and marvelous in their ensemble and individual work.
When Saunders’s Cora explains, calmly, why she wants a home to herself, you go with her while feeling some sympathy for Dardaris’s potentially homeless Aarie. Peter DeLaurier, a true master at character creation, plies his prodigious craft again, giving an individual take and individual tone to Cora’s husband, Thor Swanson. Stephen Novelli is hilarious at a man whose regrets and sense of wasting his life are so palpable, he spends hours with his head against a tree. Graham Smith is whipcracking sharp as the borhter-in-law who disdains the whole lot of Gibbses and speaks of their intelligent expressions as he catches all of them including his wife, running around trying to recover a letter Aarie filched from Cora’s apron pocket.
These sisters remind me of my grandmother, Mary, and her siblings. I doubt I am the only one who has that experience. (For the curious, Cortese’s Isa would be the Mary of the Gibbs story.) Pete Pryor is funny as the 40-year-old adolescent who is veering towards his father’s malady and found at times against a tree. Teri Lamm is wonderful as Myrtle, the bride who is meeting the Gibbs for the first time and finds herself in several precarious situations based on her fiance’s immaturity. Lamm finds ways to be comic and deserving of empathy at once. Osborn supplies many a good line, and Adams’s cast doesn’t miss any of them. DeLaurier is especially good at giving some of those lines extra meaning.
[People’s Light & Theatre Company, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, Pa.] January 10-February 11, 2018; peopleslight.org