Morning's at Seven

A fine cast and expert staging transport us back to a more gracious America

Arts Review

Morning's at Seven

The Vortex, 2307 Manor Rd., 478-5282

Through Dec. 11

Running time: 2 hr., 40 min.

Reading the program notes is one of the wonderful things about seeing a Different Stages production. The company's longtime producing artistic director and devoted theatre

scholar, Norman Blumensaadt, always provides notes that give great insight into the composition of the plays, and the single most stunning fact in the program notes for Paul Osborn's Morning's at Seven is that the play was written in 1939, right at the end of the Great Depression. But you won't find any Dust Bowls here or even a reference to them. What you will find are affairs among family members, husbands leaving their wives, and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

But hold on one second. Stated baldly, these facts do the play a disservice, for its ultimate effect is lovely, joyous, and sweet. Four sisters live in three houses. The back porches and yards of two of the houses are represented onstage. In the house on the left lives one of the sisters, Ida; her husband, Carl; and her son, Homer. Two other sisters live in the house on the right: Aaronetta, a spinster who has lived most of her life with her sister, Cora, and Cora's husband, Theodore. Esther, the eldest sister, lives in a house on a hill with her husband, David. David doesn't particularly care for the other sisters or their husbands, and Carl is subject to "spells" during which he wishes he had become a dentist or done something with a mysterious "fork." The play begins with the arrival of Homer, who is finally bringing Myrtle, his fiancée of a dozen years home to meet his family.

This very Middle American story is ably supported by set designer Ann Marie Gordon's twin back stoops, Emily Cavasar's character-appropriate costumes (heavy on the aprons), and sound designer Jeff Miller's period music, but the truly impressive aspect of the production is the cast of actors that director Karen Jambon has enlisted from the community. Bobbie Oliver, Kathleen Lawson, Lana Dieterich, and Jennifer Underwood play the sisters. They make a formidable quartet, with Dieterich as the gentle, loving Ida and Underwood as the peacemaking Esther standing out. That would be a fine enough group for any play, but consider that you also have Richard Craig, who always makes acting look easy (it isn't), and Michael Hankin, who is just plain fun to watch, in supporting roles. That's a half-dozen really fine actors, but among the cast of nine, Anne Hulsman as Myrtle steals the show. Myrtle is all about enjoying life, giving, and caring. Hulsman so believably embodies the loving Myrtle; she takes such joy in each individual moment, even the difficult ones, that it's hard to imagine who could have done the role better. Add director Jambon's expert proscenium staging, and it's about as solid a community theatre effort as you are likely to see.

Besides the accomplished cast and staging, one other wonder: Paul Osborn's script. Was there really a time in this country when even the most outrageous of actions could be looked upon not just with dignity but with grace? When acceptance of individual differences and needs was the rule rather than the exception? Or perhaps the more appropriate question would be: Could there be such a time again?

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
All the Way
All the Way
In Zach Theatre's staging of this epic political drama about LBJ, the fight for civil rights feels particularly urgent

Robert Faires, May 1, 2015

Random Acts of Magic
Random Acts of Magic
The 2015 batch of Out of Ink 10-minute plays is a satisfying buffet of silliness and thoughtfulness

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 1, 2015

More by Barry Pineo
Arts Review
Guest by Courtesy
Etiquette takes a pratfall in this comic battle for control between cousins

Nov. 11, 2011

Arts Review
The B. Beaver Animation
The Rude Mechs' re-creation of the Mabou Mines work is necessary but strange

Nov. 4, 2011


Morning's at Seven, Paul Osborn, Different Stages, Norman Blumensaadt, Karen Jambon, Lana Dieterich, Jennifer Underwood, Anne Hulsman, Richard Craig, Michael Hankin, Bobbie Oliver, Kathleen Lawson, Ann Marie Gordon

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle