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Reviewer's Beat: Morning’s at Seven

There’s a retro sweetness about Paul Osborn’s senior-centric Morning’s at Seven, even if the characters themselves rarely hit a sweet stride. With emotions ranging from suppressed longing and anger to suspicion, frustration, and overt vitriol, these individuals are textbook psychotherapy cuisine. With generation after generation whizzing by the rearview mirror, however, the play is not so much a study in temperament as it is a sentimental touchstone distorted by time.

Photo by Maria Baranova.

Alley Mills, Lindsay Crouse, Patty McCormack, and Alma Cuervo. Photo by Maria Baranova.

The characters—an extended family helmed by the four Gibb sisters—are brought to life by a group of contemporary actors who do an impressive job channeling their 1922 counterparts. Lindsay Crouse, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills (who, you may recall, played Lauria’s wife on the sitcom The Wonder Years), John Rubenstein, Patty McCormack, Tony Roberts,  and Alma Cuervo play the sisters and their spouses, while Jonathan Spivey takes on the mamma’s boy role of Homer, who brings his longtime girlfriend, Myrtle (Keri Safran), home to meet, well, everyone.

Myrtle, as the outsider, is a mashup of nervous laughter and brittle insecurity, and Safran is both charming and hilarious in the part, cooing over the backyard as if it weren’t the epitome of mundane even as she presses Homer for some sense of security in their relationship. Spivey’s Homer, unwilling to chew his way free from his mother’s apron strings, is interesting and a little scary. The fact that he’s been able to establish any kind of relationship at all is baffling. Today, he’d be tethered to a computer in his parents' basement, his only hope of romance being fantasies in the gaming world.

And while arrival of Myrtle and Homer provide the plot’s nexus, it’s the inhabitants of the the two side-by-side houses (the realistic set is by Harry Feiner)—and the spoken-of-but-unseen home of Esther (McCormack) and her antisocial husband David (Roberts)—that flesh out a geriatric hot zone comprised of decades upon decades of day-to-day life and unspoken secrets.

Photo by Maria Baranova.

Dan Lauria and Alley Mills. Photo by Maria Baranova.

These actors, not surprisingly, shine. Lauria’s comfortable pipe-smoking Thor, the male voice of reason in a show that plays fast and loose with masculinity, is married to Cora (Crouse), a woman determined to have her husband to herself, sans her spinster sister Arry (Mills), who’s been sharing their home for half a century. Next door, Ida (Cuervo) frets over son Homer while her husband Carl (Rubinstein) directs his existential neuroses onto whatever available tree he can press his head to (a running gag that gets old sooner than intended).

Of all the relationships, the dynamic between Esther and David is by far the most unorthodox and fun. He tries to banish her from his personal space; she couldn’t care less. Nice. Roberts’s supercilious David has dubbed Esther’s family “morons” (except Carl, whom he finds both interesting and useful). Esther, on the other hand, is the most upbeat of the bunch and McCormack is beautifully cast in the role.

Despite the heady array of talent filling the intimate Theater at St. Clements, skillfully driven by Dan Wackerman’s loving direction, there’s an arid whiff of antiquity about Morning’s at Seven, which I suspect will put the kibosh on any future Broadway—or Off-Broadway—revivals. Catch it while you can.


Morning’s at Seven is playing at Theater at St. Clement’s, 423 West 46th St. through December 5th, 2021. For reservations call 866-811-4111 or visit morningsat7.com.

About the Author

City Guide Theatre Editor Griffin Miller moved to New York to pursue an acting/writing career in the 1980s after graduating magna cum laude from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, she has written for The New York Times, For the Bride, Hotels, and a number of other publications, mostly in the areas of travel and performance arts. She currently is the theatre editor for all NYMetroParents publications. An active member of The New York Travel Writers Association, she is also a playwright and award-winning collage artist. In addition, she sits on the board of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America. Griffin is married to Richard Sandomir, a reporter for The New York Times.

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