Morning’s at Seven Review – A Portrait of Small-Town America

Milda Dacys, Dawn Halloran, Stan Mazin, Belinda Howell, and Barbara Brownell in MORNING'S AT SEVEN - Photo by Doug Engalla
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First produced on Broadway in 1939, MORNINGS AT SEVEN was directed by Joshua Logan. When the play was revived in 1980, it won three Tony awards (nominated for four) and four Drama Desk awards (nominated for seven). Penned by playwright and screenwriter Paul Osborn, MORNINGS AT SEVEN has also been presented several times on television between 1956 and 1982 and is a staple for regional and community theaters. The Group Rep is proud to present MORNING’S AT SEVEN IN 2023. Directed by Doug Engalla and produced by Alyson York for the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, the play has delighted audiences for nearly 85 years.

Bridget Murray and Jeff Dinell – Photo by Doug Engalla

The year is 1928, and the place is a small town in the Midwest. The play tells the story of four sisters – Cora Swanson (Milda Dacys), Arry Gibbs (Dawn Halloran), Ida Bolton (Barbara Brownell), and Esther Crampton (Belinda Howell). Each lives a stone’s throw from the other; and, in fact, three share a pair of adjoining backyards. Cora is married to Thor (Neil Thompson) of the wandering eye; Ida is married to Carl (Lloyd Pedersen) of the spells; and Esther is married to David (Stan Mazin) of the better-than-thou clique. Which leaves Arry the old maid of the bunch – but with a secret lover to keep her warm at night.

Dawn Halloran and Neil Thompson – Photo by Doug Engalla

Everything seems to be comfortable for the families – except for one little problem. Ida has a middle-aged son named Homer (Jeff Dinnell) – and she’s worried that her boy (who still lives at home) may become a crotchety old bachelor – even though he has a long-time girlfriend Myrtle (Bridget Murray), a fiancée who has been waiting patiently for over ten years for Homer to set the date. Homer’s pop Carl even built him a house in preparation for the marriage that just isn’t happening. The house remains empty, and Homer remains at home with mom. Something will have to shake this crowd up – and it definitely will in this comic look at life in a small town.

Dawn Halloran, Barbara Brownell, Belinda Howell, Milda Dacys, and Neil Thompson – Photo by Doug Engalla

Skillfully directed by long-time Group Rep member Doug Engalla, MORNING’S AT SEVEN is a fascinating example of a popular family play circa 1928. The talented cast manages to project the warmth and down-home lifestyle of the four couples facing problems with stoicism but also canny realism punctuated by lots of very funny scenes. Mareli Mitchell-Shields’ set does an excellent job of overlapping two backyards which offer little privacy but still harbor some secrets. Robbie Myles’ lighting, Michael Mullen’s costumes, and JC Gafford’s sound round out the skilled production team. This is a charming little play which will keep the audience amused and entertained.

Stan Mazin and Lloyd Pedersen – Photo by Doug Engalla

MORNING’S AT SEVEN runs through July 16, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays (no performances on 6/16, 6/17, and 6/18). The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $35 (seniors and students $30; parties of 10+ $25). For information and reservations, call 818-763-5990 or go online.

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