Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Morning's at Seven

Adobe Theater
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Dean's review of The Scarlet Letter

Gerry Sullivan, Jeff Dolecek, Jeff Silverman,
and Ray Orley

Photo by Ronda Lewis
Morning's at Seven is a bittersweet play that takes its name from the third line of the classic 1841 Robert Browning poem that was part of "Passes":

The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn:
God's in His heaven -
All's right with the world!

Over the decades—centuries even—the poem has been both loved and ridiculed for its slap-happy optimism. The line "Morning's at seven" makes a lovely title for a play, and this 1939 drama by Paul Osborn lives up to the line's charm.

While the play didn't receive significant awards during its first Broadway run, it was richly adorned with Tony nominations and awards during two revivals in 1980 and 2002. The awards suggest the play holds up well, and in some ways it does, but in its essence it's a period piece with deep family secrets and resentments born of betrayal. Yet, even as a period piece, it's surprisingly fun.

Four sisters each have a problem, and their problems have been cooking for years. Cora (Christine Nendza) wants a place where she can live alone with her husband. She and Theodore (Gerry Sullivan) have lived for decades with Cora's sister Aaronetta (Carolyn Hogan). Cora has her eye on a furnished-but-empty home up the hill that is owned by her sister Ida (Elisa River Stacey) and her husband Carl (Jeff Silverman) who live next door. Aaronetta's problem is that she can't stand the notion of living alone.

Ida's problem is that Carl is beginning to slip into dementia. The fourth sister Esther (Alaina Warren Zachary) has a problem with her snooty and controlling husband David (Ray Orley). He's a retired professor who lives with his wife near her three sisters. He can't stand his in-laws and he can't stand the idea of Esther visiting them. Long-suffering Esther is lonely for her sisters.

In the middle of all these strains, conflicts and troubles, Ida and Carl's son Homer (Jeff Dolecek), who lives with them, brings over his fiancée Myrtle (Michelle Boehler). While he's been seeing Myrtle for years, this is the first time he's brought her home to meet his parents and the rest of the family. Myrtle has her eyes on the empty home up the hill. Ida and Carl have promised it to Homer once he gets married, so Myrtle thinks it's within her grasp. But Homer and Myrtle are hitting a rough patch because Homer doesn't want to leave his parents, especially now that Carl is struggling. Given the tensions between Homer and Myrtle, Cora thinks she may have a shot of renting the empty house. Her husband Theodore is skeptical, since he knows the sad impact this will have on Aaronetta.

In the midst of this turmoil, Carl moves in with David, David separates—kinda—from Esther, and old family skeletons lurch into the open. All of this builds into a complicated drama of tormented, intertwined lives that include victims and bullies—victims who lash out, and bullies who cave.

Director Fred Ponzlov makes the most of the story by casting strong Albuquerque actors. While the entire cast does a terrific job, Carolyn Hogan puts in an especially powerful performance. She oozes resentment, anger, and sorrow. I've always enjoyed her acting (as well as her costume design, which she does here), but in the role of Aaronetta, she absolutely inhabits the skin of the character.

Everything seems to work well on the production side. The set is static, which means no scene-change distractions. There are a couple surprises in the later acts (there are three), and while the surprises are given away early, they still function well. The things that matter in this story are the rough relationships in this aging family. Ponzlov keeps the focus on those relationships, which keeps the story rich.

Morning's at Seven, through September 30, 2018, at the Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. There will be a pay-what-you-will performance on Thursday, September 20, at 7:30 pm. General admission is $20. Admission for seniors, students, and ATG members is $17. For reservations, call 505-898-9222. For more information see the Adobe Theater website,