Some plays are timeless, and even if they were written a century ago, in Norwegian, our breath is still taken by their stories.
But some plays, like Morning's at Seven, do not stand the test of time. Paul Osborn wrote this "comedy" back in 1939, and there it should have stayed. Maybe 1939 was a good year for mind-numbing rural soap operas. But if such plays must be revived for contemporary audiences, Little Lake Theatre has truly, absolutely failed. How could such a dreadful script get any worse? Watch, and be amazed.
Morning is the story of four aging sisters in a small Midwestern town. Three are married to lackluster husbands, and the last is an old maid. The central question, from what I could tell, is who should live in what house. Not that they're buying real estate; they already own the houses. But should Aaronetta live in her own house? Should Cora and Thor move down the road? Or should they give a house to Homer, the world's whiniest bachelor?
It's astonishing that this script was written during the Depression, when millions of people were starving in Hooverville slums, not installing new bathrooms so they could avoid their perfectly accommodating wives. Yet hard times are never mentioned. No Dust Bowl. No penny-pinching. These sisters are doing just fine. Indeed, they've got cottages to spare.
Meanwhile, Morning is somehow classified as a comedy, and if that's the intent, Carol Lauck has directed the world's least-funny version. Most actors grumble and hum their way through lines, as if they're making up phrases as they go. Jokes and punchlines misfire. And because Little Lake insists on staging in the round, actors disappear behind furniture and turned backs. It's like joining a support group for widows with mono, except you have to sit in the back, and there's no free coffee. They should have renamed the play Mourning at Eight.
Last Friday, a stink bug landed on Homer's suit and clung for dear life. People tittered and pointed, because nothing Osborn wrote was as engaging as that one valiant insect. That bug had timing, motivation, intensity, hubris. What lines it had, it remembered. Really, it stole the show.
Morning's at Seven continues through June 11. Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive, Canonsburg. 724-745-6300 or www.littlelake.org.