Paul Osborn’s Morning’s at Seven (playing at St. Clement’s) is the most James Thurberish play I know and it isn’t by Thurber. Some people are charmed by Thurber. Some are immune. (Some have no idea who he was.) I am charmed. It’s an ensemble piece in which all of the parts are rewarding to play, and they are played by an ensemble that includes more than a few stars who know how to support each other (Lindsay Crouse, Dan Lauria, Alma Cuervo, John Rubinstein and Tony Roberts among them). I think the accomplishment of creating so many characters whom we get to know and follow has been underestimated by some of the current critics. As a playwright, I know how damn hard it is to put that many distinct people on the stage and keep them all alive.
This strikes me as a comedy of scale. By that I mean that the controversies and issues in the characters’ lives are mostly small by the audience’s standards, but because the characters’ lives themselves are small, what we might see as molehills loom to them like mountains. I don’t want to spoil surprises in the story, but I find it hilarious that the resolution of the plot ends up hinging on how much it would cost to install an extra bathroom. From this one factor, a series of decisions are triggered that restore peace to this little enclave.
If this sounds whimsical, I suppose it is. And if your taste doesn’t run to whimsey, maybe the play isn’t for you. But there is a toughness under the surface which suggests that (despite the old saying) for some, the unexamined life is a blessing, because sometimes, if you examine yours too rigorously, you discover what is lacking. And that you can’t do a fucking thing about it.